There is a difference of opinion in my house about eating citrus. My husband was taught by his mother to peel all of the white stuff from the outside of an orange and especially discard the white stem inside of any citrus. A small speck of anything that is not orange is unacceptable.
The white pulp and string between the peeling and the fruit of any citrus fruit is called albedo. In scientific circles, albedo refers to the amount of light that reflects from an object. Astronomers and weather experts use this word to define the brightness or whiteness that bounces off something.
On an orange, tangerine or grapefruit, the albedo reflects the brightness of the fruit. In contrast to the rich colors of oranges, tangerines and grapefruits, the albedo of citrus contains limonene, glucarate and pectin.
Research has discovered that these three substances are used by the body to fight cancer. Limonene increases liver enzymes involved with destroying carcinogens. It has been proven to destroy breast tumor growth.
Glucarate is a compound found in an orange’s white pulp and strings. Studies have linked glucarate with a decrease of breast, prostate and colon cancer.
Pectin is a soluble fiber that not only is linked with lower colon cancer rates, but also can lower harmful cholesterol levels.
Eating citrus fruit with the albedo altogether provides vitamin C, vitamin A, thiamin, pyridoxine, folates, potassium, calcium and lutein, to name the biggies. There are also other phytochemicals, beta-carotenes, and antioxidants in an orange, tangerine or grapefruit.
This brings me to back my original thought. Why would a parent or caretaker teach a child not to eat the albedo? Watching the meticulous process of picking every last speck of whiteness from a citrus fruit drives me crazy.
Perhaps, when my dear mother-in-law was a girl at the turn of the last century, her parents were not aware of the value of the albedo. The white substance and strings are not as sweet as the fruit itself, and the bitterness was not acceptable for their palate. But my mother-in-law’s father was a physician. If he would have known the value of the albedo, I trust that he would encourage its consumption in spite of how it tasted.
For years I have tried to convince my dear sweetheart that eating the albedo is a healthy thing to do, but old habits die hard. He was taught as a toddler that the whiteness of the orange, the stuff between the peeling and the fruit, is not to be eaten, especially the inside white stem. His mom taught him to throw the albedo away.
Parents, encourage your children to eat fruit. The painstaking process of peeling and denuding an orange should not deter them from swallowing the goodness of this fruit. Just strip that juicy ball of its hard orange outside and let the juices drip to the elbow. Albedo is a good thing.
Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes educator, registered, licensed dietitian. She supervises a Diabetes Self-Management Training Program at Dunlap Community Hospital, Orrville, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.