In this article we will explore the bright and zesty orange. We will peel back your layers of doubt and uncertainty as to whether this fruit can be eaten on a ketogenic diet.
Oranges after all are a most popular fruit. Brazil is the country that produces the most worldwide, followed by China, the European Union, and the US. In Spain alone there are 35 million orange trees!
This food needs no further introduction; let’s dive into the science and determine if oranges are keto-friendly.
Oranges are a family of fruit that belong to the genus citrus. There are three main varieties: the common sweet orange, the mandarin orange, and the less popular Seville orange. They all have a tough, leathery peel with juicy edible flesh enclosed within.
The common variety is round in shape; its flavor strikes a fine balance between its acid and sweet taste. Among the varieties of the sweet orange, the Jaffa orange native to Israel is quite prominent.
Citrus fruits today are almost synonymous with vitamin C, with some people surely confusing vitamin C as short for vitamin citrus. They in fact do contain appreciable amounts of this essential vitamin, but more on that later. These fruits are produced today in the Americas, South Africa, Mediterranean countries, and Australia.
Serving size: 1 raw navel orange (140 g)
The above data is taken from the average nutritional factors of navel oranges, a variety popular in the US and known for its easy peeling and seedless properties. As to be expected of most fruit, consuming an average fruit weighing 140 g carries with it a significant net carb total, which brings into question whether oranges are keto-friendly.
Depending on your carb allowance, the high net carb total may interfere with your ketogenic diet regimen and should only be considered alongside a well-thought-out meal plan so as to take into account the net carb cost.
Moving on, 2.8 g of fiber per fruit makes it a moderate source of fiber, made up of predominantly insoluble fiber with some soluble fiber. While both types pass through the intestine intact, soluble fiber can be metabolized by the friendly bacteria that reside in our large intestine. The byproducts of this metabolism are short chain fatty acids that act as an energy source for cells in the colon. Insoluble fiber just passes through intact.
Both fiber types synergistically may confer multiple health benefits, such as lowering absorption of cholesterol, increasing fecal bulk, regulating bowel movements, and promoting the feeling of satiety.
How about vitamins and minerals in oranges?
As mentioned, citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C as well as potassium and magnesium. The latter two are most important in bone health homeostasis as well as in general muscle function. Let’s look at this table to see how well oranges score.
| Men / Women
(age 19-50) RDA
|In 1 orange (140 g)
|As a % of RDA for Men / Women
|90 / 70 mg per day
|91.9% / 118.1%
|3,400 / 2,600 mg per day
|6.8% / 8.9%
*Note that figures for Potassium are AI (Adequate Intakes)
The table shows us that it is indeed a great source of Vitamin C, and even more so for women. One average fruit can contribute to almost 20% more than the RDA for a woman aged 19-50.
Let’s discuss in short the actions vitamin C effects in our bodies.
This vitamin is perhaps best known as a water soluble antioxidant, protecting our cells from a wide range of reactive oxygen species or free radicals that threaten to damage our cells and body systems. It is also involved in the formation of collagen so important for bone and blood vessel health.
As with all fruit, the net carb value does raise eyebrows for those on keto, calling into doubt whether oranges are keto-friendly. While fruit are predominantly water, the one nutrient they contain in semi-abundance is carbohydrates. So, it’s not generally recommended to eat large amounts of oranges on a ketogenic diet.
However, as they are an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber, let’s try and make this work. If eaten in moderation, it is acceptable and even encouraged to incorporate this fruit into your ketogenic diet.
As with all such recommendations, a well-organized keto meal plan is hugely advantageous so that you can see which days have some spare carb allowances so as you can squeeze some orange into those slots. So overall, with care, oranges are keto-friendly.
An average orange is 140 g in size. How about splitting it in half and eating one half on a Monday and then the other half on a Wednesday? This way, each small serving will weigh approximately 70 g and will cost you 6.9 g of net carbohydrates. While still a moderate amount and not cheap in terms of your keto carb allowance, it can be incorporated as a dessert or a snack.
If this is a fruit you enjoy, plan it into your keto meal plan when you draw it up, be it on your own or with your nutritionist, to make sure that oranges are keto-friendly for you.
As with many fruits, there are at least 3 main groups of orange with multiple sub varieties for each group. The information in the nutrition table above is for the navel variety, but a Jaffa or a blood orange may vary both in vitamin C content or carb value and composition. Other variables include the antioxidant capacity and other bioactive compounds present in these fruits.
Nevertheless, it is safe to assume the differences will not be too drastic and aim for a maximum of a 70 g portion per day. Of course this has to be thought out and planned in advance so as not to interfere with your keto net carb ceiling.
Oranges are very popular on their own, especially on a nice warm day. However, it is also common to have them separated into segments, coarsely chopped and tossed into a salad.
Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about considering oranges on a keto diet.
Unfortunately not. While you may find orange juice to be high in Vitamin C, it is also very high in carbohydrates and has little or no fiber. It is therefore not the same product and cannot act as a substitute for keto.
Oranges are a very poor source of protein with just 1.27 g of per 140 g. This is in line with the protein content of other fruits. They are simply not a very good source of this macronutrient.
People on a keto diet are often looking for high-fat foods to consume to promote ketone synthesis and metabolism. Do oranges fit the bill? It seems not. These citrus fruits contain only 0.21 g of fat per fruit!
The GI for navel oranges is 45. This is classified as a low GI food. If you factor in the amount of carb per serving, the glycemic load is just 5.4 so should be okay for diabetics.
Yes! Oranges are among the cheapest fruits available in the store. They are also found everywhere.
It is common to find candied orange peel where you find small amounts of peel coated in chocolate or some other candy. These of course are unacceptable for keto due to high sugar content in the candied component.
However, how about raw orange peel? It would seem that this has quite a high net-carb content, with 100 g having a net score of 14.4 g, really too much for keto. Moreover, this is not realistic as raw peel can really cause an upset stomach, so such an amount is greatly discouraged.
How about a tablespoon of orange zest though? For a salad or something else? That would seem to be ok as it would only cost 0.86 g of net carbs.