Most people know that orange juice is full of vitamin C, but there are actually a variety of foods that can boost the immune system to help keep you healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak.

With restaurants closing and social distancing taking effect, it is important to know what kinds of foods to stock up on and how to pick the ones that best support a healthy immune system.

Cynthia Catts, a local nutrition expert and dietitian, said she is telling her clients to try and stick to foods associated with the Mediterranean diet (such as vegetables, fish and olive oil) which is generally anti-inflammatory.

Much of the diet, Catts said, is plant-based. 

"At this trying time, where fresh produce isn't always readily available, canned, dried and frozen fruits and veggies are just fine," Catts said in an email.

While Catts has advised her clients to avoid heavily processed foods, like mac and cheese and sugary snacks, pasta is an item that can contain healthy whole grains and has a long shelf life.

Catts also recommends people consider ordering groceries for pickup to limit their potential exposure to COVID-19.

For stocking up on healthy foods, Virginia-based nutrition and weight loss consulting company EMP180 also recommends getting the following vitamins to boost your immune system:

• Aside from oranges, other sources of vitamin C include kale, bell peppers, grapefruits, strawberries and broccoli;

• Vitamin B6, which benefits the central nervous system, can be found in chickpeas, chicken, salmon, tuna and green veggies;

• Vitamin E, an important antioxidant, can be found in nuts, seeds and spinach;

• Vitamin D, found in fish, egg yolks, cereal and other dairy products.

Citrus fruits, red peppers, shellfish and almonds can further boost the immune system. Citrus fruits are well-known sources of vitamin C, but for those who prefer veggies, red peppers can provide twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruits. Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, and shellfish contain zinc, which supports immune cells. 

Kristina Rackley is a general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard.