History, Global Distribution, and Nutritional Importance of Citrus Fruits



Abstract:  Although the mysteries of its history and origin remain unsolved, worldwide cultivation and high-demand production for citrus fruit (genus Citrus in family Rutaceae) make it stand high among fruit crops. Growth of the citrus industry, including rapid development of the processing technology of frozen concentrated orange juice after World War II, has greatly expanded with international trade and steadily increased consumption of citrus fruits and their products during the past several decades. Characterized by the distinct aroma and delicious taste, citrus fruits have been recognized as an important food and integrated as part of our daily diet, playing key roles in supplying energy and nutrients and in health promotion. With low protein and very little fat content, citrus fruits supply mainly carbohydrates, such as sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Fresh citrus fruits are also a good source of dietary fiber, which is associated with gastrointestinal disease prevention and lowered circulating cholesterol. In addition to vitamin C, which is the most abundant nutrient, the fruits are a source of B vitamins (thiamin, pyridoxine, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and folate), and contribute phytochemicals such as carotenoids, flavonoids, and limonoids. These biological constituents are of vital importance in human health improvement due to their antioxidant properties, ability to be converted to vitamin A (for example, β-cryptoxanthin), and purported protection from various chronic diseases.