There appears to be a serious surge in respiratory illnesses this winter. In most cases, it can be difficult to avoid a dose, especially if someone close by already has the sniffles. However, our diet and the food we consume can sometimes lend us a helping hand, providing us with some much-needed immunity.

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant and is probably best known as an immune-boosting nutrient. It plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, muscles, bones and cartilage. It helps with the production of collagen, therefore it can play a significant role in wound healing. It is also an important component in aiding the absorption of iron.

Vitamin C can’t be stored in the body, so we need to consume it every day. It is commonly found in many fresh fruit and vegetables. There are many excellent sources of vitamin C, such as citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemon and limes, kiwis, red peppers, broccoli, spinach, and kale. As vitamin C is heat sensitive, some of its beneficial properties can be lost during the cooking process, therefore for optimal intake, eating vitamin C-rich foods in their raw form is generally recommended.

A diet rich in vitamin C is important for our overall health, but as it can help to strengthen our immune system, it is especially beneficial to focus more on Vitamin C-rich foods at this time of year when we’re more likely to encounter colds and viruses.

Nessa Robins' winter salad with a lime & coriander dressing. \ Nessa Robins

Winter Salad with a Lime & Coriander Dressing

This salad is packed with lots of vitamin C-rich ingredients. It makes for a delicious lunch with a chunk of bread or can easily be topped with some boiled eggs or grilled meats as a main meal. This salad will keep well in the fridge for up to three days.

250g Chinese cabbage

250g broccoli

2 carrots

1 red onion


1 tin chickpeas, drained

30g coriander, stalks & leaves

Juice of 2 limes

4tbsp water

2tbsp olive oil

2tbsp maple syrup

1 garlic clove, crushed

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Topping :

50g raw almonds

50g sunflower seeds

1 Prepare the vegetables. For the cabbage, cut thinly into slices. Cut away the woody stem from the broccoli, then finely chop the florets and thinly slice the remaining stems. For the carrots, thinly slice them into thin batons. Finely slice the red onion.

2 To make the dressing, add all the ingredients to a food processor and blitz until smooth.

3 Add the dressing to a large bowl and top with the prepared vegetables. Stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

4 To release more of the flavour from the almonds and sunflower seeds, lightly toast on a dry pan over a low heat for a couple of minutes.

5 Just before serving the salad, scatter over the toasted nuts and seeds.

Citrusy Green Juice

Spinach is a wonderful addition to any juice or smoothie, as its flavour is rather mild, but it’s a superfood in terms of how nutrient-rich it is. This juice can be made in minutes and is best enjoyed straight after blitzing.

Juice of 2 oranges

100g spinach

100g pineapple, chopped

1tsp honey

Handful of ice cubes

1 Add all the ingredients to a high-powered blender and blitz until smooth. Enjoy straight away.

Read more

Nessa Robins' heart-healthy recipes

Nessa Robins’ magnesium-rich smoothie and chickpea and spinach curry