Enhancing Mood With Oranges

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Mental wellness is essential for overall health and impacts individuals' thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. It plays a vital role in managing stress, building positive relationships, and making sound decisions. Inadequate mental health can result in conditions like depression and anxiety, hindering an individual's quality of life and ability to be productive. Addressing mental health concerns is essential. Seeking timely support and treatment can significantly improve outcomes. By acknowledging the importance of mental health, society can foster an atmosphere where individuals are encouraged to seek assistance and pursue fulfilling lifestyles.

The role of nutrition in influencing mood

Nutrition plays a significant role in mental health. Research suggests that certain foods can impact brain function, mood regulation, and mental well-being. Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins B and D are acknowledged for their ability to bolster brain health and enhance emotional well-being through nutrition. Ensuring good mental health requires adhering to a balanced diet comprising a range of essential nutrients. Oranges, a popular citrus fruit, are packed with essential nutrients and they are a rich source of vitamin C, which is known for its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help in reducing inflammation in the body, including the brain, which can positively influence mood and mental health. Oranges also contain natural sugars, providing a quick energy boost and potentially helping combat fatigue and low energy levels, which are often associated with poor mood. The aim of this article is to explore the ways in which oranges can have a beneficial effect on mood.

Nutritional benefits of oranges

Nutritional content of oranges:

Oranges are abundant in vitamin C, antioxidants, and fibre. These nutrients support the immune system, skin health, digestion, and cognitive function and stabilize blood sugar. Additionally, oranges also contain flavonoids, carotenoids, and other phytonutrients, which have antioxidant properties and contribute to overall health.

Nutrition and mood

  • Antioxidants:  Protect brain cells, reduce the risk of diseases, and aid mood regulation
  • Fiber: Supports a healthy gut, linked to improved mental health
  • Stable Blood Sugar: Prevents mood swings
  • Hydration: Maintains cognitive function and mood
  • Oranges and Vitamin C: The Mood-Boosting Connection

How is vitamin C connected to mood regulation?

Adequate intake of vitamin C through sources like oranges and other citrus fruits can positively impact mood by supporting the production and conversion of neurotransmitters in the brain. Dopamine, often referred to as the "feel-good" neurotransmitter, is crucial for maintaining a positive mood, feeling energized, and experiencing pleasure.  Research evidence suggests that when vitamin C levels are insufficient, the production of dopamine can be compromised, leading to lower levels of this important neurotransmitter.1 Research studies also highlight that Vitamin C is involved in the conversion of dopamine into norepinephrine.2 Norepinephrine helps regulate the body's response to stress and is involved in the body's "fight or flight" response. When norepinephrine levels are low, it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, emphasizing the significance of maintaining adequate vitamin C levels for overall mental well-being.3

Antioxidants in oranges and their impact on mental health

Antioxidants in oranges and their role in reducing oxidative stress

Citrus fruits, like oranges, are a good source of antioxidants, like vitamin C, flavonoids, and carotenoids. Antioxidants are substances that assist in combating harmful free radicals within the body, which can inflict damage to cells and contribute to oxidative stress.4 By consuming oranges and other fruits high in antioxidants, individuals can combat oxidative stress.  Research evidence suggests that the reduction of oxidative stress may have a positive impact on mood and overall mental well-being.5  

Antioxidants found in oranges and their effects on mood and cognitive function:

  1. Vitamin C: Oranges contain abundant amounts of vitamin C, essential for synthesizing neurotransmitters such as serotonin, crucial in mood regulation. Consuming oranges can potentially enhance serotonin levels, contributing to improved mood.
  2. Flavonoids: Oranges contain flavonoids such as hesperidin and narirutin. Studies support that these flavonoids have neuroprotective effects, shielding the brain from oxidative stress which might improve cognitive function.6  Additionally, research evidence suggests that high flavonoid intake can lower the risk of depression, especially among older women.7
  3. Carotenoids: Oranges also contain carotenoids like beta-cryptoxanthin. Carotenoids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and have been linked to a reduced risk of mood disorders.They can help maintain balanced mental health by reducing inflammation in the brain.

Gut-brain connection and its significance in mood regulation

The gut-brain connection denotes the complex, interactive communication pathway linking the gastrointestinal system and the brain, allowing constant exchange of signals and information between the two. This connection is facilitated by neural, hormonal, and immunological signaling pathways. Research evidence supports that the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain may play a crucial role in neurological and psychiatric disorders.9 

How the fiber content in oranges promote a healthy gut?

Oranges are rich in dietary fibre, a specifically soluble fibre known as pectin. Soluble fiber is not digested by the body but instead ferments in the colon, serving as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are compounds that stimulate the growth and enhance the activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. In the case of oranges, the fibre content promotes a healthy gut environment by nourishing the gut microbiota, contributing to a balanced and diverse microbial community. 10

The impact of a healthy gut on mental well-being and mood stability:

Research findings indicate that a well-maintained gut microbiota correlates with enhanced mental well-being and stability in mood.11 The gut microbiota produces neurotransmitters like serotonin, often referred to as the "feel-good" neurotransmitter. Serotonin plays a key role in regulating mood, anxiety, and happiness. A balanced gut microbiota also helps maintain a healthy inflammatory response, which is linked to mood disorders such as depression. 12

Incorporating oranges into the daily diet

Practical tips and recipe ideas:

  1. Incorporate Oranges in Salads:
    • Enhance your salads with the addition of vibrant orange slices, for a burst of citrus flavor.
    • Mix them with greens, nuts, and feta cheese for a refreshing salad.
  2. Orange Infused Water:
    • Add a few slices of oranges to your water for a subtle citrus flavor, encouraging you to drink more water throughout the day.
  3. Orange Pancakes:
    • Add orange zest and juice to your pancake batter for a delightful morning treat.

Mood-enhancing combinations:

  1. Dark Chocolate and Oranges:
    • Dark chocolate and oranges are both known for their mood-enhancing properties. Enjoy a piece of dark chocolate with orange slices for a delightful snack.
  2. Green Tea with Orange:
    • Pair green tea with a slice of orange. Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that promotes relaxation, while oranges provide a citrusy kick.
  3. Oranges and Spinach Salad:
    • Spinach contains folate, which is important for mood regulation. Combine spinach with orange segments, avocado, and a light vinaigrette for a nutritious salad.

Summary

In summary, mental well-being is intricately connected to various aspects of our lifestyle, including nutrition. Oranges are rich in essential nutrients like vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber, which are vital for promoting good mental health and mood regulation. Adequate intake of vitamin C, found in abundance in oranges, supports the production and conversion of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are vital for maintaining a positive mood and regulating the body's response to stress.

Moreover, the antioxidants in oranges such as flavonoids counteract harmful free radicals in the body, diminishing oxidative stress. Lowering oxidative stress has been linked to improved mood and overall mental well-being. Oranges are a great source of dietary fiber, which acts as a prebiotic, nourishing beneficial gut bacteria. A healthy gut microbiota is associated with enhanced mental health. Making oranges a regular part of your daily diet can be easy and enjoyable. You can add orange segments to salads, infuse water with orange slices, or include oranges in various recipes. Additionally, combining oranges with mood-enhancing foods like dark chocolate, green tea, and folate-rich spinach can further boost their positive effects on mood.

References 

  1. Plevin D, Galletly C. The neuropsychiatric effects of vitamin C deficiency: a systematic review. BMC Psychiatry [Internet]. 2020 Jun 18 [cited 2023 Oct 5];20(1):315. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-020-02730-w
  2. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Bozonet SM, Vissers MCM. High vitamin c status is associated with elevated mood in male tertiary students. Antioxidants (Basel) [Internet]. 2018 Jul 16 [cited 2023 Oct 5];7(7):91. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6071228/
  3. Moret C, Briley M. The importance of norepinephrine in depression. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat [Internet]. 2011 [cited 2023 Oct 5];7(Suppl 1):9–13. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3131098/
  4. Ali SS, Ahsan H, Zia MK, Siddiqui T, Khan FH. Understanding oxidants and antioxidants: Classical team with new players. J Food Biochem. 2020 Mar;44(3):e13145.
  5. Correia AS, Cardoso A, Vale N. Oxidative stress in depression: the link with the stress response, neuroinflammation, serotonin, neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity. Antioxidants (Basel) [Internet]. 2023 Feb 13 [cited 2023 Oct 5];12(2):470. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9951986/
  6. Kean RJ, Lamport DJ, Dodd GF, Freeman JE, Williams CM, Ellis JA, et al. Chronic consumption of flavanone-rich orange juice is associated with cognitive benefits: an 8-wk, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in healthy older adults2. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [Internet]. 2015 Mar 1 [cited 2023 Oct 5];101(3):506–14. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002916523273074
  7. Chang SC, Cassidy A, Willett WC, Rimm EB, O’Reilly EJ, Okereke OI. Dietary flavonoid intake and risk of incident depression in midlife and older women123. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [Internet]. 2016 Sep 1 [cited 2023 Oct 5];104(3):704–14. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002916522045932
  8. Rasmus P, Kozłowska E. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of carotenoids in mood disorders: an overview. Antioxidants (Basel) [Internet]. 2023 Mar 9 [cited 2023 Oct 5];12(3):676. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10045512/
  9. Galland L. The gut microbiome and the brain. J Med Food [Internet]. 2014 Dec 1 [cited 2023 Oct 6];17(12):1261–72. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4259177/
  10. Fu J, Zheng Y, Gao Y, Xu W. Dietary fiber intake and gut microbiota in human health. Microorganisms [Internet]. 2022 Dec 18 [cited 2023 Oct 6];10(12):2507. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9787832/ 
  11. Hao Z, Meng C, Li L, Feng S, Zhu Y, Yang J, et al. Positive mood-related gut microbiota in a long-term closed environment: a multiomics study based on the “Lunar Palace 365” experiment. Microbiome [Internet]. 2023 Apr 24 [cited 2023 Oct 6];11(1):88. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40168-023-01506-0
  12. Kumar A, Pramanik J, Goyal N, Chauhan D, Sivamaruthi BS, Prajapati BG, et al. Gut microbiota in anxiety and depression: unveiling the relationships and management options. Pharmaceuticals (Basel) [Internet]. 2023 Apr 9 [cited 2023 Oct 6];16(4):565. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10146621/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Styliani Tsolka

MSc, Health Psychology, University of Surrey, UK
BSc, Psychology, University of Surrey, UK

Stella is dedicated to promoting Mental Health Awareness, among people of all backgrounds and knowledgeable in applying theoretical concepts with real-life scenarios. In the future, Stella aspires to qualify as a Counselling Psychologist, focusing on individualized holistic care.

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