Three surprising vitamin C sources for immune support – beyond oranges
By Liz Connor
Lockdown is a good opportunity to rethink your unhealthy habits. But rather than focusing on shedding the pounds, going on a spring health kick should be about feeling great, having more energy and supporting your immune system through the worries of this time.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is one of the most important vitamins for overall health. Not only does it support your joints and help repair connective tissues, it’s useful in boosting the immune system.
This super vitamin is known to stimulate the production and function of white blood cells, and it also acts as a powerful antioxidant and protects the body from damage caused by free radicals. Studies have shown that it can help to reduce inflammation in the body, as well as fight fatigue.
And studies have found that, although vitamin C doesn’t appear to make you any less likely to catch a cold, it may help you get over one faster and make the symptoms less severe.
Despite recent, widely-shared online posts about the supposed ‘miracle’ wonders of vitamin C in high doses, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that this vitamin – or any other supplement – can prevent or treat Covid-19.
Indeed, the NHS website warns that taking large amounts of vitamin C (more than 1,000mg per day) can cause stomach pain, diarrhoea and flatulence.
But it’s always a sensible idea to follow government guidelines and get your recommended daily intake, to keep your immune system in good nick.
How much vitamin C do we actually need?
“The recommended amount of vitamin C is 40mg a day for adults aged 19-64 years – equivalent to about an orange a day,” says Aisling Moran, nutritional scientist at Thriva (thriva.co).
Severe lack of vitamin C can cause scurvy, a disease that causes swollen gums and bleeding from the skin.
Scurvy is rare in the UK, although the NHS says that people on restrictive fad diets, with very few vitamin C sources, are at higher risk of the health issue. Smoking can also reduce how much vitamin C your body absorbs from food.
There are lots of surprisingly inexpensive dietary sources.
The NHS says that it should be possible to get all the vitamin C you need from a balanced diet, although very little of the nutrient is stored in the body, so you need to be consuming it each day.
When we think of vitamin C-rich foods, we often think of oranges – an average sized one will yield around 70mg of the vitamin, with a small one offering around 51mg.
But it’s a good idea to keep your diet varied and luckily the vitamin is found in plentiful amounts in many other common fruits and veggies too.
Here are a few other fridge and fruit bowl staples to keep in mind on your next trip to the supermarket. And each of them contains more vitamin C per 100g than oranges.
This fibrous, branched staple of the Sunday roast dinner doesn’t just taste great, it’s also a nutrient-rich powerhouse in the cruciferous vegetable family. While 100g of oranges contain roughly 53mg of vitamin C, the same weight of broccoli yields around 89mg.
As well being a great pairing with your roast lamb, broccoli is perfect for a quick stir fry with other vegetables.
“I recommend including mange tout, baby sweetcorn, thinly sliced courgettes and button mushrooms,” says Dr Emma Derbyshire, nutritionist for the Health & Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS.org). “When it comes to a healthy diet, think about cooking a rainbow.”
2. Red pepper
Red pepper offers around 128mg of vitamin C per 100g, which is pretty impressive – and this fabulous fruit is also a great source of vitamins A, E and K, which support eye, nerve and bone health respectively.
“Red peppers are great in stir fries, but I also like to cook them as part of a roast vegetable mix,” Derbyshire recommends. “Try chopping them up and roasting them in the oven with butternut squash and red onion. They’re also super tasty when stuffed with a herby breadcrumb mix and baked in the oven.”
3. Kiwi fruit
The tangy and flavourful kiwi fruit isn’t to everyone’s taste, but if you’re a fan, there’s a good reason to keep adding these juicy green spheres into your fruit salads.
In 100g of kiwi, you’ll find around 93mg of vitamin C, and eating just one of these little beauties delivers around 64mg. They offer vitamin K, vitamin E, folate, and potassium too, and also contain a good amount of disease fighting antioxidants.
“If you’re getting bored of just eating kiwi fruit straight out of its skin, try putting it in a smoothie. Blend together either milk or a plant-based alternative, with a satsuma, banana, a spoonful of live yogurt (which is a probiotic) and a teaspoon of cinnamon for extra sweetness,” suggests Derbyshire.