Oranges for Immunity: Healthy or Over-Hyped?
If you stock up on this vitamin C-rich fruit the second you sneeze, this one's for you.
Oranges are the poster child for immune health—I can barely think about vitamin C without envisioning a crate of navel oranges on my countertop, ready to cure whatever's ailing. But if you've ever wondered how much of an orange's immune-boosting health halo is backed by science and how much was ingrained in you by your second grade school nurse, you've come to the right place.
Short answer? Oranges aren't just good for your immune system—they're great. And they offer a number of other legitimate nutritional benefits, too.
"Oranges are widely recognized as one of the top sources of vitamin C and offer 70-100 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C in one orange," says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN. "But they provide so much more than just a single vitamin. The whole fruit boasts great benefits that have a positive effect on our well-being." And as we head into peak cold and flu season, now is the perfect time to start eating more immune supporting foods on the reg. (BTW, vitamin C is an important nutrient that is not naturally produced in the body and thus needs to be consumed daily to meet the recommended levels). Here's why oranges more than fit the bill.
Health Benefits of Oranges
Oranges Help Prevent Illness and Promote Overall Wellness
Beyond vitamin C, Largeman-Roth says that oranges are also a great source of dietary fiber, folate, and antioxidants—all of which promote overall health and wellness. “The nutrients in an orange help support the immune system and offer a preventative approach to overall health,” she adds.
They’re Great for Skincare and Cell Growth
Oranges boost the renewal of health from the inside out. “Folate promotes cell growth and healthy pregnancy, vitamin C aids the production of collagen, which helps wounds heal, strengthens skin, and helps your skin retain its youthful glow, while other antioxidants found in oranges protect against cell damage,” Largeman-Roth explains.
Oranges are a highly versatile fruit that are a great addition to a healthy lifestyle and a healthy home. “Every part of the orange can be used for applications that span culinary exploration to DIY skincare to natural cleaning,” says Largeman-Roth. The flesh, juice, and zest of oranges enhance sweet and savory dishes, as well as beverages, cocktails, and sauces, all while adding a burst of vitamin C. Orange peels can even be used in various ways around the home, including as a natural cleanser.
California oranges are available year round. For those looking to increase their vitamin C intake, a great practice is eating an orange a day. “In peak season now, one California Cara Cara orange offers 100 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C, and one California navel orange offers 90 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C,” Largeman-Roth says.
How to Make Sure You're Reaping the Maximum Vitamin C Benefits of Oranges
"Consuming the whole fruit is the best way to ensure you gain the maximum nutritional benefit," says physician Poonam Desai, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Weill Cornell Medical School. "When speaking with patients, I recommend seeking nutrients like vitamin C from whole food sources, rather than supplements, especially with a vitamin C-rich fruit like oranges."
A few simple cooking, shopping, and storage tips for eating them include:
Retain an orange's vitamin C content by eating it raw: Vitamin C is water soluble, so to retain as much as possible, eat citrus fresh or avoid overcooking and use minimal amounts of water.
Pick heavy fruit: When shopping for citrus, choose fruit that smells fresh and feels heavy for its size—the heavier the orange, the juicer it is.
Refrigerate them for longer shelf life: Keep citrus fresh longer—up to three weeks—by storing it in the refrigerator at a temperature below 42 degrees. To ensure you get the most juice out of the orange, bring citrus to room temperature before cooking with it.
Explore their versatility: Oranges make a great addition to sweet and savory dishes, beverages, cocktails, sauces, and more. From squeezing juice and grating zest into a smoothie, combining diced navels with red onion, cilantro, and jalapeños for a zesty salsa, or using segments for a vibrant fall salad, fresh oranges can be easily added to a wide array of recipes for added nutritional value.
Use the whole fruit: Numerous parts of citrus can be consumed, including the flesh, juice, zest, and peel, providing less food waste.