World's Healthiest Foods
World's Healthiest Foods
Lemons were originally developed as a cross between the lime and the citron and are thought to have originated in China or India, having been cultivated in these regions for about 2500 years. Their first introduction to Europe was by Arabs who brought them to Spain in the 11th century, around the same time that they were introduced into Northern Africa. The Crusaders, who found the fruit growing in Palestine, are credited with bringing the lemon to other countries across Europe. Like many other fruits and vegetables, lemons were brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus in his second voyage to the New World in 1493, and have been grown in Florida since the 16th century.
Lemons, like other vitamin-C rich fruits, were highly prized by miners and developers during the California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century, since they used a lemon juice diet to protect against the development of scurvy. They were in such demand that people were willing to pay up to $1 per lemon, a price that would still be considered costly today and was extremely expensive back in 1849. The major producers of lemons today are the United States and Italy as well as Spain, Greece, Israel and Turkey
Limes are grown on trees that flourish in tropical and subtropical climates. They were thought to originate in Southeast Asia. Arab traders brought lime trees back from their journey to Asia and introduced them into Egypt and Northern Africa around the 10th century. The Arabian Moors brought them to Spain in the 13th century and then, like many fruits, they were spread throughout southern Europe during the Crusades.
Limes made their way to the New World with Columbus on his second voyage in 1493, and were subsequently planted in many Caribbean countries whose hot, humid climates supported the cultivation of this fruit. Centuries later, British explorers and traders, who were readily using the vitamin C-rich limes that grew in their West Indies colonies to prevent scurvy, earned the nickname “limey,â€ a word that is often still used colloquially for persons of British descent.
The introduction of limes to the United States began in the 16th century when Spanish Explorers brought the West Indies lime to the Florida Keys, beginning the advent of Key limes. In the following century, Spanish missionaries attempted to plant lime trees in California, but the climate did not support their growth. In great demand by the miners and explorers during the California Gold Rush as a fruit that was known to prevent scurvy, limes began to be imported from Tahiti and Mexico at this time. Today, Brazil, Mexico and the United States are among the leading commercial producers of limes.
Lemons and limes contain unique flavonoid compounds that have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. While these flavonoids have been shown to stop cell division in many cancer cell lines, they are perhaps most interesting for their antibiotic effects. In several villages in West Africa where cholera epidemics had occurred, the inclusion of lime juice during the main meal of the day was determined to have been protective against the contraction of cholera. (Cholera is a disease triggered by activity of the bacteria called Vibrio cholera). Researchers quickly began to experiment with the addition of lime juice to the sauce eaten with rice, and in this role, lime juice was also found to have a strong protective effect against cholera.
Several other fascinating research studies on the healing properties of lemons and limes have shown that cell cycles – including the decision a cell makes about whether to divide (called mitosis) or die (apoptosis) â€“ are altered by lime juice, as are the activities of special immune cells called monocytes. In addition to their unique phytonutrient properties, lemons and limes are an excellent source of one of the most important antioxidants in nature, vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the main antioxidants found in food and the primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body. Vitamin C travels through the body neutralizing any free radicals with which it comes into contact in the aqueous environments in the body, both inside and outside cells. Free radicals can interact with the healthy cells of the body, damaging them and their membranes, and can also cause a lot of inflammation, or painful swelling, in the body. This is one of the reasons that vitamin C has been shown to be helpful for reducing some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Since free radicals can damage blood vessels and can change cholesterol to make it more likely to build up in artery walls, vitamin C can be helpful for preventing the development and progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.
Vitamin C is also vital to the function of a strong immune system. The immune system’s main goal is to protect you from illness, so a little extra vitamin C may be useful in conditions like colds, flus, and recurrent ear infections. Owing to the multitude of vitamin C’s health benefits, it is not surprising that research has shown that consumption of vegetables and fruits high in this nutrient is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Cancer Protection from Limonins
In animal studies and laboratory tests with human cells, compounds in citrus fruits, including lemons and limes, called limonoids have been shown to help fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach and colon. Now, scientists from the US Agricultural Research Service have shown that our bodies can readily absorb and utilize a very long-acting limonoid called limonin that is present in citrus fruits in about the same amount as vitamin C.
In citrus fruits, limonin is present in the form of limonin glucoside, in which limonin is attached to a sugar (glucose) molecule. Our bodies easily digest this compound, cleaving off the sugar and releasing limo.