It's more important than ever to wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and boost your immune system naturally. While a well-rounded plant-based diet is always a great defense, foods high in Vitamin C are particularly helpful to fighting off viruses and boosting your immunity. Boost your immune system when you load up on these 9 Vitamin C rich plant-based foods. (Plus, we discuss whether supplementation can help, too.)
Vitamin C is famously known for its immunity boosting properties. Vitamin C helps to support certain cellular functions, aids in the production of white blood cells and helps to strengthen the skin's barrier against the outside world.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant. Oxidation is a chemical process that occurs naturally in the body. When oxidation is not met with antioxidants, or occurs at high rates, it produces an excessive amount of free radicals. Free radicals are unattached electrons that are highly unstable and reactive. They can cause accelerated aging, inflammation, and disease. To stabilize these free radicals and to neutralize the oxidation process, we need antioxidants. The more antioxidants you take in, the more likely you are to preserve your cells. Antioxidation slows the aging process and prevents chronic diseases.
Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron. Iron is a key component in hemoglobin, the molecule that red blood cells use to transport oxygen throughout your body. For those at risk for iron deficiency, it’s important to get plenty of Vitamin C into your diet. (Note: worried you can't get enough iron on a plant-based diet? Here are the best vegan sources of iron!)
Studies show that consuming Vitamin C in whole food form can have positive effects on thinking and memory as you age.
The current RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for the average adult is 90 MG of Vitamin C, which isn’t that hard to accomplish from the foods that you eat. 1 bell pepper has about 152 MG of Vitamin C.
What about supplements? It’s best to consume Vitamin C in its whole form (food) because there are no peer-reviewed studies that indicate that Vitamin C supplementation has positive effects on the body.
Yes, oranges are a faous source of Vitamin C, and for good reason: a medium orange has about 70 mg of vitamin C. But citrus isn't the only way to get this immunity-boosting vitamin. These 5 plant-based foods actually have MORE vitamin C than an orange, so load up!
Other common fruits and veggies like tomatoes, kale, papaya, green peas are also loaded with the important nutrient, and it’s found in every fruit and vegetable, so if you eat a well-rounded plant-based diet, you're getting enough Vitamin C.
If you are having trouble accessing fresh fruits and veggies because of COVID-19, or because you live in a food desert, drink 1 ½ cups of tomato juice. Tomatoes have incredible immunity-boosting compounds. In one study, subjects stopped including fruits and veggies from their diet. No surprise: their immune response plummeted. But by adding just 1 ½ cups of tomato juice a day to their nutrient-deficient diet, they were able to stabilize their immunity to where they were before they took fruits and veggies out altogether.
By Caroline DiNicola Fawley
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies