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Orange vs Lemon - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Orange
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Lemon

Introduction

Oranges and lemons are often the fruits that come to mind when we try to think of good sources for vitamin C. They are both citrus fruits, belonging to the Rutaceae family and the Citrus genus and both hybrids. A genomic study has shown that oranges (Citrus × sinensis) are a hybrid between pomelo and mandarin (1), whereas lemons are said to be a hybrid between sour (Seville, bitter or Citrus × aurantium) orange and citron (2). In this article the word “orange” refers to the sweet orange or Citrus × sinensis, as it is the most commonly used species of oranges.

Nutrition

Oranges contain more calories and carbs, due to the sugar content, while lemons are higher in protein, fats and fiber. Both fruits naturally do not contain cholesterol.

When it comes to the glycemic index, both oranges and lemons, as most citrus fruits, fall under the classification of low glycemic index foods. However the glycemic index of lemons is much lower when compared to the glycemic index of oranges.

A serving size of an orange is equal to one fruit that weighs around 131g. Lemon’s serving size is much smaller, equalling 58 grams.

If you are on a low carb, low calorie or low glycemic index diet, lemons are the right choice for you out of these two fruits. Orange is the preferable choice for a low fats diet.

Acidity

Lemons often taste more sour than oranges. This difference in taste is decided by the fruit’s acidity. The acidity of lemon varieties falls between 5 to 7%, mostly due to the citric acid content, as opposed to the 1% in oranges (3). The pH of oranges is calculated to be in the range of 3,69-4,34, whereas the pH of lemons is around 2-2,6 (4). The pH of lemon juice also ranges around the same numbers, as the pH of a lemon. Therefore, lemons are more acidic than oranges.

Once oranges and lemons are fully digested and metabolised, the citric acid becomes alkaline in the body. Based on the potential renal acid load (PRAL), oranges are more alkaline.

Vitamins

Oranges are overall richer in vitamins, being higher in vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B5. The only vitamin that lemons contain more of is vitamin B6.

Both oranges and lemons lack vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamins B12 and vitamin B9 (folic acid).

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients found in citrus fruits for which they are famous. Lemons and oranges have approximately the same amount of vitamin C, with orange’s vitamin C content being only slightly higher. Both oranges and lemons contain more vitamin C in their zests or peels.

However raw lemon juice is richer in vitamin C, compared to orange juice.

Minerals

Oranges also win in the minerals category. They contain higher concentrations of calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper and zinc. Lemons, on the other hand, are much higher in iron and contain more phosphorus as well. Lemons also contain sodium, whereas oranges do not.

Health Impact

Oranges and lemons, as all citrus fruits, are rich in phytochemicals that provide many protective qualities. These phytochemicals include flavonoids (naringenin, hesperidin), carotenoids (beta-carotin, lutein), coumarins, phenolic acids and many others.

Cardiovascular Health

Antioxidant Effects

Reactive oxygen species are the chemicals often involved in many heart diseases. These are chemically reactive compounds that can be toxic to cells, damaging macromolecules, such as lipids, proteins and nucleic acids. Phenolic compounds found in citrus fruits have the ability to directly absorb and neutralize these chemicals, as well as inhibit enzymes that are associated with this pathogenesis. Polyphenols can also enhance the natural human antioxidants (5).

Cardioprotective Effecfts

Many studies have shown foods high in flavonoids to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Lemons, in particular, have been shown to reduce low density lipoproteins, commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol” and increase high density lipoproteins, often called “good cholesterol” (6).

Flavonoids can also prevent hyperglycemia by increasing the formation of glycogen molecules from glucose and inhibiting the synthesis of glucose in the liver (5)․

Atherosclerosis is the main cause of heart disease and stroke. Naringenin and hesperetin are flavonoids that also possess antiatherogenic abilities, by promoting fatty acid breakdown. Oranges contain comparatively high levels of naringenin, whereas lemons are rich in hesperetin (7).

Antihypertensive Effects

People with high blood pressure are advised to decrease their sodium intake. Luckily oranges do not contain sodium and lemons are low in this mineral.

A study has shown that consumption of high flavonoid juice can lead to a reduction in diastolic blood pressure, due to flavonoids such as naringin and narirutin (8).

Intake of lemon has also been proven to have an inverse association with systolic blood pressure (9). 

Cerebrovascular Protection

One research has concluded that citrus consumption reduces the risk of cerebrovascular diseases, such as ischaemic stroke and intracerebral haemorrhage (10).

Diabetes

Glucose and Insulin Response

Studies in experimental diabetes models demonstrate the efficacy of citrus flavonoids to improve glucose tolerance, increase insulin secretion and sensitivity, decrease insulin resistance, reduce hepatic glucose production and intestinal glucose absorption, enhance peripheral glucose uptake, suppress inflammation, and modulate activity of enzymes and transporters involved in glucose and lipid metabolism (11). The flavonoids with strong antidiabetic activities are hesperidin, naringin and nobiletin (5)

Consuming lemon or lemon juice along with bread or other starchy foods has been proven to reduce the glycemic response impact through premature inhibition of α-amylase enzyme in the saliva that breaks down carbohydrates (12).

A study has also shown that 1000mg of vitamin C consumption a day leads to decreased levels of blood sugar, total cholesterol, triglycerides, low and high density lipoproteins, as well as serum insulin (13).

Obesity

Citrus flavonoids modulate different signaling pathways involved in adiposity and fat cell differentiation and hence could be of significant value for the development of antiobesity agents (11).

Polyphenols found in citrus fruits can assist obesity management, since they cause a reduction in fat cell differentiation, lipid content in the cell and programmed death of fat cells. They can also potentially alleviate complications present in obesity by reducing cytokines, which are the responsible for inflammatory processes (14).

Diabetic Nephropathy

Diabetic nephropathy is a serious complication due to diabetes mellitus type 2, that leads to end-stage renal disease. A study has concluded that red orange and lemon extract has the ability to prevent this complication, owing to strong antioxidant qualities of anthocyanins (15).

Cancer

The phytochemicals within citrus fruits have been associated with reduced risk of cancers, especially cancers of digestive and upper respiratory tract. This effect was significant even with moderate citrus fruit consumption (16).

The phytochemicals that have shown anticancer abilities include flavonoids, limonenes and coumarins. The effects have been studied against gastric cancer, breast cancer, formation of lung tumors, formation of tumors of the colon, hepatocarcinogenesis, and blood stem cell malignancies (5).

Lemons are particularly rich in limonenes, which have been studied to have antiproliferative effects on human breast cancer cells (17). This effect is stronger in estrogen-responsive breast cancers, due to limonene’s anti-aromatase quality, that inhibits androgens’ transformation into estrogens.

Not only fresh citrus fruits, bur also their juices and other derivatives can act as a potential resource against various cancers (18).

Antimicrobial Effects

Essential oils of orange and lemon fruits have expressed bacteriostatic (stopping bacteria’s reproduction) and bactericidal (killing the bacteria) effects, mostly due to the limonene concentration (19).

Another phytochemical naringenin, a flavonoid that oranges are especially rich in, has been shown to repress the pathogenicity and cell motility of Salmonella bacterium (20). This flavonoid, along with some others, may also modulate intestinal microflora by serving as an antipathogenic agent against Escherichia Coli (21).

Allergy

Citrus allergies are quite rare, but do occur. A person allergic to citrus fruits may have symptoms shortly after coming in contact with fruits, such as oranges and lemons. An allergy to the compound called limonene can cause contact dermatitis (22). However food allergies are more common, causing symptoms, such as oral allergy syndrome (itching, swelling, tingling or redness of the mouth area), nausea, diarrhea, and in rare cases even anaphylaxis.

The allergens identified in citrus fruits are lipid transfer proteins, profilin and pectin, as well as limonene. Some of these allergens may have cross reactions with other common allergens, such as pollen, apples (23) or peaches (24).

People can also be sensitive to citric acid, which is not considered to be an allergy, as citric acid does not cause an immune response in the organism (25). 

Antiallergic Qualities

For allergic people who are not sensitive to citrus fruits, these fruits may serve as natural medicine. Flavonoids naringenin and hesperidin, which oranges and lemons are rich in, have been studied to reduce the symptoms of allergy and suppress inflammatory compounds (26).

Oral administration of aqueous extracts of citrus fruit peels has also been studied to demonstrate antiallergic and antiinflammatory qualities (27).

Summary

In summary, oranges contain more calories and carbohydrates, due to sugars and lemons are richer in protein, fats and fiber. The two are similar in the amounts of vitamin C. Oranges overall are richer in both vitamins and minerals, containing more vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B5, as well as calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper and zinc. Lemons, on the other hand, contain higher concentrations of vitamin B6, iron and phosphorus.

Both possess cardioprotective, antidiabetic, anticancer and antimicrobial qualities.

At the end of the day, both oranges and lemons can be very beneficial if used right and the choice depends on the situation and personal preference.

Sources.

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/ng.2472
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110118101600.htm
  3. https://www.yara.us/crop-nutrition/citrus/managing-fruit-acidity/#
  4. https://www.clemson.edu/extension/food/food2market/documents/ph_of_common_foods.pdf
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4690266/
  6. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261276322
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0956713510003944
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16202862/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003767/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19646291/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6431442/
  12. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-020-02228-x
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18160753/
  14. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0023643814001376
  15. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333463016
  16. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286122827
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23117440/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5491624/
  19. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0956713510003944
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21168230/
  21. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20163489/
  22. https://www.nyallergy.com/citrus-allergy
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3537725/
  24. http://www.inunimai.org/cms/index.php/cross-reactivity-between-cypress-pollen-and-peaches-citrus-fruits-finally-explained-en
  25. https://www.aaaai.org/ask-the-expert/citric-acid-citrus-allergy
  26. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22903244/
  27. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257805832

Infographic

Orange vs Lemon infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Orange
6
:
2
Lemon
Contains more Calcium +53.8%
Contains more Potassium +31.2%
Contains more Magnesium +25%
Contains more Copper +21.6%
Contains more Zinc +16.7%
Contains less Sodium -100%
Contains more Iron +500%
Contains more Phosphorus +14.3%
Contains more Calcium +53.8%
Contains more Potassium +31.2%
Contains more Magnesium +25%
Contains more Copper +21.6%
Contains more Zinc +16.7%
Contains less Sodium -100%
Contains more Iron +500%
Contains more Phosphorus +14.3%

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Orange
8
:
1
Lemon
Contains more Vitamin A +922.7%
Contains more Vitamin E +20%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +117.5%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +100%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +182%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +31.6%
Contains more Folate, total +172.7%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +33.3%
Equal in Vitamin C - 53
Contains more Vitamin A +922.7%
Contains more Vitamin E +20%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +117.5%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +100%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +182%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +31.6%
Contains more Folate, total +172.7%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +33.3%
Equal in Vitamin C - 53

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

Summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfils human daily needs, the more the summary score is
Vitamin Summary Score
27
Orange
24
Lemon
Mineral Summary Score
6
Orange
6
Lemon

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Protein
6%
Orange
7%
Lemon
Carbohydrates
12%
Orange
9%
Lemon
Fats
1%
Orange
1%
Lemon

Comparison summary table

Pay attention at the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Orange Lemon
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Sugars ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in minerals Equal

Which food is preferable in case of diets?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Orange Lemon
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Orange
Orange contains less Sodium (difference - 2mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Orange
Orange is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.024g)
Which food is cheaper?
Orange
Orange is cheaper (difference - $0.1)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Orange
Orange is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Sugars?
Lemon
Lemon contains less Sugars (difference - 6.85g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Lemon
Lemon is lower in glycemic index (difference - 22)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be definitely stated which food is richer in minerals. See charts below for detailed information.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

In the column "Opinion" we made some assumptions which could be controversial. For instance we are assuming that less saturated fats is good for you. Please ignore this column if you have your own opinion.We marked the nutrients, comparison of which we considered as not meaningful, as "N/A"
Nutrient Orange Lemon Opinion
Calories 47 29 Orange
Protein 0.94 1.1 Lemon
Fats 0.12 0.3 Lemon
Vitamin C 53.2 53 Orange
Carbs 11.75 9.32 Orange
Cholesterol 0 0
Vitamin D 0 0
Iron 0.1 0.6 Lemon
Calcium 40 26 Orange
Potassium 181 138 Orange
Magnesium 10 8 Orange
Sugars 9.35 2.5 Orange
Fiber 2.4 2.8 Lemon
Copper 0.045 0.037 Orange
Zinc 0.07 0.06 Orange
Starch
Phosphorus 14 16 Lemon
Sodium 0 2 Orange
Vitamin A 225 22 Orange
Vitamin E 0.18 0.15 Orange
Vitamin D 0 0
Vitamin B1 0.087 0.04 Orange
Vitamin B2 0.04 0.02 Orange
Vitamin B3 0.282 0.1 Orange
Vitamin B5 0.25 0.19 Orange
Vitamin B6 0.06 0.08 Lemon
Vitamin B12 0 0
Vitamin K 0 0
Folate, total 30 11 Orange
Folic acid (B9) 0 0
Trans Fat 0 0
Saturated Fat 0.015 0.039 Orange
Monounsaturated Fat 0.023 0.011 Orange
Polyunsaturated fat 0.025 0.089 Lemon
Tryptophan 0.009 Orange
Threonine 0.015 Orange
Isoleucine 0.025 Orange
Leucine 0.023 Orange
Lysine 0.047 Orange
Methionine 0.02 Orange
Phenylalanine 0.031 Orange
Valine 0.04 Orange
Histidine 0.018 Orange
Fructose
The main source of information is USDA Food Composition Database (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Dietary Guidelines for Americans is used as the primary source for advice in this web resource
Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.