Things are looking bright and sunny in grocery stores, thanks to the sweet citrus selection this time of year.
Eating more fruit is a great way to kick off the new year on a healthy note and cook in season.
Plenty of options are available. There are the snack-size mandarins — such as Clementines and Satsumas — that are sweet and easy to eat. Cara Caras are navel oranges with a tangy and sweet balance.
Blood oranges, anyone? These are prized for their cranberry tones and their deep red flesh.
And don’t forget the old standbys: grapefruit, temple oranges and tangelos. All are suitable for eating out of hand, for juicing and for use in cooking. Think vinaigrettes, salads, and pairings with fish and chicken.
Larissa Shain, registered dietitian at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland hospital in Pontiac, Mich., says the citrus season isn’t just about the orange family: Don’t forget about lemons and limes.
“By using the juices from the lemons and limes, you can use less salt in what you’re making,” Shain says.
For example, she says, if you make chili (using no-salt-added tomatoes and tomato sauce, of course), stir in a squeeze of lemon or lime just before serving. It will enhance and bring out the flavors of the other ingredients.
“When I was researching ways of lowering sodium, I found that citrus juices activate the same receptors on your tongue as salt does,” Shain says. “So you get that flavor without using salt.”
Citrus is a terrific source of vitamin C and high in antioxidants, but it’s also a good source of potassium, which Shain says helps lower blood pressure and the risk for stroke.
“The combination of lower sodium and increasing potassium found naturally in citrus fruits helps lower the blood pressure even more,” Shain says.
So go ahead and add a little citrusy sunshine to those hearty winter dishes. Your body and spirit will thank you.