Oranges For Respiratory Health

  • Maariya Rachid Daud Doctor of Philosophy - PhD, Bioprocessing and Chemical Engineering, The University of Manchester
  • Samreen Noman Master's degree, Biomedical Sciences, General, Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences, Germany

It is estimated that we breathe in and out about 22,000 times daily. By doing this simple autonomous action, we ensure that our lungs can get sufficient oxygen and transport it around our bodies.1 This is all controlled by the respiratory system so it is essential we do our best to ensure that it is always in top condition to perform its functions. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most efficient ones is through our diet, especially through the consumption of fruits like oranges.2 This short but informative article, will cover and highlight the importance of incorporating a healthy dose of oranges into our diets, the many nutrients in oranges and their benefits. 


Respiratory health refers to the complex network of organs and tissues which all come together to do important tasks like allowing us to breathe. Every time we take a breath, oxygen enters our lungs and is then integrated into the red blood cells which carry it to all our tissues and organs around the body. Without the help of the respiratory system, this would be very difficult resulting in our cells and tissues not getting enough oxygen and being able to function.1 Due to the complex nature of our respiratory system, it is crucial to keep it well maintained and healthy.

One of the ways to approach this is by diet and nutrition. By keeping a well-balanced healthy diet, it is possible to support the respiratory’s well-being and prevent or reduce certain diseases including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).2 This is because a well-balanced diet contains a lot of important nutrients and vitamins. One healthy example of this is oranges. Oranges can be viewed as a respiratory health booster due to the many nutrients they contain, especially the high abundance of vitamin C. It was studied that people with a vitamin C deficiency were more susceptible to respiratory infections leading to an increased risk of pneumonia, sepsis and COVID-19.3

Respiratory health and immunity

Our respiratory health is comprised of a complex network in the body, with the lungs being one of the most fundamental organs. There are many components of the respiratory system which allow us to breathe efficiently and these include the nose, oropharynx, trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, and lungs. The lungs are one of the most important organs in this network as it is where the process of gas exchange occurs. Gas exchange is crucial as it allows us the intake of oxygen and removes waste products like carbon dioxide. Inside our lungs, there is an even more complex anatomy comprising lobes containing around 300 million alveoli. When we breathe, the inhaled oxygen travels through the alveoli eventually reaching the bloodstream allowing it to be transported to various cells which require oxygen to survive.4

Another complex network of organs, cells and tissues is the immune system. The main role of the immune system is to protect us from harmful pathogens and instigate an immune response to try and eliminate them from our body.5 Therefore it is essential and our responsibility to ensure that our immune system is always strong and healthy to protect our respiratory system from the outside world. One way to do this is to increase the intake of certain vitamins and nutrients by eating fruits like oranges which will boost our immunity. The orange is a citrus fruit comprised of vitamins C, A and B1 which all play different roles in enhancing our immune system.6


The citrus family, Citrus, comprises a variety of fruit crops including lemons, grapefruits, mandarins and oranges. There are many types of oranges available worldwide with two of the most popular ones including the sweet and bitter oranges. It is estimated that the production of these two oranges is around 75,413,374 tonnes worldwide. The sweet orange, also known by its taxonomical name, Citrus sinensis, encompasses the three varieties of blond orange, navel orange and blood orange. Even though these are all known as sweet oranges, they have different properties giving them unique textures and flavours allowing them to be eaten in different ways. This contrasts with the bitter oranges, C. aurantium which is known more for its bitter taste and pleasant smell and is used more in the food, fragrance and medical industry.6 

Nutrients in oranges

There are many varieties of oranges available, all belonging to the citrus family densely packed with nutrients and many crucial vitamins essential to support the immune system. Some of the most beneficial nutrients in oranges include:

  • Vitamin C: Also known as ascorbic acid, this vitamin boosts our immune health and in turn our respiratory health. Vitamin C has many roles in the body, with one of the main ones including the production of white blood cells to fight infections and protect our immune cells from free radical damage. In addition, Vitamin C contributes to collagen production supporting the skin's integrity and allowing it to complete its roles as the first physical barrier against pathogens including respiratory pathogens.7
  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A is crucial for the maintenance of the mucus membranes, a membrane responsible for the production of mucus. Mucus acts as a defense against many pathogens by providing a barrier in the places that pathogens are likely to try and enter including the mouth, nose, and eyes. By keeping these places moist and sticky, the mucus can trap the pathogens preventing them from entering the body and causing detrimental infections including respiratory infections like pneumonia.8
  • Folate: The B vitamin, folate, is required in the synthesis and repair of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). DNA is important as it encodes all the essential genes responsible for different functions in the body including the making of immune and respiratory cells which are needed to defend the body against pathogens and contribute to the respiratory system, respectively.9
  • Vitamin B1: Also referred to as thiamine, vitamin B1 contributes to the development and maintenance of immune cells. Our immune system needs a good amount of energy to carry out its many roles and have the strength to combat infections and pathogens. By converting food into energy, thiamine ensures that the immune system has the energy it needs to function properly and protect us from respiratory diseases.10
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants such as flavonoids and carotenoids, are responsible for neutralizing free radicals resulting in less oxidative stress on the immune system.

Oranges for respiratory conditions

The many nutrients and vitamins found in oranges, all provide many benefits, especially in aiding respiratory conditions. Some of the known benefits of oranges include:

  • Managing common respiratory issues including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and progression to lung cancer. 
  • Reducing the severity and duration of colds
  • Protecting against respiratory infections11

Incorporating oranges into your diet

Oranges are very versatile fruits meaning that it is very easy to incorporate them into our diet daily. There are many different ways of consuming and enjoying oranges, helping you maintain a strong and healthy respiratory system. Some of the most delicious and diverse ways of incorporating oranges into your diet can include:

  • Fresh orange juice or smoothies
  • Oranges as snacks or desserts
  • Incorporating orange slices into salads
  • Using orange zest for extra flavour and nutrients
  • Dried orange peel for teas and cooking12


To summarize, our respiratory system consists of a vast network which does many important jobs with the main one being gas exchange providing our body with sufficient oxygen and removing waste products like carbon dioxide. Due to the important role of the respiratory system, it is crucial to maintain it in good health including boosting our immune system which is responsible for fighting unwanted pathogens which could lead to respiratory infections. There are many ways of boosting our immune and respiratory system including ensuring the incorporation of a variety of nutrients and minerals into our diet. Oranges are a diverse citrus fruit which provides many benefits as they are comprised of vitamins including vitamins A, B and C which all boost our immune system. Therefore, by consuming a healthy amount of oranges daily, it will be possible to ensure maximum health and good respiratory health.


This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Maariya Rachid Daud

MSc Molecular biotechnology, University of Birmingham

Hi, my name is Maariya and I am currently a student at the Univeristy of Birmingham studying a masters in molecular biotechnology. I love reading and writing articles about a wide range of topics with the hope of allowing everyone to learn how to live a healthier happier life. I especially enjoy writing articles that are targeted to people with non-scientific backgrounds giving everyone the opportunity to learn more about biology. I really hope that you find all my articles interesting and insightful.

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