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Vitamin C and Zinc for Vegetarians and Vegans: How to Get Enough of These Nutrients on a Plant-Based Diet

If you frequently catch a cold, are tired most of the time, get sick now and then, or your skin is dull, a Vitamin C & Zinc combination is the perfect solution for all of your skin, immunity, and energy issues.

Vitamin C is a micronutrient, and zinc is a trace element. Both are beneficial to us, even when consumed separately. However, their combination works like magic for your overall health. Adding these nutrients to your daily diet can be extremely beneficial for your body, especially if you’re suffering from low immunity.

Although vitamin C can be easily obtained from vegetarian or vegan sources, zinc is mostly found in animal products. So, what is one supposed to do? Well, through this blog, we will fill you in on how you can get the best of both worlds from your diet as well as supplements. Read along to find out more.

Benefits of Vitamin C

  • Promotes Collagen Production: Collagen is a protein that imparts structure and elasticity to the skin and also forms a protective layer around organs. Your body requires an adequate amount of vitamin C for collagen synthesis. Without enough Vitamin C, it can be hard for your body to form collagen. Research says that vitamin C directly acts on the DNA to increase the transcription elements responsible for collagen production. Thus, Vitamin C helps in regulating and maintaining the amount of collagen.
  • Guards Against Chronic Diseases – The antioxidant properties of Vitamin C can strengthen your body’s natural defenses. Studies prove that Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant, thus protecting your cells from harmful free radicals.

Understanding antioxidants' role in free radicals: Healthy cells have just enough atoms in their outer shell for their normal functioning. Free radicals (unstable cells lacking an atom in their outer shell) come and try to attach themselves to the healthy cells, trying to steal away their atom, causing oxidative stress which leads to cell damage. This causes a variety of diseases and skin problems, such as wrinkles and premature aging.

Antioxidants like Vitamin C prevent this cell damage by stabilizing the free radicals while offering them the extra atom they need. Antioxidant foods like citrus fruits that are rich in vitamin C help our body build immunity against a host of diseases ranging from the common cold to even macular degeneration (vision impairment).

  • Prevents Iron Deficiency – Iron is an essential mineral responsible for distributing oxygen to all parts of the body and is an important component of blood. Low levels of iron can lead to anemia (low blood counts). However, not all the iron you consume from food is absorbed by your body. That means iron’s bioavailability is low, especially when derived from plant-based sources. Vitamin C helps convert poorly absorbed iron into a form that is easier for the body to absorb. Thus, vitamin C prevents iron deficiency, which in turn prevents low iron deficiency anemia.

Benefits of Zinc

  • Promotes Immunity: Zinc is an essential mineral for the immune system. It is critical for the development of several immune cells like neutrophils, lymphocytes, and macrophages and plays a huge role in adaptive immune responses (responses that arrive from memories of invaders). Even a mild deficiency of zinc in the body can disrupt the line of defense by slowing down the activity of the immune cells.

Adaptive immunity in a nutshell

This one works on memory. When a new invader (bacteria or virus) enters our bodies, our immune system captures it and stores its information in memory cells. These memory cells then trigger the production and storage of their antibodies (killing cells) for future use. When you fall sick due to the same invader, the memory cells of the immune system signal the immune response to kill these identified germs by triggering the same response (antibodies) that were produced last time.

  • Promotes Wound Healing: Your body requires an adequate amount of zinc to create new cells, fiber-like tissues, and collagen which are crucial for repairing damaged cells and wound healing. It plays a major role in most parts of the wound healing process, be it coagulation, inflammation, oxidative stress, or scar formation.
  • Promotes Skin Health: Zinc benefits your body from the inside out. It has anti-inflammation properties that help fight acne and may also control flare-ups on the skin, reducing the redness and irritation that come with pimples. Zinc also plays an integral role in the production of collagen and elastin. Therefore, it helps keep wrinkles and fine lines at bay.

Sources of Vitamin C for Vegans and Vegetarians

Fruits and vegetables are one of the best sources of vitamin C. Some food items rich in Vitamin C include: -

  • Strawberries
  • Citrus fruits like oranges, kiwis, grapefruits, lemons, etc.
  • Tomatoes
  • White Potatoes
  • Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.

Sources of Zinc for Vegans and Vegetarians

Here are some foods rich in zinc:

  • Chickpeas
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Seeds like hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
  • Quinoa
  • Wholemeal bread

Vegan Food Items Rich in Both Vitamin C and Zinc

Here are the foods rich in both zinc and vitamin C:

  • Avocado
  • Peas
  • Cooked Spinach
  • Edamame
  • Lima Beans

How Should Vitamin C and Zinc be Consumed?

It is best to consume Vitamin C in its natural and raw form. Heat and light can destroy the effectiveness of the vitamin. Also, it is better to cook vitamin-C-rich foods in water only for a short time. The vitamin may seep down into the liquid, and you may not get the right amount of vitamin if the liquid isn’t consumed. It is better to stir-fry or blanch foods rich in C vitamins or opt for fresh and ripe fruits.

For maximum absorption of zinc, try to include a variety of zinc-rich foods in the diet. It is suggested to consume zinc in smaller quantities for complete absorption. Your body readily absorbs nutrients like zinc from animal-based foods compared to plant-based ones. As a result, vegetarians and vegans face difficulty incorporating these nutrients into their diets. It is therefore recommended that they opt for plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan immune boosting supplements to enjoy the benefits.

Vitamin C and Zinc Supplements

If you cannot get an adequate amount of both Vitamin C and Zinc via your diet, immunity-boosting supplements are still great options to ensure you get the required amount in case your diet isn’t able to do that due to whatever reasons.

Vitamin C and zinc play significant roles in immunity, nutrition, and several other aspects of health. These two elements, teamed together in the form of a supplement, can treat certain deficiencies caused by a poor diet, diseases, medications, or pregnancy.

Vitamin C and zinc give a double boost to your immune system and can reduce the duration and severity of respiratory infections like the common cold and cough. Vitamin C and zinc, both antioxidants, can also help neutralize oxidative stress due to free radicals.

Vitamin C and zinc-rich immunity-boosting supplements may interfere with your medications. So, if you choose to take such a supplement, consult your doctor first.

What is the Recommended Daily Intake of Zinc and Vitamin C?

The recommended daily allowance of zinc for adults is around 11 mg for men and around 8 mg for women. Pregnant and lactating women may require a slightly higher amount of 11 mg and 12 mg, respectively.

The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C for adults is 90 mg for men and around 75 mg for women. However, pregnant and lactating women may require 85 mg and 120 mg, respectively. Smoking can affect the vitamin C levels in the body. Therefore, an additional 35 mg of Vitamin C is suggested for smokers.

It is better to stick to the recommended amounts of vitamin C and zinc. Excessive intake of vitamin C can lead to gastrointestinal issues and even cause diarrhea. On the other hand, a high amount of zinc consumption can cause stomach aches, coughing, fatigue, fever, and several other health issues.

Wrapping Up

Whether you get vitamin C and zinc through your diet, supplements, or both, make sure you consume the recommended amount to support your health and wellness. Getting enough of these and all the other essential nutrients is crucial for boosting your body’s immune system and overall functioning.


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  • Al-Niaimi F, Chiang NYZ. Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017 Jul;10(7):14-17. Epub 2017 Jul 1. PMID: 29104718; PMCID: PMC5605218.
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  • Baumann L, Bernstein EF, Weiss AS, Bates D, Humphrey S, Silberberg M, Daniels R. Clinical Relevance of Elastin in the Structure and Function of Skin. Aesthet Surg J Open Forum. 2021 May 14;3(3):ojab019. doi: 10.1093/asjof/ojab019. PMID: 34195612; PMCID: PMC8239663.
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