Vitamin C, otherwise known as ascorbic acid is perhaps one of the most well-known antioxidants that supports immune health.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient, meaning that it does not get stored in body tissues and needs to be consumed on a regular basis throughout the day. One of the ways in which vitamin C supports immune health is by acting as an antioxidant neutralising what are known as free radicals. Free radicals damage cells and vitamin C can help to protect the cells from damage as well as helping the immune cells to work more efficiently.
Vitamin C can be found in a variety of fruit and vegetables, in particular, bell peppers, watercress, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, papaya, tomatoes, strawberries, blackcurrants, kiwi fruit, lemons, oranges, pineapple, mangoes, parsley, kale and spinach.
Preparation and cooking
It is important not to overcook vegetables which will deplete the vitamin C content. Ideally lightly steaming, stir fry or roasted in olive oil in the oven (below 180oC) are best to retain their nutrient profile. Also, to reduce vitamin C being lost, always buy foods as fresh as possible or buy frozen vegetables/fruit which are frozen shortly after being picked which keeps their nutrients locked in and avoid chopping up vegetables until just before cooking.
Vitamin C can be depleted by having an infection so the need for vitamin C increases during these times. Also, vitamin C can be depleted by pollution, alcohol, smoking and stress.
How to include in diet
Adding kiwi fruit to porridge at breakfast, a protein smoothie mid-morning such as one containing orange, mango or pineapple blended with some natural or Greek yoghurt and some milk of your choice, a salad or wholemeal sandwich at lunch adding watercress, tomatoes and peppers and by adding broccoli and cabbage to your evening meal.
If you feel that you are struggling with your health and your immune system is below par, adding in a vitamin C supplement may be beneficial. Vitamin C as an ascorbate is often better tolerated than ascorbic acid and you may require a higher dose when you have an infection. Always check with a health care provider if you are on medication or have an existing health problem to check there are no contraindications.