A new study in the journal Stroke has found that citrus fruits, especially oranges and grapefruits, can reduce the risk of strokes. The key to citrus are the flavonoids. Flavonoids are the antioxidant compounds in fruits and vegetables that give them their rich colors—and also many of their health benefits. These benefits are thought to be related to the ability of flavonoids to improve blood vessel function and to their anti-inflammatory effects.
Although more research is needed, it seems eating the whole fruit is definitely preferable to just drinking its juice. Most juices contain fewer nutrients and often contain added sugar. According to the paper, “Given the higher flavanone content of citrus fruits and the sugar content of commercial fruit juices, public health recommendations should focus on increasing citrus fruit intake.”
For this study, researchers looked at the dietary habits of nearly 70,000 women enrolled in the US Nurses’ Health Study. Through questionnaires about lifestyle and medical history collected every 4 years, researchers calculated total flavonoid intake.
The women who ate high amounts of citrus in their diets (more than 470 mg a day) had a 19% lower risk of ischemic stroke than women who didn’t consume as much (about 150 mg per day or less). The higher flavonoid intake, particularly flavanone from citrus fruits, was specifically associated with the lower risk.