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Best Fruits to Eat for Immunity

EatingWell logo EatingWell 12/21/2020 Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D
a bowl of fruit on a plate: Cantaloupe Smoothie Bowl © Provided by EatingWell Cantaloupe Smoothie Bowl

In the midst of a global pandemic, coupled with cold and flu season, immunity is top of mind. To keep your immune system in tip-top shape, there are some things you can do. Getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, trying not to stress too much, moving your body regularly and eating a well-balanced diet can help your immune system (on top of washing hands regularly, cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and following CDC guidelines around social distancing and wearing a mask to help reduce the spread of COVID-19). Certain nutrients are especially helpful when it comes to supporting your immune system. You want to make sure you’re eating enough protein, keeping your gut healthy with prebiotics and probiotics, and getting enough zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D. (Read more about the top nutrients to help keep your immune system healthy.)

a bowl of fruit on a plate: Cantaloupe Smoothie Bowl © Provided by EatingWell Cantaloupe Smoothie Bowl

Vitamin C is often talked about a lot. It’s not magical, but vitamin C is an antioxidant and research shows it does help support your immune system. Luckily, most of us get enough in our diets but there are lots of delicious fruits that are rich in vitamin C. Fruits are a great food to eat because they’re naturally sweet and delicious, hydrating and contain fiber and other beneficial nutrients, in addition to vitamin C. Here are the top 5 fruits that deliver a sweet vitamin C fix. 

1. Oranges

A medium orange delivers 78% of your vitamin C needs for the day. Orange juice also packs a whopping 103% of your vitamin C in ¾ cup. That shouldn’t be surprising since most of us think of oranges when we think of vitamin C. I love oranges (and their cousins tangerines and clementines) because they’re affordable, last in your fridge for a while and are great for packing on the go. They’re also in season in the winter.

2. Kiwi

Most of us may not think of the humble kiwi as a nutrient superstar, but 1 medium kiwi gives you 71% of daily vitamin C. Not bad for the fuzzy fruit. Kiwis are delicious in smoothies and fruit salads, or just eaten plain. Try these healthy kiwi recipes for inspiration. 

3. Strawberries

Strawberries have always been one of my favorite fruits and luckily, they’re as good for you as they are tasty. ½ cup of sliced strawberries delivers 54% of your vitamin C needs which means you’ll get more than your daily needs in one cup. Buying frozen is always a great option—frozen fruit is just as nutritious as fresh—especially when it’s not strawberry season. I like to use frozen strawberries in smoothies, like this Strawberry-Pineapple Smoothie.

4. Grapefruit

½ of a medium grapefruit gives you 43% of your vitamin C needs. Or you could drink ¾ cup of grapefruit juice for 78% of your vitamin C. Grapefruits are beautiful and more versatile than you might think. Slice them up in salads or broil with a little sugar for a sweet treat. Our healthy grapefruit recipes deliver lots of inspiration that won’t make you feel like you’re on some boring old grapefruit diet. One thing to note, grapefruit does interact with some medications, like cholesterol and blood pressure meds, so double check before you make grapefruit your main source of vitamin C.

5. Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe delivers 32% of your vitamin C in ½ cup or 64% in one cup. While not as high as the other fruits on this list, that’s not too shabby. Cantaloupe’s delicious to snack on by the slice, but it’s tropical flavor makes it great for smoothies and salads too. This beautiful cantaloupe smoothie bowl is a refreshing treat that can almost make you feel like you’re on the beach.

Welcome to The Beet. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Lisa Valente tackles buzzy nutrition topics and tells you what you need to know, with science and a little bit of sass.

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