At first sight, you might be tricked into believing this fruit is just a regular orange. Though once you cut it open, the bright crimson hue of blood oranges quickly changes your opinion. My first time cutting into a blood orange, I was enamored by the smell and the bright pink, blood-like liquid oozing out of it. I mean, they're called blood oranges for a reason, right? Read on and you won't have to ask the question, "What is a blood orange?" ever again in your life. 

What Is a Blood Orange?

Lissane Kafie

Blood oranges are a natural mutation of the sweet orange oranges that we're all familiar with. According to The National Gardening Association, the flavor of blood oranges is essentially a cross between an orange and a raspberry. Blood oranges have a distinct color thanks their high levels of  anthocyanin pigment. This brightly colored pigment is common in other fruits and vegetables that have red, blue, or purple-ish colors such as blueberries, eggplants, beets, and purple cabbage. 

While blood oranges are mainly produced in Italy, their exact place of origin is still unknown. What we do know is that blood oranges only grow through the months of December to May, the winter and spring months. The reason they only grow during these cold months is that the weather helps them get their "bloody" color (cooler weather promotes the presence of anthocyanins in blood oranges).

Health Benefits of Blood Oranges

Lissane Kafie

Blood Oranges Are High in Vitamin C

Just like sweet oranges, blood oranges are rich in vitamin C (or ascorbic acid). A study conducted in Turkey concluded that the vitamin C content in blood oranges ranges from 32 to 42 mg per 100 ml (3.4 fl oz). The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C is about 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. This means that consuming merely 3.4 fl oz of blood orange juice would fulfill almost 40% of the vitamin C needed for a day! 

Vitamin C has also been found to stimulate collagen production in the body, which is crucial for having healthy skin, bones, teeth, and hair. Most importantly, it's also needed for making ATP (energy), tyrosine (an amino acid important for the proper function of our thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands), and dopamine (a neurotransmitter that acts as a messenger between our brain and cells). 

sweet, jam, blood orange, marmalade
Amelia Schwartz

Blood Oranges Can Help Prevent Cancer

Going back to the anthocyanin pigment that gives blood oranges their crimson color, the presence of anthocyanin has been linked to protecting against cancer. It does so by inhibiting the multiplication of cancer cells and induces the death of these malignant cells. That being said, cancer is best prevented through a well-balanced diet (high in fruits and vegetables that are diverse in color) as well as physical activity (150 minutes per week).

juice, citrus, grapefruit, sweet, tomato, vegetable, blood orange
Brittany Arnett

Blood Oranges Have Antioxidant Properties

The antioxidants present in blood oranges are known to help battle against free radicals in our body. These free radicals are responsible for lots of diseases such as heart disease and cancer, other degenerative diseases, and even aging. Now, this doesn't mean that if you eat lots of blood oranges, you will never get sick or age, but it may definitely make you feel better overall. 

Next time you're strolling down the produce aisle at Trader Joe's, don't hesitate to pick those blood oranges and try them out. They are perfect for cooking, or just eating straight. I promise these will be the star of the show in your kitchen.