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How To Make The Ultimate Immune-Boosting Meal

Zinc and vitamin C are crucial for keeping immunity high and your body healthy—and creating meals high in this combo of nutrients can do your inner defenses some serious good.

“Zinc helps immune system cells develop, while vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the body from free radicals and oxidative stress.” says dietitian Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD.

That goes a long way when your body needs an extra boost: “Intake of both nutrients from food has been shown to decrease symptoms and reduce duration of respiratory infections, including the common cold,” explains dietitian Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN.

Since the body does not store zinc or vitamin C, the only way to ensure you get enough of them is to consume them every day, Jones says.

Read More: Are You Getting Enough Zinc?

Adult women need:

  • 8 milligrams of zinc per day
  • 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day

Adult men need:

  • 11 milligrams of zinc per day
  • 90 milligrams of vitamin C per day

Though you certainly don’t have to pair vitamin C and zinc together in meals, deliberately doing so can help you meet your needs while consuming phytochemicals and antioxidants that may also benefit immune health, Jones says.

Ready to dine on these two essential nutrients? Here are a few delicious meals loaded with both zinc and vitamin C to enjoy year-round.

Read More: Vitamin C Is As Important As Ever–And Not Just For Immune Support

1. Eggs and Veggie Breakfast Plate

An omelet made with peppers, spinach, and cheese is a delicious way to pack in vitamin C and zinc at breakfast.

You’ll score zinc from the eggs and zinc, while peppers and spinach provide plenty of vitamin C, says Michalczyk. Plus, this breakfast plate is packed with protein and fiber to fuel your morning and keep you fuller longer.

For reference, one medium bell pepper provides between 150 (green) to 350 percent (orange and yellow) the daily value of vitamin C, says Jones.

Two eggs, meanwhile, offer 10 percent of the daily value of zinc, Jones says. As for cheese, opt for Swiss, which provides eight percent daily value per ounce.

Need more reason to enjoy eggs? They provide the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which can also help support immune function, Jones adds.

2. Plant-Based Grain Bowl

To get your vitamin C and zinc in at lunch, “make a plant bowl,” says Michalczyk. “Chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and quinoa are all good sources of zinc, and spinach and oranges are good sources of vitamin C.”

Pumpkin seeds, for instance, provide 20 percent of your daily zinc needs per ounce. Meanwhile, chickpeas pack 23 percent—while quinoa offers 13 percent.

Feel free to mix-and-match different ingredients, too. For example, swap spinach for other leafy greens like kale, or chickpeas for other legumes like black beans.

Jones’ go-to bowl: spinach, quinoa, lentils, roasted Brussels sprouts, mandarin slices, and your favorite dressing. “The lentils offer plenty of zinc and you’ll get a bit more from the quinoa,” says Jones. Then the spinach, Brussels sprouts, and mandarins all offer plenty of vitamin C.

All together, this bowl would provide more than the daily value of vitamin C, plus about 40 percent of an adult’s needs for zinc, Jones says. Additionally, its high fiber content supports satiety, gastrointestinal health, and the gut microbiome.

3. Greens and Nuts Smoothie

For an easy and portable breakfast or a snack, make a smoothie with kiwi, spinach, pineapple, and almond butter, says Michalczyk. Just blend all ingredients together with a milk of choice, such as almond or soy milk.

“Almonds contain zinc, while spinach and kiwi are good sources of vitamin C,” she says. And pineapple offers 47 percent of your vitamin C needs. Plus, you also get other antioxidants, fiber, folate, magnesium, and protein in one delicious drink.

4. Lamb Meatballs with Mediterranean Salad

For an immune-friendly dinner, cook up lamb meatballs with a Mediterranean salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and lemon juice.

“Meat like beef, lamb, and pork are good sources of zinc,” says Michalczyk. Flavorful lamb, in particular, provides 30 percent of the daily value of zinc and lots of B vitamins and iron, as well.

Plus, the salad offers vitamin C because of the tomatoes, lemon, and peppers. The bright veggies also offer antioxidants.

5. Fruit, Nut, and Chocolate Trail Mix

DIY trail mix made with zinc- and vitamin C-rich foods offers legit immunity benefits. When that three o’clock slump hits, try dried kiwi, Brazil nuts, and dark chocolate.

Brazil nuts offer 10 percent of the daily value for zinc per ounce, one medium kiwi offers 115 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin C, and three and half ounces of dark chocolate (at least 70-percent cocoa) has 30 percent daily value of zinc.

6.Shellfish with Peppers, Sweet Potatoes, and Onions

Another zinc-rich dinnertime option: your favorite shellfish.

“Some shrimp skewers with vitamin C-rich peppers and onions make a great base for your meal,” says Jones. “Then, add some sweet potatoes on the side, which offer both zinc and vitamin C.”

This combo provides 30 percent the daily value for zinc and more than enough vitamin C for men and women, she says.

Pro tip: Keep the skin on your potatoes to reap their full nutritional benefits, including some selenium and extra fiber, Jones adds.

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