Are navel oranges low carb?

Oranges are a popular and nutritious fruit, enjoyed around the world for their sweet, tangy flavor and health benefits. One of the most common types of oranges is the navel orange, named for the small secondary fruit that grows opposite the stem, resembling a human navel.

With their refreshing taste and versatility, navel oranges make a great addition to a low carb or ketogenic diet. But are they actually low in carbohydrates? Keep reading to find out.

What are navel oranges?

Navel oranges are a seedless variety of orange distinguished by the small secondary fruit opposite the stem, which causes them to resemble a human belly button or navel. They likely originated as a mutation of a select orange tree in Brazil in the early 1800s.

Navel oranges are larger, sweeter, and more flavorful than common oranges. Their thicker skin makes them easy to peel and segment. They are one of the most popular orange varieties, available year-round with peak season from winter to early spring.

Major producers of navel oranges include Spain, South Africa, Australia, the United States, and Mexico. In the U.S., California and Arizona are top growers.

Nutritional profile

Like other oranges, navel oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, providing over 100% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) in one fruit. They also contain good amounts of folate, potassium, thiamine, and other micronutrients.

One medium navel orange (131 grams) contains approximately:

  • Calories: 80
  • Carbs: 19 grams
  • Fiber: 3.1 grams
  • Sugar: 14.4 grams
  • Protein: 1.7 grams
  • Vitamin C: 98.6 mg (107% DV)
  • Thiamine: 0.1 mg (9% DV)
  • Folate: 54 mcg (14% DV)
  • Potassium: 263 mg (6% DV)

Oranges are nearly 90% water, with only trace amounts of fat. The carbohydrates come mainly from natural sugars like sucrose, glucose, and fructose.

The glycemic index (GI) of oranges is moderate, ranging from 42-65 depending on the variety. Lower GI foods may help control blood sugar.

Are navel oranges low carb?

At around 19 grams of carbs per fruit, navel oranges are not extremely low in carbohydrates but they can fit into a low carb diet in moderation.

Here are some key points about the carb content of navel oranges:

  • A medium navel orange contains about 19 grams total carbs.
  • It has 3 grams of dietary fiber, so the net digestible carbs are approximately 16 grams.
  • The carbs are all natural sugars like glucose, sucrose, and fructose.
  • The glycemic index is moderate at 42-65.
  • The carb count is similar to other common orange varieties like Valencia, Cara Cara, and blood oranges.

While not extremely low in carbs, navel oranges have some advantages:

  • They provide important nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and folate.
  • They are a healthy, whole food choice without artificial ingredients.
  • They contain fiber which slows sugar absorption and promotes fullness.
  • They have a lower glycemic impact than foods like starchy grains or refined sugars.

Tips for adding navel oranges to a low carb diet

Here are some tips for enjoying navel oranges on a low carb or ketogenic diet:

  • Stick to 1 small or medium orange per day at most.
  • Pair oranges with protein, fat, or fiber to help slow sugar absorption.
  • Eat oranges alongside lower carb foods to balance your meal.
  • Enjoy oranges post-workout when carb tolerance is higher.
  • Squeeze fresh orange juice rather than drinking store-bought, sugary juice.
  • Select navel oranges over high carb fruits like bananas, grapes, mangos.

Low carb orange recipes

Here are some delicious low carb recipes using navel oranges:

Orange chicken salad

Combine cooked, shredded chicken breast with diced navel oranges, slivered almonds, diced celery, fresh parsley, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Orange creamsicle fat bombs

Blend together coconut cream, vanilla extract, stevia, and orange zest. Spoon into molds and freeze until solid. Insert popsicle sticks into the centers.

Orange ginger tea

Simmer sliced navel oranges, thinly sliced ginger, cinnamon sticks, and water for 15 minutes. Strain and serve the orange ginger tea warm.

Orange cranberry sauce

Cook down fresh orange juice with cranberries, a pinch of stevia, and orange zest until thickened. Chill the sauce before serving.

Orange avocado salad

Toss together diced navel oranges, avocado chunks, thinly sliced red onion, fresh mint, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Health benefits

Enjoying navel oranges in moderation on a low carb diet can provide:

  • Immune support – Oranges are packed with vitamin C, which stimulates white blood cell production for immunity.
  • Antioxidants – Compounds like anthocyanins, flavanones, and vitamin C act as antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress.
  • Heart health – With potassium, folate, and citrus bioflavonoids, oranges may support heart health.
  • Digestion – The fiber, water, and nutrients in oranges can aid digestion and regularity.
  • Blood sugar control – Despite containing natural sugars, oranges have a moderate glycemic index and can help stabilize blood sugar when eaten in moderation.

Downsides of oranges on a low carb diet

While nutritious, navel oranges do come with some potential downsides to consider on a low carb eating plan:

  • They contain around 16 grams net carbs per orange, which can limit daily intake for ketosis.
  • The natural sugars may cause cravings or fuel overeating in some individuals.
  • Oranges are not as nutrient-dense as lower glycemic fruits like berries or olives.
  • Some people may experience bloating or reflux from the citric acid in oranges.
  • Oranges lack protein, fat, and other satiating macronutrients.

Enjoy oranges in moderation as part of a healthy low carb or ketogenic diet, taking care to balance and limit portion sizes.

The bottom line

Navel oranges contain around 19 grams total carbohydrates and 16 grams of net carbs per orange. This is not an extremely low amount, but navel oranges can still fit into a low carb eating plan in moderate portions.

Stick to just one small or medium orange per day, and pair with protein or fat for better blood sugar balance. Oranges offer important nutrients and health benefits when enjoyed in sensible amounts on a low carb diet.

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