DO YOU TAKE THE PITH?!
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
we need these vitamin goldmines in winter time
It's season time for juicy citrus fruits and just as well because we need these vitamin goldmines in winter time. They contain an abundance of vitamin C and antioxidants which are both great for keeping colds and flu at bay, but the real question is do you also take the pith?
What is the pith?
Just in case you're wondering, the pith is the white threads stuck to the peel and sometimes on the actual fruit itself, how much pith remains on the fruit depends largely on how you peel it. I always leave large amounts of pith on my oranges or satsumas because I can't be bothered to strip the segments bare! When my children were younger, I'd peel the oranges in this manner and hand out the pith covered segments, my son ate them with no complaints, but my daughter would meticulously remove every trace of pith before munching on the picture-perfect segments.
It took me a fair bit of scouring the research papers followed by a whole lot of convincing before my daughter understood the health benefits of not taking the pith off.
5 Heath Benefits of Citrus Pith
1. positive effect on gene expression
Citrus fruit pith contains compounds called Citrus Limonoids (CLs) which can change the expression of a gene. It does this by activating the detoxification enzyme, glutathione S-transferase, to turn “off” inflammatory reactions. Therefore, these Limonoid compounds can change the gene expression that reduces the risk of breast cancer and many other cancers.
The pith is very rich in fibre which helps lower cholesterol levels because it picks up any excess cholesterol compounds in the gut and pushes them out in the elimination process. The pith also contains polymethoxylated flavones (PMFs), which have the potential to lower cholesterol more effectively than some prescription drugs, and without side effects!
3. Immune System
Because pith is very high in vitamin C (contains as much as the fruit itself!), it protects cells by scavenging and neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals can lead to chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease. The pith not only helps reduce the risk of chronic conditions, but it boosts immunity against everyday viruses and infections like the common cold.
4. Heart Health
Many factors affect heart health such as oxidative stress, high blood pressure, high fat, and high cholesterol. Hesperidin, a flavonoid found in citrus pith has been shown to protect heart health against oxidative stress as it increases antioxidant levels and lowers inflammation. Hesperidin has also been found to increase a protein hormone, adiponectin, that controls glucose and fat energy production. Increasing adiponectin reduces fat accumulation, this improves blood vessel conditions and therefore improves blood circulation in the heart.
5. Lymphatic system
Ayurveda (an ancient medicine system) have always used citrus pith to improve circulation, lymph, and blood flow. Western research has only recently confirmed that the active ingredient diosmin found in the pith is one of the major plant chemicals responsible for increasing lymphatic contractions. The lymphatic system is twice as big as your circulatory system, but while your circulatory system has your heart to pump and clean your blood automatically, your lymph has no built-in pump! The lymphatic system depends upon exercise, massage, and diet to function properly. Therefore, citrus pith positively benefits this very important system.
Think twice before you take the pith... and ditch it! Because the pith is the secret spot for the citrus fruits' phytonutrients. It is rich in flavonoids, like hesperidin and polymethoxy flavones (PMFs), and other phytochemicals, which contribute to many health benefits. The compounds found in the pith have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy and heart-healthy effects.
If you find it spoils the taste of your fruit and you just have to scrape it off then consider blending the pith into your smoothie or stirring it into your cooking when making sauces. Whatever you do just don't discard it!
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Devi, K. P., Rajavel, T., Nabavi, S. F., Setzer, W. N., Ahmadi, A., Mansouri, K., & Nabavi, S. M. (2015). Hesperidin: A promising anticancer agent from nature. Industrial Crops and Products, 76, 582-589.
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