We all want that magic pill, the thing that will make it easy to lose weight, feel great, have energy, and help your body fight off disease. But so far, man has not invented such a thing. Mother Nature has, however, and she packaged it in a bright orange peel. It's an orange. If you're looking to be your healthiest and succeed at weight loss, boost your immunity, feel energized, and enjoy a more stable, upbeat outlook, just add an orange to your morning. (No disrespect to that other powerhouse, apples, but oranges truly keep the doctor away).

5 Health Reasons to Eat an Orange a Day: Burn Fat, Boost Immunity, Fight Soreness, Reverse Aging and Regulate Mood

#1 Reason to Eat an Orange: Study Shows a Molecule in Oranges Helps Block fat

The molecular superstar in oranges that has been found in studies to be a powerful fat-blocker is nobiletin. Researchers at Western University are studying this molecule, which is found in sweet oranges and tangerines. Nobiletin (which is in the peel of the orange) has been shown to drastically reduce obesity in mice and reverse its negative side-effects, and the idea is that this molecule could be a "fat blocker" that reversed the effects of fatty foods. It has also been shown as effective against certain tumor cells in the lab, studies show.

Oranges also contain most of your daily requirement for vitamin C, which gives you two reasons to start your day with a sliced orange right about now. According to the study: "The addition of either naringenin [found in grapefruit and oranges] or nobiletin to a High-Fat, High-Calorie diet not only prevented continued obesity and deterioration in symptoms of the metabolic syndrome but also markedly reduced adipose tissue mass, [and] normalized glucose homeostasis." So when you eat an orange, it appears to prevent the body from storing calories as fat.

#2 Reason to Eat an Orange: They Are Immune Heroes that "Lend an Electron"

Oxidization is bad, we know, but vitamin C specifically negates it by adding negative charges to the positive ions that cause damage, aging, and illness. Oranges are nature's way of taking your daily vitamins: An orange has 90% of the DV of vitamin C which has been shown in studies to help support your immune system. (Cara Cara oranges actually offer 100% of your daily C.) The amazing thing about vitamin C, studies show, is that it fights off pathogens, and "supports the immune system when it's under siege by its ability to "donate electrons." Think of this as the cavalry riding in to help support your warrior cells by not only fighting alongside the good guys but also throwing them some backup ammo to use when they run out. Vitamin C not only fights off invaders, pathogens, and microbial viruses that cause infection, but it also supports "cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system," according to the research.

And vitamin C also makes your skin less vulnerable to oxidative stress, otherwise known as aging:  "Vitamin C supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens and promotes the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, thereby potentially protecting against environmental oxidative stress," such as pollution and the sun's harmful rays.  Oranges may be the most overlooked miracle food: Studies show eating an orange daily can boost your immune system, help your energy levels, keep your mood steady and help spark your body's natural fat-burning process.

#3 Reason to Eat an Orange: They Block Soreness After Working Out Too Hard

Along with blocking fat and reducing obesity, the same water-soluble nutrient "may reduce soreness and promote glycemic control while increasing the fat burning process in the body." The antioxidant vitamin C has antimicrobial properties that reduce inflammation, meaning if you get sore or injured, pile on the C. So the next time you go to a boot camp or overdo it on the jump squats, peel an orange and eat it after your workout as part of your recovery ritual.

#4 Reason to Eat an Orange: They Block Plaque From Building Up and Reverse Aging

The same molecule nobiletin, which is credited with helping your body go into fat-burning overdrive also appears to bind to the proteins responsible for keeping our circadian rhythm stable and our metabolism humming along. Plus the study showed that it was linked to less plaque buildup in the arteries when compared to those animals that did not have nobiletin in their diet.

The contrast between the control group and the mice that were given the compound was stark: When the mice were fed a high-calorie diet and given this nobiletin, they stayed slim, fitter, and heart healthier, even after 10 weeks of overstuffing the animals. The evidence suggests that to stay lean, even when you over-eat, start your day with an orange. Meanwhile, the mice that were fed excessively and not given nobiletin gained nearly twice their body weight and showed normal signs of aging and plaque buildup associated with obesity.

#5 Reason to Eat an Orange: They Keep Your Mood Stable and Your Sleep Sound

This miracle molecule nobiletin has also been linked to reversing the aging effects that are linked to diminished exercise endurance and poor sleep, both of which can lead to mood swings. When you are able to go out for your long runs, rides, or walks and then sleep better at night, your brain is also able to be resilient and better fight off anxiety and depression. So eat an orange a day to stay fit, strong, and upbeat. Eating an orange a day in the morning also reminds you that you are trying to take good care of yourself, adds Dr. Poonam Desai, an emergency medicine doctor and an expert in the link between happiness and health.

An emergency doctor explains the connection between oranges and health

We asked Dr. Poonam Desai is an emergency medicine doctor, who promotes healthy eating and lifestyle habits about the benefits of eating oranges this season and all year long. (Her TED Talk on the importance of happiness to health is a must-watch.) Eating an orange in the morning has an added benefit of reminding yourself that you are taking good care of yourself, she explains and is a great ritual to set that tone for the whole day ahead.

The Beet: How does eating fresh fruit make you feel like you’re taking care of yourself?

Dr. Desai: Eating fresh fruits has so many great benefits! Knowing I am doing good for my body makes me feel confident and in charge of my health.

The Beet: What is the vitamin C connection to health? Why is it so crucial now? What is better about natural sources like oranges vs. taking supplements?

Dr. Desai: Vitamin C has a long list of benefits including a positive role in immune function. Now more than ever we want to focus on our health and doing all the things we can to be healthy. There are two major points to make on this:

    • Our body does not make Vitamin C, so it is important we get it from our diet. I am a firm believer in doing our best to meet our nutritional needs primarily through whole foods, as they provide a mix of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and fiber that often cannot all be found in one supplement.
    • They are readily available all-year-round, with Navel and Cara Cara currently in peak season. A single orange can offer up to 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, depending on the varietal, plus they are also a good source of vitamin A, which also helps support our immune system, as well as dietary fiber, folate, antioxidants, and other nutrients.

The Beet: What is the best time to get your C? In the am?

Dr. Desai: It can be so hard to get all of our recommended fruits and vegetables in our day that I would say eat your oranges whenever you can! I would rather eat my vegetables and fruit whenever they’re handy than not eating them at all!

The Beet: How do you start your day?

Dr. Desai: I just had a baby, so this has really changed. I now start my day by first tending to my baby and then I tend to myself. It’s important that while we take care of our families and tend to our jobs, that we also tend to ourselves. After all, we need to be well and healthy to continue taking care of our families. My day for myself usually starts with coffee and a healthy meal which ALWAYS includes fresh fruits.

The Beet: What do you eat in a day?

Dr. Desai: I am a life-long vegetarian, so lots of fresh vegetables and fresh fruits! I recently have been getting fancy and cooking a lot. I love using different vegetables and fruits in creative, fun, delicious recipes.

The Beet: How can we get more people to eat more fruit, vegetables, and legumes, or nuts and seeds?

Dr. Desai: Gosh, this is so important!  We are what we eat, and unfortunately, the American diet is rich in calories but can be deficient in nutrients. Not surprisingly, a large percentage of the U.S. population does not consume the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.  [Less than 10 percent get the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day!] A healthy diet is one major way we can prevent serious medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes. I believe continued education of adults and children can help encourage people to eat healthier.

The Beet: Some people who follow a low-carb diet are freaked about sugar even in fruit, so how do you get them to shed that paranoia over the fructose or sugar that is naturally occurring in whole foods like an orange? 

Dr. Desai: It is important to emphasize that added sugar is unhealthy for us. Added sugar is any sugar that is used in food to make it sweeter. This is what is unhealthy for us. It is important to differentiate this from whole food that has natural sugars. Whole foods, fruits and vegetables (food that do not need labeling) have natural sugars that are also packed with loads of vitamins, fiber, and minerals. This is not bad for us, in fact, quite the opposite. This is good for us!

The Beet: What is your best way to eat an orange? Slices? Juice? On something or in something?

Dr. Desai: I love eating California oranges as slices.  Occasionally I  will take out my juicer and make juice from an orange. I like to add this is very different than buying over-the-counter orange juice which for the most part has added sugar.

The great thing about California oranges is that numerous parts of the fruit can be consumed, including the flesh, juice, zest and peel. A single piece of fruit can go a very long way in the kitchen. Now that I have taken up cooking, I love incorporating it into dishes like a fresh fruit and vegetable salad.

The Beet: I watched your TED Talk about how being happy is an essential indicator of being healthy. How do you get people to make happiness a priority?

What specifically about the happiness and health connection do you want people to focus on…That they should pursue happiness every day? That happiness is actually a legitimate health priority?

Dr. Poonam Desai: Who does not want to be happier? We all do! No one has ever said, they do not want to be happier! There is quite a lot of research connecting happiness, positive emotions with better health and longevity.

We have seen a connection between life satisfaction (happiness) and good physical health. We should all strive to be happier not only because it makes us feel good but because it is connected to many benefits including better physical health.

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