Health Benefits: The Fascinating History of Navel Oranges

Navel Oranges
Pictured: Oranges Preparing to Be Processed for Fresh Squeezed Florida Orange Juice

Oranges are among the most popular fruits worldwide because of their unique, sweet and refreshing taste.  Also, because not only can they be found in great abundance and varieties, oranges have many important health benefits to the human body.  The navel orange, also known by its scientific term citrus sinensis, is one of the most popular of the orange tree varietals and also one of the most unique.

Navel oranges are seedless, and once the peel is broken, the flesh inside is naturally very sweet and juicy.  From the outside, the blossom end of a navel orange looks like a human navel, which is how it acquired its name.  Inside, when a naval orange is broken or peeled, you can see a partially formed, undeveloped conjoined “twin” fruit on the blossom end.

The antioxidant vitamin C is a main nutritional ingredient of navel oranges.  Millions of people drink orange juice from navel oranges daily as a source of vitamin C.  Vitamin C not only helps keep the human immune system strong, but it also helps the body absorb iron, works to heal wounds, and can even help prevent heart disease.  The human body does not naturally produce vitamin C on its own, so one of the best ways to get the right amount of this essential nutrient is to drink a fresh squeezed juice from a navel orange or to eat it right off the peel.

Other nutrients in navel oranges are also known to help to prevent cancer as well, such as stomach and esophagus cancer.  The high fiber content in navel oranges can help improve cholesterol ratios in the body, which is important in controlling diabetes.

Beta-carotene is another antioxidant found in navel oranges which helps prevent cell damage.  Navel oranges also contain calcium, which promotes strong, healthy bones and vitamin B6 to boost production of hemoglobin in the bloodstream. The high potassium content in navel oranges helps maintain the balance of electrolytes in cells, and its magnesium helps keep blood pressure at an acceptable level.

But one of the most unique things about the naval orange is its history.  To this day, all navel oranges are clones which still originate from a tree in Brazil from almost 200 years ago.  This single tree propagated spontaneous clones and led to being grown in other regions.

These mutations can only be cultivated through tree cuttings and being grafted onto other trees.  Producing navel oranges is considered a very big industry in the United States and economically important to California, Florida and Arizona where they are primarily grown.