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Citrus Fruit: Our Secret Weapon for Winter Health

It’s high season for citrus, so let’s cleanse while the cleansing’s good. Grapefruits, oranges, lemons, and limes can help give the liver's natural toxin-flushing power a boost. Whip your system into shape with these citrus recipes and remedies.

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Start with a squeeze. A glass of warm water with lemon first thing in the morning has long been thought to cleanse the liver and jump-start digestion. The habit dates back to ancient China, but time and study have given it clout: Citrus fruits are brimming with limonoid, a phytonutrient that basically acts like a personal trainer for the liver (aka the body’s toxin-flushing headquarters). If you sour on lemon, switch things up with a spiced grapefruit tea. And don’t stop there -- enjoy some citrus with your morning meal, like these whole-grain buckwheat waffles with fresh ricotta, or a slice of orange-yogurt tart.

Season with zest. That peel isn’t just a pretty face -- it’s also full of flavor. Adding zest to a quinoa salad or stir-fry adds a sweet, aromatic note that’s very different from the one you get by squeezing a lemon over your fish (though by all means, do that too). You may get trace nutrients from the peel itself, but the real benefit is the high-impact flavor, which will let you go light on the oil, salt, and other ingredients that can weigh you down. Just remember that the peel -- which protects the fruit's more commonly eaten insides -- will be going directly into your food, along with whatever it may have picked up during growing or handling. When cooking with zest, scrub well, and buy organic if possible.

Keep your snacks peeled. An orange lacks the grab-and-go ease of an apple, but a bit of prep will help you enjoy citrus fruits on the fly. Segmented citrus will keep a few days in the fridge, so make up a platter of colorful fruit to keep on hand. For a true to-go option, try a citrusy smoothie or a glass of fresh juice, like a kale lemonade or a grapefruit, carrot, and ginger juice.

Switch up your stash. Explore the nuanced flavors of Meyer lemons, blood oranges, pomelos, tangerines, and more (see our full citrus glossary here). You just might find a new favorite in the process. Challenge yourself to pick up one unfamiliar fruit each week.

Sour your sweet tooth. Dessert is still dessert, fruity or not -- but if you’re going to have it anyway, you might as well squeeze in some extra vitamins! Strong, complex flavors can keep you from (over-)eating on autopilot, and you’ll still get those nutrients along with your sugar rush. Dip clementines and candied citrus peel into a dark-chocolate fondue, break off a piece of lime-macadamia bark, or enjoy a swipe of lemon curd with shortbread cookies and tea.

What are your favorite ways to eat citrus?

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