Citrus gets an A-plus for Vitamin C

February 5

In this cold and bleak winter, citrus is a great way to brighten up dinnertime with in-season produce while giving your immune system a boost.

Citrus fruits are most known for containing the antioxidant Vitamin C, which supports proper immune function. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, evidence suggests that for some people, high doses of Vitamin C might actually shorten a cold by as much as one to 11 / 2 days. In addition, Vitamin C fights free radicals to prevent or delay certain cancers and heart disease. It is essential for the growth and repair of bodily tissues, helps heal wounds and repairs and maintains healthy cartilage, bones, teeth and skin. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron from plant-based sources such as quinoa, beans and spinach.

There are more ways to enjoy citrus than simply pouring a glass of bottled OJ in the morning.

Juicing: According to the National Institutes of Health, fresh-squeezed orange juice is better for you than store-bought orange juice because it contains more active Vitamin C.

Fresh segments: Citrus segments can be added to fruit salad (or any salad) or used to top chicken or fish.

Zesting: The skin of citrus fruit is perfect for zesting to add pungent aroma to your baked goods, dry-spice rubs, tomato sauces, soups or salads. Citrus zest also makes for a beautiful and aromatic garnish.

Recipe: Tangerine Poached Chicken With Clementine-Pomegranate Relish

This recipe uses the fresh juice of tangerines to poach lean chicken. Juicy minneola tangelos or Valencia oranges would also work well. Poaching is a low-fat, low-sodium cooking method for lean proteins that have a tendency to dry out. It offers a healthful alternative to frying. No oil or fat is required, and the result is succulent, tender and flavor-infused meat. In this dish, the chicken is enhanced by a sweet clementine-pomegranate relish.

The relish features two foods that offer endless nutritional benefits: clementines and pomegranates. Clementines are a type of mandarin orange, a group that encompasses a wide variety of sweet citrus fruit including satsuma, clementine and tangerine. In the United States, tangerines are the most common variety of mandarin oranges. All mandarin oranges are bright-skinned and easy to peel. Their inner segments are easily separated, making them a convenient, portable, low-mess and refreshing healthful snack. They’re also an excellent source of Vitamin C and a good source of Vitamin A. Look for oranges that are heavy for their size. They can be stored in a cool, dark place for a few days or refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Pomegranates add nutritious beauty to many recipes. In this recipe, the pomegranate seeds are tossed in the relish. You can enjoy pomegranate seeds by themselves or mix them in salads for a boost of potent antioxidants and phytochemicals that protect your heart, brain and body. Or try sprinkling them on entrees, cereal, pudding or yogurt. They are high in fiber and vitamins C and K, and they’re a good source of potassium, folate and copper. According to the National Cancer Institute, research suggests pomegranates have beneficial effects on oral health and cardiovascular disease, and they might even help with fighting cancer cells. It is not known whether the juice of the pomegranate has these same effects, so go for the seeds. Each seed contains an edible capsule that provides Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and potassium. Whole pomegranates can be stored at room temperature for several days or for two to three months in the refrigerator.

Get the recipe: Tangerine Poached Chicken With Clementine-Pomegranate Relish

Pomegranate trick

Ever find it difficult to get the seeds out of a pomegranate without making a mess and taking forever? Try this simple solution: Just fill a large bowl with water, cut the pomegranate in quarters and submerge the entire pomegranate in the water. (If you need to reserve any juice for a recipe, remember to squeeze it out before submerging the pomegranate.) Use your thumbs to loosen the seeds from the membrane. Some pith will float to the top, and the seeds will sink. Skim off the membrane and pith. Pour everything else through a colander, draining out the juice and water. You will be left with just the seeds. They can be eaten immediately or stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to four days. If this technique is still too much trouble, some stores sell pomegranate seeds already removed from the fruit.

Gordon, a master of public health professional and a master certified health education specialist, is the creator of the healthful recipe site EatingbyElaine.com. Find her on Twitter at @EatingbyElaine.

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