The #1 Food to Boost Your Immune System

Bonus: It's delicious any time of the day.

You may be thinking about ways to strengthen your immune health right now, what with a global pandemic raging. It may not be possible to prevent disease by eating any one type of food or taking supplements, but it's never a bad thing to try to maintain a strong immune system through a healthy diet. The easiest way to start is with vitamin C, and more specifically, with oranges, according to EatingWell's meal plan editor, Victoria Seaver, M.S., R.D. Seaver recommends oranges because they're easy for most people to eat and enjoy, whether you're eating the fruit whole or juiced.

ginger orange chicken thighs

Vitamin C and Immune Health

While many different vitamins contribute to keeping your immune system strong, vitamin C in particular can help repair immune cells and help new ones grow "so your body is locked and loaded to protect against free radicals," Seaver says. Research has shown that vitamin C can help decrease the duration and severity of a cold, while not having enough of it impairs immune function.

The recommended daily allowance for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men, and one navel orange has about 70 mg, so you're most of the way there if you get one of those a day. For an extra-tasty dose of vitamin C, try regularly incorporating oranges into your meals. Need some inspo? We love turning to our Watermelon, Orange & Cucumber Salad with Castelvetrano Olive Vinaigrette for lunch and Braised Chicken Thighs with Olive, Orange & Fennel for dinner.

There are lots of other foods that contain vitamin C, like bell peppers and broccoli, so you won't have trouble getting the appropriate amount if you keep a good rotation of whole fruits and vegetables in your diet. If oranges aren't your thing, other citrus fruits like grapefruit and lemon also contain lots of vitamin C.

Because vitamin C is water-soluble (that is, you pee it out), you have to keep replenishing your body's supply of it. But, too much vitamin C isn't good either—it can cause gastrointestinal issues—so take care when you're thinking of supplements or additives.

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