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Pop quiz: when you get a cold, what’s the first food you think of to help fight it off?
If you’re like most people, orange juice immediately came to mind.
But what is it about orange juice (or grapefruit juice, another citrus favorite) that makes it such a powerful cold fighter?
It supports your immune system. It’s thought to increase production of T-cells and B-cells, those white blood cells that are on the front lines, fighting infection in your body.
But there’s even more going on behind the scenes, and vitamin C isn’t the only nutrient at work.
A new study has revealed the other key to orange juice’s powerful immune support.
Why inflammation leaves your body defenseless against infection
Yes, it’s our age-old enemy, inflammation, back in yet another destructive role.
Inflammation, as a natural response to stress or injury in the body, for example, a sprained ankle, is okay, and even necessary for healing to take place.
But constant stress, as well as unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive alcohol, produce a chronic, low-grade inflammation that puts you at risk of pain, illness and disease, and accelerates the aging process.
Philip Calder, Professor of Nutritional Immunology at Southampton University in London, puts it this way:
“A weak immune system increases susceptibility to infections… One component of the immune response is inflammation. Where inflammation is excessive or uncontrolled it can damage body tissues, sometimes irreparably.”
Orange juice fights inflammation and improves immunity
Dr. Calder is co-author of a recently published research review that examined existing scientific studies, trying to understand just why orange juice is so darn good for our immune system.
After looking at evidence from nearly 200 different studies and reports, Dr. Calder’s research team concluded that the vitamin C, folate and polyphenol compounds in citrus juices fight inflammation and therefore improve our defense against bacteria and viruses.
“Citrus fruit juices are particularly good sources of vitamin C and folate, which have roles in strengthening the gut and skin barriers which are our first line of defense against viruses and bacteria.
“In addition, these nutrients which are absorbed well from fruit juices — support the function of many types of immune cells including phagocytes, natural killer cells, T-cells and B-cells,” says Dr. Calder.
The polyphenols hesperidin, narirutin and naringin found in citrus juices are anti-inflammatory. And ongoing research shows that they may even have direct anti-viral effects.
A word of caution
Before you start chugging that orange juice, a few words of caution.
First, read your labels carefully and be absolutely certain that what you’re buying is 100 percent fruit juice.
Added sugars can go under many “code names,” including evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, barley malt and galactose — and nothing inflames your body and brings down your immunity faster than sugar. Make sure none of these appear on the label of the juice you’re buying.
Even better, stick to organic orange juice. Not only will it help you avoid added sugars, but it will save you from ingesting toxic levels of poisons like glyphosate that will destroy your beneficial gut bacteria and devastate your immune system.
If you’re wise and careful, you can use nutritious orange juice (and grapefruit juice, if it’s your cup of tea) to keep your immune system strong and healthy throughout the year.
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