Florida’s Finest

Citrus is good for our bodies, great for our skin, and right in our own backyard.



Nathan Dobbins

While most of the country’s farms lie dormant in February, here in Florida, shades of orange and yellow burst from the fields. 

Citrus is synonymous with vitamin C, but the fruits are packed with a variety of nutrients, says Erin Elsass, clinical dietitian with Osceola Regional Medical Center, who plans meals for cancer and trauma patients, and those who are nutritionally at risk. 

“Citrus fruits contain fiber to lower cholesterol and prevent blood sugar from spiking,” she explains. “Citrus also contains antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in your body, eliminate carcinogens and kill cancer cells.” 

During cold and flu season, consumers load up on vitamin C supplements, but Elsass says they may not deliver the desired results.  “Your body doesn’t necessarily need additional vitamin C if you’ve already had enough. It’s a water-soluble vitamin, so your body doesn’t store more than you need.”

The key to good health and warding off a cold, she says, is a well-balanced diet. That means half fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors—and citrus is a perfect component. 

A medium orange is 45 calories and contains 85 percent of your daily need for vitamin C and 9 percent of your daily intake of fiber, not to mention it doesn’t require a Ziploc bag for lunchboxes. You can also toss orange or grapefruit slices on a salad, lowfat cottage cheese or yogurt or simply eat the fruit for dessert. 

Elsass dispels the myth that eating grapefruit burns extra calories, and she recommends increasing your metabolism through exercise.  A great way to get in those Fitbit steps while loading up on fresh fruit is by visiting a you-pick farm. Showcase of Citrus in Clermont encompasses 2,500 acres with 50 varietals. Bring your children to promote a fun and healthy lifestyle or take your Valentine for a creative outdoor date. 

If you prefer to drink your fruit, orange juice is packed with Vitamin C, folic acid and calcium. If you’re looking for 100 percent Florida orange juice, choose Florida’s Natural. It comes from seven types of oranges from a co-op of 1,000 Florida farmers from Lake to Collier counties. 

You’ll also find citrus and vitamin C on spa menus around the city as well as in beauty products. “Vitamin C fights inflammation, and its antioxidant properties can neutralize the free radicals in your body to fight aging and increase the production of collagen,” says Virginia Bell, Florida-based director and educator for Beautycounter, a new skincare line focusing on safe and natural ingredients. 

The serums, cleansers and toners in Beautycounter’s anti-aging Rejuvenating line contain a high concentration of vitamin C, and the Citrus Mimosa products are a best seller. “The scent of fresh fruit is always an immediate mood booster,” says Bell. “Citrus has an amazing capacity to curb stress and anxiety.”

Whether you’re peeling an orange for a snack or dabbing a little citrus-infused cream on your skin, your winter is sure to be brighter with Florida’s famous fruit. 

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