Researchers at the Brigham Young University are studying the orange in detail to understand this fruit's offering for maintaining good health.
The popular stocking stuffer is known for its vitamin C and blood-protecting antioxidants, but researchers wanted to learn why a whole orange is better for you than its components when taken separately.
"There's something about an orange that's better than taking a vitamin C capsule, and that's really what we're trying to figure out," said Tory Parker of the BYU.
"We think it's the particular mixture of antioxidants in an orange that makes it so good for you," said Parker.
Parker explained that every time we eat carbs and fat, we increase the amount of free radicals in our blood. Over time, that increases our chance for hardened arteries and heart disease. But eating fruit protects us from that effect for a few hours after every meal.
Parker noted supplement companies often mix "high concentrations of extracts from blueberry and blackberry and orange and throw them all together and hope it's good."
The researchers identified several combinations of antioxidants that were the most synergistic - the compounds hesperidin and naringenin, in particular, appeared to contribute the most punch in the combinations.
Those are the mixtures Parker would continue to research in human studies to evaluate whether their health effects mimic those of eating an orange.
The findings were published in the Journal of Food Science.