Despite their sorta creepy name, you don’t have to be afraid of blood oranges. These delish, ruby-fleshed citrus fruits are packed with sweet flavor plus a ton of nutrients and beneficial plant compounds.

Here’s what you need to know about how they can help you reach your health goals, plus how to get more of them in your diet.

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Blood oranges are a type of sweet orange. They contain pigments known as anthocyanins in their flesh, and sometimes in their peels, while other oranges don’t have this component. This pigment gives the flesh of blood oranges a deep, reddish color that earned them the name “blood” orange.

An 8-ounce serving of fresh-squeezed blood orange juice provides:

  • Calories: 110
  • Carbs: 25 grams (g)
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Sugars: 21 g
  • Potassium: 11 percent of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin C: 93 percent of the DV
  • Folate: 20 percent of the DV

Like most fruits, blood oranges are low in calories, fat, and protein, and high in carbs and natural sugars.

Whole blood oranges vs. blood orange juice

Blood orange juice isn’t a good source of fiber, but whole blood oranges are. Why opt for whole fruit when you can? Because fiber can help you feel full longer and even promote healthy blood sugar regulation.

You can expect to get the same amount of fiber from blood oranges as you would with regular oranges. For example, a 4.2-ounce orange contains about 3 grams of fiber. That’s about 11 percent of the 28-gram DV for fiber.

Both whole fruit and blood orange juice are smart choices if you’re looking to boost your nutrient intake, though, and can benefit health in plenty of ways.

Vitamin C is needed for a number of super important processes in the body, like collagen production and immune response.

This vitamin also acts as a powerful antioxidant. That means it helps protect cells against oxidative damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.

Maintaining optimal vitamin C levels is extremely important for your overall health. Studies show that having low levels of vitamin C may be associated with an increased risk of conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain cancers.

In addition to vitamin C, blood oranges contain a ton of other types of antioxidants.

All oranges are excellent sources of antioxidant compounds like flavonoids and carotenoids. But blood oranges stand out from other oranges because they also contain anthocyanins.

Anthocyanins are flavonoid pigments that give fruits like cherries, grapes, and strawberries their reddish color. These pigments have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the bod.

Research suggests that eating anthocyanin-rich foods (like blood oranges and berries) regularly may help protect against health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

PSA: Simply eating lots of blood oranges won’t protect you from developing health conditions. Your overall diet and lifestyle that matters most when it comes to disease prevention.

Some studies suggest that drinking blood orange juice may be a tasty way to lower inflammatory markers in your` bod.

Not all inflammation is bad. In fact, acute (short-term) inflammation is an essential part of your immune response. However, chronic (long-term) inflammation can increase your chance of developing lots of health conditions. A research review suggested that following a produce-rich diet can help decrease the risk of health conditions associated with chronic inflammation.

A 2015 study showed that drinking blood orange juice for 8 weeks reduced participants’ inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) and increased blood antioxidant activity.

In a small, older 2012 study, drinking 16.9 ounces of blood orange juice daily for 7 days also led to significant reductions in CRP. Plus, it reduced other inflammatory markers, like interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (​​TNF-α).

Keeping your heart in tip top condition is critical for your overall health.

One of the best ways to take care of your heart is to eat lots of nutritious foods like veggies and fruits (including blood oranges). In fact, a research review suggested that diets rich in citrus fruits may help protect against heart disease and stroke.

A small study that included 15 people found that drinking 13.5 ounces of blood orange juice daily for 2 weeks led to significant improvements in flow mediated dilation (FMD). That’s a measure of blood vessel function, and blood vessel function is associated with elevated heart disease risk.

In fact, studies findings suggest that every 1 percent increase in FMD may decrease the future risk of cardiovascular events by as much as 13 percent.

Plus, following a fruit and veg-heavy diet can help reduce other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure and high blood lipid levels.

So, drink (and eat) up!

It’s really common to have low dietary intakes of certain nutrients like potassium, fiber, and calcium. Why? One of the main reasons is that most peeps don’t consume nearly enough fruits and veggies on a daily basis.

In fact, potassium is considered a “nutrient of public health concern” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services because most Americans don’t get enough in their diets.

Because potassium is necessary for blood pressure regulation, nervous system function, and more, not getting enough of this nutrient can take a toll on your health.

Just one 8-ounce serving of fresh-squeezed blood orange juice covers 11 percent of your potassium needs. Plus, blood oranges contain smaller amounts of fiber, iron, and calcium, which are also considered “nutrients of public health concern.”

You might have a tough time finding fresh blood oranges in your local grocery store, but you may be able to find blood orange juice.

Just be sure you’re purchasing 100 percent blood orange juice and not blood orange-flavored drinks that have tons of added sugar.

Once you get your hands on some whole blood oranges or blood orange juice, here’s how to incorporate them into your daily diet:

  • Add blood orange juice to water for a kick of flavor.
  • Make a blood-orange smoothie with either whole blood oranges or blood orange juice. Don’t forget to add a source of protein!
  • Use blood orange juice in cocktails and mocktails.
  • Add blood orange segments to savory salads.
  • Top yogurt, oatmeal, and chia pudding with sliced blood orange.
  • Incorporate blood oranges and blood orange juice into salsas, dressings, and marinades.

There’s no wrong way to eat blood oranges, so don’t be afraid to try these beauties in your fave sweet and savory recipes.

If you’re looking for an orange upgrade, give blood oranges a try.

They’re packed with nutrients and can boost your health in several ways. You might have to hit up a specialty online grocery store to find whole blood oranges, but blood orange juice is generally a more accessible option that provides most of the same benefits.