In season December through April, Cara Cara oranges are the citrus fruit to eat in winter. Cara Cara oranges are actually a type of seedless navel orange with a beautiful rose orange or pink-red flesh and delicate citrus and berry flavors. Sweet and low-acidic, Cara Cara oranges are high in vitamin C with anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties, and provide good amounts of vitamins B1, B5, B6 and B9 with benefits for anemia, fatigue and pregnancy. With a modest potassium content and good amounts of the pigmented antioxidant lycopene, Cara Cara navels are a good food to eat for high blood pressure.
What are Cara Cara oranges?
Also known as the red-fleshed navel orange, the Cara Cara orange is a variety of navel orange with rose-orange, pink or pink-red flesh. It was first discovered on a Washington navel orange tree in Hacienda de Cara Cara, Venezuela, in 1976. The Cara Cara orange is believed to be a natural mutation, a hypothesis supported by the knowledge that oranges and citrus fruit in general hybridize easily resulting in the emergence of new citrus varieties even without human intervention. For example, the common sweet orange is a cross between the mandarin orange and pomelo.
What do Cara Cara oranges look like?
The Cara Cara is a medium-sized variety of seedless navel orange. Like all navels, Cara Cara oranges have a navel-like protuberance at the end opposite to the stem. Under the navel there is actually a second orange fruit, essentially a tiny, underdeveloped orange, segments and all. Cara Cara oranges have a golden yellow-orange rind with a thin, white pith underneath and segments of rose-orange, grapefruit-pink or pink-red flesh separated by a thin, see-through peel. Cara Cara oranges are appreciated because they peel relatively easily and because they have no seeds.
What do Cara Cara oranges taste like?
Cara Cara oranges are sweet and citrussy, with faint, barely there red berry, blackberry and even cherry flavors. Compared to regular navel oranges and most common sweet orange varieties, Cara Cara oranges are lower in organic acids such as citric acid which makes them taste less acidic, less sharp. Their naturally low content of organic acids highlights their natural sweetness and intriguing flavor profile. The Cara Cara is good for eating raw, as it is or in salads, or for uses such as baking, but not necessarily very good for juicing. See more types of oranges.
When are Cara Cara oranges in season?
Cara Cara oranges are in season November-December through April-May, depending on the year, region, climate, yearly weather conditions and other factors. In South America, Cara Cara orange season starts earlier, roughly in August. You can buy Cara Cara navel oranges at the supermarket, farmer’s market, local markets or smaller neighborhood grocery stores, or online. Both price and quality are good during peak season which is more or less December through January-February.
Cara Cara oranges nutritional information
Cara Cara oranges have an overall modest nutritional value. In terms of nutrition what stands out the most is a generous vitamin C content followed by good dietary fiber, copper and vitamins B1, B5, B6 and B9 values and a modest calcium, phosphorus and potassium content. Cara Cara oranges are sodium-free, low in calories, very low in fat and protein, and have a moderate sugar content.
Antioxidants in Cara Cara navel oranges
The rose orange or pink-red flesh of Cara Cara oranges is an important source of lycopene, a pigmented antioxidant in the carotenes class of carotenoids. Cara Cara navel oranges are also a minor source of beta-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin which are carotenes with vitamin A activity, the xanthophylls cis-violaxanthin and zeinoxanthin, as well as colorless carotenoid phytofluene.
Cara Cara navel oranges nutrition facts per 100 g:
- Energetic value: 50 kcal (kilocalories)
- Carbohydrates: 11-13 g
- Sugars (sucrose, glucose, fructose): 9 g
- Dietary fiber: 2 g
- Fat: <0.2 g
- Protein: <1 g
Vitamins in Cara Cara oranges
- Vitamin A: <1% of daily recommended intake for an average adult, RDI
- Vitamin B1: 6%
- Vitamin B2: 4%
- Vitamin B3: 4%
- Vitamin B5: 5%
- Vitamin B6: 7%
- Vitamin B9: 7%
- Vitamin B12: 0%
- Choline: 2%
- Vitamin C: 65%
- Vitamin D: 0%
- Vitamin E: 1%
- Vitamin K: 0%
Minerals in Cara Cara oranges
- Calcium: 4%
- Copper: 7%
- Iron: 3%
- Magnesium: 3%
- Manganese: 1%
- Phosphorus: 4%
- Potassium: 4%
- Selenium: 0%
- Sodium: 0%
- Zinc: 1%
Cara Cara oranges benefits
- Good food for losing weight thanks to a low energetic value and very low fat content.
- Non-GMO. Cara Cara oranges occurred as a natural mutation in 1976.
- Benefits for high blood pressure thanks to lycopene, hesperidin and magnesium and potassium content in the fruit flesh, juice and spongy white pith.
- Anticlotting properties owed to lycopene in the fruit which has anticoagulant effects.
- Anti-aging properties as a result of vitamin C which boosts collagen production in the skin for better skin elasticity and fewer wrinkles.
- Anti-inflammatory benefits owed to vitamin C which lowers levels of inflammatory markers in the blood.
- Antimicrobial action owed to vitamin C, naringenin, flavanones and other bioactive compounds in the orange flesh, juice and pith which exert antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects.
- Cholesterol lowering properties owed to good amounts of dietary fiber that helps reduce the absorption of food cholesterol in the GI tract, and bioactive components with cholesterol-lowering properties such as hesperidin.
- Low GI food. With a low glycemic index score of only 40, Cara Cara oranges are a low glycemic food with limited effects on blood sugar metabolism.
- Good food to eat in diabetes. Even diabetics can eat Cara Cara oranges without the risk of experiencing spikes in blood sugar levels, provided intake is reasonable.
- Minor benefits for wound healing. A consistent intake of foods high in vitamin C helps with faster wound healing.
- Potential benefits for brain fog. B vitamins and natural sugars in Cara Cara oranges feed the brain and help support brain activity for less brain fog and improved productivity.
- Benefits for pregnant women owed to vitamin B9 which is good for proper baby development during pregnancy, lycopene, potassium and magnesium for healthy blood pressure numbers and other B vitamins which have a tonic, energizing action.
- Benefits for low blood sugar. Natural sugars in Cara Cara oranges raise blood sugar levels that are too low and combat hypoglycemia-related lethargy, tiredness, low mood and irritation.
- Benefits for energy metabolism. B vitamins and iron in Cara Cara oranges help combat anemia-related tiredness and fatigue by contributing to the production of red blood cells.
Note: Lycopene in Cara Cara oranges is heat stable so cooking heat doesn’t affect its properties. On the contrary, cooking the oranges and pairing with a source of fat renders lycopene more bioavailable. See more benefits of lycopene.
Cara Cara oranges side effects
Cara Cara oranges are generally safe to eat raw and cooked. Side effects are typically minor and only associated with excessive intakes. Eating too many Cara Cara oranges can cause mild to moderate stomach upset in acid reflux and gastritis sufferers because of the organic acids in the fruit which can irritate the stomach lining, causing flare ups in the conditions. Symptoms may include regurgitation of stomach juices, heartburn, a bad acidic taste in the mouth, excessive burping, bloating, gas and stomach upset.
Rare side effects may include diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain or cramps, loss of appetite and even allergic reactions. Lycopene in Cara Cara oranges may interact with high blood pressure and anticoagulant medication if consumption is excessive.
This post was updated on Saturday / December 12th, 2020 at 10:39 PM