If Chinese New Year had a smell, it would be the scent of a freshly peeled mandarin orange. The emergence of succulent tangerine flesh misting the air with a sweet lingering citrus perfume, a yearly affair. It is the smell of gatherings, of red packets, and loud familial chatter.
Every Lunar Year sees the passing of mandarin oranges between hands. It is a ritual so set in tradition amongst generations of Chinese, an exchange symbolic of wealth and good fortune.
The reality of this couldn’t be more spot-on. Healthwise, the mandarin orange is a hidden oasis, little known for the nutritional jackpot it really is. You could say the consumption of this New Year offering is an actual self-realising prophecy towards the well-wishing it was originally intended for.
For all its history, the mandarin orange’s modern day role continues to be tightly bound to cultural reverie. Perhaps its social significance is so profound that its application as a functional food has not been explored as much. What a waste, really.
Of course in traditional Chinese medicine, the dried peel of the mandarin orange has been used in enhancing digestion and in the treatment of abdominal distension and phlegm, and also to regulate the ch'i. Mandarin oranges are also applied as therapy in Indian Ayurvedic approaches. Imagine then, the benefits of incorporating this inexpensive produce as part of a preventive diet.
Not many people know that eating a Mandarin orange in celebration of the New Year is truly a celebration of life itself, towards the preservation of one’s health, literally toasting to more years of merriment to come. It will be more meaningful to know what this orange can do to stave off potential ailments that could affect longevity. Like what? Like cancer. Like liver or heart disease. It can even aid in weight loss and lowering of cholesterol. Good gracious! Why are we only eating it once a year then?
In addition to being abundant in vitamin C: a single mandarin orange provides you with up to 80 percent of your daily vitamin C intake, mandarin oranges have unusually high levels of an antioxidant known as beta-cryptoxanthin. Beta-cryptoxanthin significantly reduces tumours in mice with skin cancer and reduces the development of tumours in mice with colon cancer. Cancer is a potential outcome of free radical damage, particularly where cellular turnover is rapid, such as the digestive system. Antioxidants help stop this chain reaction of destruction by disarming free radicals that causes cellular damage to protein and DNA.
Even in cases of diagnosed lung cancer, a study published in the September 2003 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, monitored the diet and lifestyle of 63,257 adults in Shanghai, China over a span of 8 years. Participants who ate the most cryptoxanthin-rich foods showed a 27% reduction in lung cancer risk. In another year-long study, researchers at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine demonstrated a powerful discovery − people who have chronic hepatitis-C were kept from developing liver cancer, simply by drinking mandarin juice. Not a single one of the 30 participants who had Hepatitis-C showed signs of liver cancer after consuming mandarin juice daily. On the contrary, 8.9 percent rate of liver cancer was found among the 45 participants who did not drink the juice.
Even healthy individuals benefit tremendously from the wide areas of health protection offered by this fruit. When it comes to lowering bad cholesterol, the antioxidants in mandarin oranges combat the free radicals that oxidise cholesterol. Oxidised cholesterol sticks to arterial walls and increases fatty deposits in the blood, causing the impediment of blood flow that is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. This build-up of fatty deposits is also a precursor to fatty liver disease. In a Japanese town noted for its high consumption of mandarin oranges, an epidemiological study by the National Institute of Fruit Tree Science in Japan found certain chemical markers in the blood of residents that are associated with a lower risk of liver disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and insulin resistance (a condition associated with diabetes).
Finally, weight loss. How can this rotund fruit help keep the pounds off? The answer comes in the fact that mandarin oranges are unexpected sources of dietary fibre. Every 100 g serving contains 3 g fibre. Women and children require 20 g of fibre daily, and up to 35 g for teens and men. Regular consumption of fibre assists in weight loss by helping you feel full longer. This may seem like a no brainer, but a little Mandarin orange can go a long way this Chinese New Year, taking up some of the room that would otherwise be used to pack in that inevitable holiday feast.
Eat to your longevity!