Healthspan November 01, 2017

We’re all familiar with the well-known advice to ‘get some vitamin C’ to fend off cold and flu symptoms, but does it actually help?

If you reach for the orange juice every time you start sniffling, chances are you’re not the only one. Micronutrients such as vitamin C are particularly important for the immune system cells involved in fighting viruses. But is it really the cure-all it’s made out to be?

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is a powerful antioxidant which helps to protect the body from free radical damage, boost immunity, and plays an important role in the growth and repair of tissue in the human body. It also helps the body make collagen - an important protein used to make skin, tendons, cartilage and ligaments, as well as blood vessels.

Does vitamin C help treat cold and flu?

While studies show that consuming vitamin C doesn’t prevent cold and flu, increasing your intake can help shorten the length and severity of symptoms, explains Dr Sarah Brewer.

“High levels of vitamin C block the replication of viruses inside cells to lower the frequency and severity of the common cold. It also reduces the duration of herpes cold sores, while its antihistamine action is helpful against allergies,” she says.

How can I boost my intake of vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning you need to consume a consistent amount to make sure body has all that it needs. Citrus fruits, such as oranges and kiwi; leafy green vegetables such as kale and broccoli; red and green peppers, tomatoes, blueberries, Brussels sprouts and cherries are all good sources of vitamin C.

Here’s 3, easy recipes you can make at home to increase your vitamin C intake, from nutritionist Rob Hobson:

Avocado, apple, kiwi & spinach smoothie

Serves 2 | 200 calories per serving

Ingredients:
4 eating apples
6 celery sticks
2 kiwi fruits
1 avocado
2 handfuls of spinach
2 ice cubes
A squeeze of lemon

Method: Peel the kiwi fruits, wash the apples and celery and add the fruits to a blender. Add the juice, avocado flesh, spinach and ice and blitz until smooth.

Chickpea, pomegranate & pumpkin curry

Serves 4 | 285 calories per serving

Ingredients:
½ large pumpkin
1 tsp coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
A thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated with the skin on
5 curry leaves
1 tbsp curry powder
3 cardamom pods
1 fresh red chilli, seeded and finely sliced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 pomegranate
400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
200ml coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime
A handful mint leave, finely chopped

Method:

  1. To prepare the pumpkin, cut the piece in half and scoop out the seeds and fibres. Cut each half into four pieces, peel off the skin and discard. Cut the flesh into 1cm-thick wedges or half-moons.
  2. Set a large pan on a high heat and add the oil. Add the onion and cut for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic, ginger and curry leaves and cook for 3 more minutes. Mix in the curry powder, cardamom, chilli, 100ml water, salt and pepper, and cook for another 3 minutes.
  4. Add the pumpkin to the pan with 150ml water. Stir well. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until tender.
  5. Meanwhile, cut the pomegranate in half and place the halves upside down on to some kitchen paper. Gently tap the back of the halves with a wooden spoon until all the seeds have fallen out.
  6. Add the chickpeas and coconut milk to the curry and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Finally, add the lime juice and chopped mint and stir through.
  7. Serve hot, garnished with the pomegranate seeds and mint leaves.

Soft-boiled eggs with avocado salad

Serves 2 | 245 calories per serving

Ingredients:
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 avocado
1 lemon, cut in half
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
½ yellow pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 spring onion, finely sliced
Salt and pepper to season

Method:

  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil before reducing to a simmer. Gently place the eggs into the water using a tablespoon. Cook for around six minutes to for slightly runny eggs, or for a minute more or less depending on preference.
  2. While the eggs are cooking, peel the avocado, remove the stone and chop the flesh into small chunks. Place in a bowl and add a squeeze of lemon juice, the pumpkin seeds, coriander, yellow pepper and spring onion. Mix together and divide between two plates.
  3. Once cooked, peel the eggs and set on top of the avocado salad. Season to taste and serve.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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