Veggies with vitamin c

Contents

The Top Foods High in Vitamin C — and Why the Nutrient Is So Critical

Hungarian biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi discovered vitamin C in the 1930s — hundreds of years after more than two million sailors died of a gruesome disease that they likely could have staved off by having more fruits and veggies on board. According to the American Chemical Society, that would be scurvy, a disease that at the time was not known to be caused by a deficiency in ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, which is found in most produce.

But why is vitamin C so important? Marisa Moore, RDN, who’s based in Atlanta, says the vitamin plays a critical role in maintaining tissues, keeping bones healthy, and protecting cells and blood vessels from damage.

“Vitamin C is a nutrient we need for so many processes in the body,” she says. “And it’s one of those essential vitamins we can’t make in our bodies.”

RELATED: 7 Common Nutrient Deficiencies and Their Signs

Because of its powerful antioxidant properties, vitamin C can help regenerate cells, support the immune system, and help the body absorb iron, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements. Other touted benefits of vitamin C may include reducing the risk of heart disease, helping stave off memory conditions like dementia, and protecting against eye diseases including macular degeneration.

Without vitamin C, your body literally falls apart. According to the Science History Institute, back when vitamin C deficiency was a more prevalent issue, it caused people’s gums to bleed and teeth to fall out. The deficiency also caused internal hemorrhaging that eventually led to death. When physicians realized citrus fruits had a role in preventing scurvy, ships were stocked with lime juice. (This is how the term “limey” was coined.)

Don’t worry — the chances of you getting scurvy in today’s age are slim to none. It’s something, at least in developed nations, that we really don’t think about because vitamin C is in so many of the foods we eat daily. There are also plenty of vitamin C supplements out there, but Moore recommends getting nutrients from whole foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements, and the agency notes they’re different from drugs in that they aren’t “intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases.”

Studies on vitamin C supplements are limited, but research has shown that ingesting foods with naturally occurring ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is preferable to supplements, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. And if you’re already getting vitamin C from food, taking supplements may or may not be beneficial because any excess vitamin C is excreted from the body in the urine.

RELATED: 7 Popular Supplements With Hidden Dangers

What Foods Are the Highest in Vitamin C?

The Office of Dietary Supplements notes vitamin C must be ingested to receive its benefits. Luckily, there are tons of different foods to choose from that are chock-full of vitamin C. Some, like red bell peppers for example, can provide more than 100 percent of your vitamin C intake for the day, says Moore.

“People should always begin with a diet high in fruits and vegetables,” says Michael Wald, MD, a registered dietitian in Katonah, New York, and host of the radio show Ask The Blood Detective. “Age, genetics, absorption, disease, exercise, stress, sleep, alcohol, and various other lifestyle factors all play a role in the amount of vitamin C one needs.”

Note that cooking can also affect the nutrient content of foods. Because vitamin C is heat sensitive and water soluble, the longer you cook a food with vitamin C, the more C it loses, notes an article published in April 2018 in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology. The authors noted that microwaving a food with vitamin C led to better retention of the nutrient than boiling. If you can eat foods high in vitamin C raw, even better.

RELATED: 4 Essential Vitamins for Digestive Health

Vegetables and Herbs That Provide Vitamin C

Here are some of the foods recommended by the NIH that contain vitamin C, as well as flavonoids and bioflavonoids (powerful antioxidants found in fruits and veggies) that work with vitamin C. All recommended daily values (DV) are found in the NIH Dietary Supplement Label Database. Below, find their vitamin C content and DVs:

  • Red and Green Chili Peppers One red chili pepper contains 64.7 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, or slightly more than 100 percent of the DV.
  • Bell Peppers A 1-cup portion of chopped red bell peppers has 190 mg of vitamin C, or 211 percent of the DV.
  • Parsley and Thyme One teaspoon of thyme, for example, has 1.3 mg of vitamin C, or 1.4 percent of the DV.
  • Dark Green Leafy Vegetables This includes garden cress, kale, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. For example, 1 stalk of broccoli (about 1 2/3 cups) has 134 mg of vitamin C, or 148 percent of the DV.
  • Potatoes 1 medium-sized potato contains 42 mg of vitamin C, or 70 percent of the DV.

Fruits That Are High in Vitamin C

  • Kiwi One kiwi has 72 mg of vitamin C, 80 percent of the DV.
  • Guava One guava fruit has 125 mg of vitamin C, or 139 percent of the DV.
  • Blackberries One cup of blackberries has 30 mg of vitamin C, or 33 percent of the DV.
  • Papaya One large papaya has 475 mg of vitamin C, which is 527 percent of the DV.
  • Lemons and Limes One lime has 19 mg of vitamin C, or 21 percent of the DV.
  • Strawberries One cup of sliced strawberries has 97 mg of vitamin C, or 107 percent of the DV.
  • Oranges One orange has 112 mg of vitamin C, or 124 percent of the DV.

RELATED: 5 Tricks for Getting Enough Fruit and Veggies

What Is the Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin C?

It’s pretty much impossible to overdose on vitamin C, and it’s almost equally difficult to be vitamin C deficient, unless you live somewhere with little access to fruits and vegetables. Moore says at the very minimum your body needs 10 mg of vitamin C per day, but the recommended daily allowance (RDA) will vary depending on age, gender, age, and lifestyle choices like smoking.

According to an earlier report published by the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board, infants up to 6 months old should get at least 40 mg, children between 4 and 8 years should get 25 mg, teens between ages 14 and 18 should have around 75 mg for boys and 65 mg for girls, and among people ages 19 and older, the RDA is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. Some people need extra vitamin C, like smokers, who should get an additional 35 mg per day. Pregnant women need 85 mg, and lactating women require 120 mg of vitamin C.

The Office of Dietary Supplements also lists certain groups of people who have a higher risk for vitamin C deficiency. Research, like one study published in September 2017 in the journal Nutrients, has shown smokers have lower vitamin C levels compared with nonsmokers; therefore, they need a little extra in their diet. Infants who are fed evaporated or boiled milk, both of which are deficient in vitamin C, may not be getting enough of the nutrients they need. Medical conditions that cause malabsorption and certain chronic diseases may reduce the body’s ability to absorb vitamin C, increasing the amount the body needs, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders.

As a reminder, Dr. Wald says the RDA is the minimum amount needed to prevent vitamin C deficiency, and isn’t necessarily representative of the ideal vitamin C value each person needs.

RELATED: Can Vitamin C Cure a Spring Cold?

What Does Science Say about Vitamin C for Specific Health Conditions?

There’s no disputing vitamin C is a vital compound needed for the healthy functioning of our bodies. There is an ever-growing list of afflictions and conditions vitamin C is suggested to improve or prevent, but not all are backed by science, including:

  • Neurodegenerative Diseases This includes conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. In a review published in July 2017 in the journal Nutrients that looked at the literature on vitamin C and neurodegenerative diseases, scientists found promising results using vitamin C to treat neurological diseases in animal studies, but human studies are both limited and lacking in evidence. Many studies also used vitamin C supplements to evaluate the effects, and not vitamin C from food.
  • Various Cancers While the National Cancer Institute notes that intravenous-administered high-dose vitamin C may help improve the quality of life of cancer patients, vitamin C as a cancer treatment isn’t approved by the FDA. A study published in July 2018 in the International Journal of Cancer surveyed 182,000 women over 24 years and found that breast cancer risk for those who consumed more than 5.5 servings of fruits and veggies daily dropped by 11 percent. While there is an association between eating lots of fruit and veggies and having a reduced risk of cancer, there’s no direct link to vitamin C as a cancer treatment yet.
  • Eye Issues, Like Cataracts and Macular Degeneration Studies, such as one published in June 2013 in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, have shown nutrients like vitamin C and E may play a role in preventing age-related eye disease. The eye has a high metabolic rate, which causes the production of harmful free radicals that damage cells in the body. The prevailing theory is that because vitamin C is such an effective antioxidant — a protector of the body’s molecules — it may play a role in fighting off free radicals that lead to eye disease, per the June 2013 study.
  • Psychiatric Disorders, Including Depression and Anxiety Several smaller scale studies have shown an association between vitamin C and its positive effects on mood and related disorders, such as depression and anxiety. This includes a study published in July 2018 in the journal Antioxidants, which found that study participants with higher levels of vitamin C in their system reported having a brighter mood. Because vitamin C helps maintain organs like the brain, the study notes there are “biological justification for a positive effect of vitamin C on mood,” but more research is needed to prove that vitamin C can beat the blues.
  • Common Cold How many times have you been told to take vitamin C when you’re sick? When you feel the flu coming on, Moore says gulping down a bunch of vitamin C supplements probably won’t do much to prevent it.

“Vitamin C might help to decrease the duration of a cold, but taking it preventively — the research doesn’t necessarily support that,” she says. A study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that high doses of vitamin C may reduce the duration of a cold, but did not have an impact on preventing or reducing the symptoms of a cold.

One thing Moore says there is evidence for is vitamin C does help the body absorb more iron from food, especially nonheme iron from meat-free food sources. Pairing vitamin C–rich foods with iron-rich foods — for example, spinach with orange segments, or black beans with salsa — is especially important for people who are vegan, vegetarian, or anemic, and for women of childbearing age, Moore says.

RELATED: 10 Foods That May Help Prevent Cancer

A Bonus Potential Benefit of Vitamin C? Younger, Healthier Skin

There is also a case for vitamin C keeping you looking young and vital. Per a review published in August 2017 in the journal Nutrients, vitamin C helps stimulate the production of collagen — a protein that helps keep your skin firm and full. Diets rich in vitamin C are likely to have other positive benefits for the skin too. Some benefits noted in the study included reducing the formation of scars, preventing wrinkles, and maintaining overall health of your skin.

While vitamin C creams and serums are available as well, the review study found that “delivery of vitamin C into the skin via topical application remains challenging.” The study noted any potential benefits of applying vitamin C to the skin were creams that also contain vitamin E.

World’s Healthiest Foods rich in
vitamin C FoodCalsDRI/DV
Papaya119224%
Bell Peppers29157%
Broccoli55135%
Brussels Sprouts56129%
Strawberries46113%
Pineapple83105%
Oranges6293%
Kiwifruit4285%
Cantaloupe5478%
Cauliflower2973%

For serving size for specific foods see the Nutrient Rating Chart.

  • Basic Description
  • Role in Health Support
  • Summary of Food Sources
  • Nutrient Rating Chart
  • Impact of Cooking, Storage and Processing
  • Risk of Dietary Deficiency
  • Other Circumstances that Might Contribute to Deficiency
  • Relationship with Other Nutrients
  • Risk of Dietary Toxicity
  • Disease Checklist
  • Public Health Recommendations

Basic Description

Vitamin C may be the most familiar of all of the nutrients. Although most adults would be hard pressed to name a good food source of biotin or riboflavin, most everyone can name citrus fruits as good sources of vitamin C. It is also a commonly used nutritional supplement.

The first use of modern scientific methods to assess disease treatment was when the British navy used foods containing vitamin C (although the vitamin itself would remain undiscovered for nearly two centuries) to prevent scurvy among sailors. You could make a good case that this nutrition experiment is among the most important scientific findings in human history.

Despite the familiarity of the U.S. public with vitamin C and the popularity of vitamin C supplements, food intake of vitamin C by the average U.S. adult is not much higher than the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) level. For men in the U.S. twenty years and older, this average is 96 milligrams per day, and for women in the U.S. twenty years and older, it is 82 milligrams per day. (The DRIs for these two groups are 90 milligrams and 75 milligrams, respectively.) So even though U.S. adults are averaging adequate intake of vitamin C intake from their food, the amount is not as high as some people might expect given widespread familiarity and interest in vitamin C.

Of the World’s Healthiest Foods, a staggering 27 rate as excellent sources of vitamin C. Six of these contain a full day’s requirement of vitamin C in a single serving. We also rate 14 very good and 14 good sources of the vitamin. This should give you plenty of variety with which to build a menu plan that easily exceeds your vitamin C goal.

Role in Health Support

Protection Against Excess Free Radicals

Vitamin C is probably best known as an antioxidant. This is a word that we use frequently but don’t always stop to think about in terms of its meaning. Antioxidants are forms of molecules that help keep chemical reactions in our body in check. In particular, antioxidants help prevent excessive activity on the part of free radical molecules. (Free radicals are forms of molecules that tend to be very reactive, and too many free radicals in the wrong place at the wrong time can do damage to our cells and tissue.) Vitamin C and other antioxidants help prevent that damage. Damage to the lens of the eye, damage to molecules circulating around in our bloodstream, and damage to genetic material (DNA) in our cells are all examples of damage that have been shown to be prevented under certain circumstances by vitamin C.

One interesting application of vitamin C as an antioxidant is its ability to transform iron into a state that is better absorbed in the intestine. Including vitamin C-rich foods in recipes with your best iron sources can potentially be a way to enhance iron absorption.

Collagen

Vitamin C is required to produce collagen, a protein that plays a critical role in the structure of our bodies. Collagen is the framework for our skin and our bones, and without it, we would quite literally fall apart.

This is exactly what we see with severe vitamin C deficiency, or scurvy. People who have this condition lose teeth, bleed easily, and lose the strength of their bones. Luckily, it doesn’t take much vitamin C to prevent this problem. As we’ve known for more than two centuries, a single lime per day would usually be enough. (However, as described earlier, we have dozens and dozens of great food choices that will give us as much vitamin C as a single lime!)

Brain Health

Vitamin C is necessary to make certain neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are the signals that carry thoughts, feelings, and commands around our brains and throughout our nervous system.

In particular, we need vitamin C to produce serotonin, a hormone that plays a critical role in wide variety of body systems, including the nervous system, endocrine system, immune system, and digestive system. Many of our moods, daily bodily rhythms (including sleep-wake cycles), and experiences of stress and pain have serotonin included as a factor in their occurrence. Some of the most commonly used prescription medications for depression (SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reupdate Inhibitors) also target this hormone. While we are not suggesting that dietary intake of vitamin C will automatically improve the quality of any experiences described above, we do recommend that you include vitamin C-rich foods on a daily basis as part of your overall well-being.

Summary of Food Sources

Our best food sources of vitamin C have a single thing in common: they are all plant foods. Even though many—even most—animals make vitamin C in their bodies, only plants make it to the degree that they provide a rich source of the nutrient when eaten.

Probably most of you associate citrus fruits with vitamin C. This is not a myth—all of our listed citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, lime, and lemon) are excellent sources of vitamin C.

Many non-citrus fruits are highly rated sources, as well. Papaya, strawberries, pineapple, kiwifruit, cantaloupe, and raspberries are also excellent vitamin C sources. Cranberries, blueberries, and watermelon are examples of very good sources, while apples, pears, and bananas are in the good category. You should expect almost any fresh fruit to be a good, very good, or excellentsource of dietary vitamin C.

In addition, many vegetables contain vitamin C. All of the greens on our website are excellent sources of vitamin C. We are big fans of green leafy vegetables as sources of many nutrients and encourage their inclusion in daily diets. Our 3-Minute Swiss Chard is an easy and tasty recipe to get you started.

Many of the cruciferous vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C. These foods have many potential health benefits and are the focus of many of our recipes. Very good sources of vitamin C in the vegetable group include summer and winter squash, green beans, and carrots.

Our Herbs and Spices can also be very helpful in boosting your vitamin C intake. One WHFoods serving of parsley, for example, provides you with over half of our WHFoods recommended daily amount of vitamin C!

In case you are feeling lost in the flurry of good vitamin C sources, let’s take a step back and make this easy. If you are getting two to three servings of fruit per day, and three to five servings of vegetables, you are almost certainly getting enough dietary vitamin C. If you find yourself worried, make sure you get a serving of fresh green leafy vegetables daily, since this amount will provide you with over one-third of the requirement in one sitting.

Nutrient Rating Chart

Introduction to Nutrient Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the World’s Healthiest Foods that are either an excellent, very good, or good source of vitamin C. Next to each food name, you’ll find the serving size we used to calculate the food’s nutrient composition, the calories contained in the serving, the amount of vitamin C contained in one serving size of the food, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling.” Read more background information and details of our rating system.

World’s Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of
vitamin C
Food Serving
Size
Cals Amount
(mg)
DRI/DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World’s
Healthiest
Foods Rating
Papaya 1 medium 118.7 168.08 224 34.0 excellent
Bell Peppers 1 cup 28.5 117.48 157 98.9 excellent
Broccoli 1 cup 54.6 101.24 135 44.5 excellent
Brussels Sprouts 1 cup 56.2 96.72 129 41.3 excellent
Strawberries 1 cup 46.1 84.67 113 44.1 excellent
Pineapple 1 cup 82.5 78.87 105 22.9 excellent
Oranges 1 medium 61.6 69.69 93 27.2 excellent
Kiwifruit 1 2 inches 42.1 63.96 85 36.5 excellent
Cantaloupe 1 cup 54.4 58.72 78 25.9 excellent
Cauliflower 1 cup 28.5 54.93 73 46.2 excellent
Kale 1 cup 36.4 53.30 71 35.1 excellent
Cabbage 1 cup 43.5 51.60 69 28.5 excellent
Bok Choy 1 cup 20.4 44.20 59 52.0 excellent
Grapefruit 0.50 medium 41.0 44.03 59 25.8 excellent
Parsley 0.50 cup 10.9 40.43 54 88.7 excellent
Turnip Greens 1 cup 28.8 39.46 53 32.9 excellent
Beet Greens 1 cup 38.9 35.86 48 22.1 excellent
Mustard Greens 1 cup 36.4 35.42 47 23.4 excellent
Collard Greens 1 cup 62.7 34.58 46 13.2 excellent
Raspberries 1 cup 64.0 32.23 43 12.1 excellent
Swiss Chard 1 cup 35.0 31.50 42 21.6 excellent
Tomatoes 1 cup 32.4 24.66 33 18.3 excellent
Lemons and Limes 0.25 cup 13.4 23.61 31 42.2 excellent
Spinach 1 cup 41.4 17.64 24 10.2 excellent
Asparagus 1 cup 39.6 13.86 18 8.4 excellent
Sea Vegetables 1 TBS 10.8 12.16 16 26.9 excellent
Fennel 1 cup 27.0 10.44 14 9.3 excellent
Thyme 2 TBS 4.8 7.68 10 38.0 excellent
Sweet Potato 1 cup 180.0 39.20 52 5.2 very good
Winter Squash 1 cup 75.8 19.68 26 6.2 very good
Green Peas 1 cup 115.7 19.56 26 4.1 very good
Blueberries 1 cup 84.4 14.36 19 4.1 very good
Cranberries 1 cup 46.0 13.30 18 6.9 very good
Watermelon 1 cup 45.6 12.31 16 6.5 very good
Green Beans 1 cup 43.8 12.13 16 6.7 very good
Summer Squash 1 cup 36.0 9.90 13 6.6 very good
Carrots 1 cup 50.0 7.20 10 3.5 very good
Plum 1 2-1/8 inches 30.4 6.27 8 5.0 very good
Garlic 6 cloves 26.8 5.62 7 5.0 very good
Basil 0.50 cup 4.9 3.82 5 18.8 very good
Dill 0.50 cup 1.9 3.78 5 47.5 very good
Romaine Lettuce 2 cups 16.0 3.76 5 5.6 very good
Potatoes 1 cup 160.9 16.61 22 2.5 good
Avocado 1 cup 240.0 15.00 20 1.5 good
Onions 1 cup 92.4 10.92 15 2.8 good
Banana 1 depends 105.0 10.27 14 2.3 good
Apple 1 medium 94.6 8.37 11 2.1 good
Pear 1 medium 101.5 7.65 10 1.8 good
Beets 1 cup 74.8 6.12 8 2.0 good
Leeks 1 cup 32.2 4.37 6 3.3 good
Apricot 1 whole 16.8 3.50 5 5.0 good
Celery 1 cup 16.2 3.13 4 4.6 good
Cucumber 1 cup 15.6 2.91 4 4.5 good
Peppermint 2 TBS 5.3 2.42 3 10.9 good
Cilantro 0.50 cup 1.8 2.16 3 28.2 good

Impact of Cooking, Storage and Processing

The same thing that makes vitamin C so important—its ability to protect against free radical damage—also makes it very prone to damage by heat, oxygen, and storage over time. In fact, the relative instability of vitamin C in foods presents a compelling argument in favor of fresh food dietary approaches like the one we advocate at World’s Healthiest Foods.

The vitamin C content of food will start to decline as soon as it is picked, even though this decline can be slowed down and minimized by cooling and retention of the food in its whole form. But a fresh, vitamin C-rich vegetable like broccoli—if allowed to sit at room temperature for 6 days—can lose almost 80% of its vitamin C. That potential vitamin C loss is one of the reasons it is so important to store broccoli (and all other vitamin C-rich foods) according to the methods that we describe in our individual food profiles. All of our food profiles include sections on How to Select and Store, and for each food we provide you with exact storage times and conditions that will help minimize nutrient loss from each food.

Long-term storage of vegetables can cost a significant amount of vitamin C. Kept frozen for a year, kale can lose half its vitamin C or more. Canning is even more detrimental, with 85% of the original vitamin C lost over the same year.

While cooking will lower the amount of vitamin C in most foods, but the amount of vitamin C lost will vary widely by cooking method. For example, basket-steaming broccoli for 15 minutes will reduce the vitamin C content by nearly one quarter. That’s one of the reasons why our WHFoods method for steaming broccoli never lasts longer than 5 minutes!

Risk of Dietary Deficiency

As described earlier, the average dietary intake for vitamin C in the United States is just above the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) level for both adult men and adult women. From this standpoint, U.S. adults aren’t at significant risk for vitamin C deficiency. However, average total calorie intake in the U.S. also tends to be too high, and while we may be doing okay in terms of our average vitamin C intake, we may also be overeating in order to do so. Whole, natural foods—especially fresh vegetables—can play a major role in providing ample vitamin C without increasing the risk of overeating. It’s one of the reasons we recommend this food group so highly.

At the risk of oversimplifying, if you are eating multiple servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day, you are very likely to be getting enough vitamin C.

Other Circumstances that Might Contribute to Deficiency

Since smoking increases free radical damage, smokers will need more dietary vitamin C. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that smokers get an extra 35 mg of vitamin C every day, about the amount found in one-half of a medium orange.

Relationship with Other Nutrients

Vitamin C can increase the absorption of iron (especially the iron found in plant foods) and may help lower the risk of dietary iron deficiency. You’ll sometimes see us recommending the additional of a vitamin C-rich food to meals and recipes for this reason.

Antioxidants in foods tend to work together in important and synergistic ways to provide protection against free radical damage. The most well-known of these connections is that between vitamin E and vitamin C. Specifically, vitamin C helps to protect vitamin E in people, such as smokers, who have chronic overproduction of free radicals.

Similarly, we see the flavonoid class of plant-based antioxidants helping to make the free radical protection from vitamin C that much stronger. This is great news, given that the foods that are most flavonoid-rich also tend to be among our better vitamin C sources. This synergistic protection is but one of many potential explanations for why the health benefits of plant-based diets cannot be replicated by nutrient supplements.

A great example of vitamin C and flavonoids in a whole, natural food is fresh oranges. In this fruit, most of the vitamin C is found in the watery orange-colored portions, while many of the flavonoids are found in the white-colored linings and section dividers. (This distribution of vitamin C and flavonoids in oranges is one of the reasons that it can be helpful to consume the “pulp” along with the juice if you decide to consume a processed juice version of this food.)

Risk of Dietary Toxicity

The National Academy of Sciences has established a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of 2000 mg per day for adults. While it is plausible that in rare situations—particularly with a rich intake of citrus juices—an individual could be above this UL from foods alone, we are not aware of any evidence to suggest that vitamin C intake from foods ever is responsible for toxicity symptoms.

Disease Checklist

  • Common cold
  • Scurvy
  • Capillary fragility
  • Asthma
  • Gingivitis
  • Gout
  • Musculoskeletal injury
  • High blood pressure
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Smoking

Public Health Recommendations

In 2000, the National Academy of Sciences released a set of Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for vitamin C that included a range of Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) by age and gender. These are summarized in the chart below. (Note that the recommendations for infants under age one are Adequate Intake (AI) standards.)

The 2000 DRI report also included a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for vitamin C of 2000 mg for adults. Although the report does not draw a distinction between dietary vitamin C and supplements, it would be hard to routinely go above this UL from food alone.

According to the DRI, smokers require extra vitamin C, and should add 35 mg to their daily RDA from the chart above. You’d find those 35 mg in a single serving of beet or mustard greens.

The Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C that you’ll see on food labels is 60 mg.

We adopted 75 milligrams per day—the DRI for adult women 19 years and older—as our WHFoods recommended daily intake level for vitamin C.

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25 Vitamin C Foods That Will Boost Your Immune System

Vitamin C is one of 13 essential vitamins, which all have a number of important functions in our body. Besides being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is vital for maintaining our immune system healthy and strong. Since our body isn’t able to produce this vitamin, we need to consume enough vitamin C foods on a daily basis. What’s great is that there are plenty of foods high in this vital nutrient and here we will provide you with a list including some of the richest sources. Remember that to stay healthy, you need to follow a balanced diet rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. So to learn more about other vitamins, have a look at this interesting infographic prepared by our team of experts behind MedAlertHelp.com.

What Is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that our body doesn’t store it. It is carried through the bloodstream, and all the excess amounts are excreted in the urine. It plays numerous important roles in our organism, including an antioxidant function, so we need to take it regularly through food and sometimes supplements. Vitamin C is involved in the biosynthesis of collagen, which contributes to wound healing. It also takes part in protein metabolism and the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters.

What Does Vitamin C Do?

One of the well-known functions of vitamin C is the one related to boosting the immune system. This nutrient is crucial to the production of white blood cells, which fight against foreign invaders causing infections. In addition, it protects them from free radicals, making them more effective. Another important role of vitamin C is to help the body absorb iron that comes from plant-based foods. This way, it can prevent iron deficiency and anemia.

Many people take vitamin C supplements in order to treat a common cold. However, according to a study on preventing and treating a cold with vitamin C, it is not effective if taken when the first cold symptoms appear. On the other hand, there is some evidence that vitamin C may reduce the duration of a cold and make it less severe.

Furthermore, there are numerous studies on the role of vitamin C in preventing and treating more serious diseases, including various types of cancers, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and heart disease. Still, more research needs to be done in order to prove that vitamin C can help in treating these medical conditions.

Vitamin C Sources

Various foods contain different amounts of vitamin C. However, the richest sources of this vitamin are fruits and vegetables. In addition, some brands enrich breakfast cereals with vitamin C as grains normally don’t contain this nutrient. It’s also important to mention that prolonged storage and cooking decrease the content of vitamin C in food since it is water-soluble and heat-sensitive. Therefore, it’s a good idea to prepare food by steaming or microwaving, or even better, eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Here you can find a list of vitamin C foods and drinks, so try to include them in your diet and reap the benefits of this precious nutrient.

Red Sweet Peppers

Red sweet peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C. Half a cup of raw peppers provides you with 158% of your daily value (DV) of this vitamin. What’s more, this veggie is rich in other vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin E.

Green Sweet Peppers

Green sweet peppers are also an amazing source of vitamin C. With just half a cup of raw peppers, you can completely cover your DV of this nutrient. So, instead of taking vitamin C tablets, try eating more veggies like green sweet peppers. They are rich in other vitamins as well, such as vitamins K, A, and B6.

Broccoli

Broccoli is another veggie rich in ascorbic acid. In order to consume more vitamin C, it’s better to eat it raw than to cook it. Namely, one ounce of raw broccoli contains 42% of the recommended daily value of this vitamin. On the other hand, one ounce of cooked broccoli has 30% of the DV of vitamin C.

Brussels Sprouts

Besides in broccoli, vitamin C is abundant in Brussels sprouts. They are a great source of this nutrient as half a cup of cooked Brussels sprouts can provide you with 80% of your DV of vitamin C. Moreover, they are high in vitamin K.

Tomato Juice

Another rich source of vitamin C is tomato juice. If you drink one cup of this juice, you will cover 74% of your daily value of this vitamin. In addition, you can eat raw tomatoes as they are also rich in vitamin C. One medium tomato contains 28% of the DV of this powerful nutrient.

Cabbage

Cabbage is also one of the high vitamin C foods. In half a cup of cooked cabbage, you can get 47% of the recommended daily value of this vitamin. Furthermore, this vegetable is an amazing source of vitamin K, folate, vitamin B6, manganese, and potassium.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is rich in various vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C. Half a cup of raw cauliflower contains 43% of your daily needs of this vitamin. Also, it is a great source of vitamin K, folate, and vitamin B6. When it comes to minerals, it is a good source of potassium and manganese.

Potatoes

Potatoes are another veggie that belongs to foods with vitamin C. One medium baked potato can provide you with 28% of your DV of this essential vitamin. Potatoes are also rich in B vitamins, including vitamin B6, folate, niacin, and thiamin. In addition, they are rich in potassium and manganese.

Mustard Spinach

Mustard spinach is an amazing source of vitamin C, especially if eaten raw. One cup of raw mustard spinach serves 325% of your daily value of this nutrient. Moreover, it’s a rich source of vitamin A, folate, and various minerals, including calcium, manganese, potassium, and iron.

Scotch Kale

Scotch kale is another green veggie belonging to foods high in vitamin C. In one cup of raw Scotch kale, you get 145% of your DV of this vitamin. This type of vegetable is also high in vitamin A. Among other minerals, it contains manganese, calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe is a type of melon rich in vitamin C. With just half a cup of cantaloupe, you can cover 48% of your daily needs of this important nutrient. Moreover, it is an excellent source of vitamin A.

Honeydew Melon

Honeydew melon is another sort of melon that belongs to vitamin C rich foods. One cup of honeydew melon serves 53% of the recommended daily value of this nutrient. In addition, it is a very good source of potassium.

Orange Juice

Orange juice is an excellent choice of drink as it is packed with vitamins. One cup of this refreshing juice contains 207% of your DV of vitamin C. It’s also a great source of folate, thiamin, and vitamin A. On the other hand, one medium orange gives you 117% of your daily value of vitamin C.

Guavas

Many people presume that lemons and oranges are the richest sources of vitamin C. However, this is not true. So which fruit has more vitamin C than an orange? Among others, guavas have a higher vitamin C content than any other more commonly available citrus fruit. In just one cup of guavas, you will get 628% of your daily need of this vitamin.

Grapefruit Juice

Pink grapefruit juice is also a very good source of vitamin C. If you drink one cup of this fruit juice, you will cover 156% of your DV of this healthy nutrient. Alternatively, you can eat fresh grapefruit as one cup of grapefruit sections contains 120% of your daily value of vitamin C.

Kiwi Fruits

Kiwi fruits are one of the highest vitamin C foods as one medium kiwi fruit provides you with 107% of your daily need of this vital nutrient. This type of fruit is also a rich source of vitamin K, vitamin E, potassium, and copper.

Strawberries

Strawberries are a rich source of vitamin C since half a cup of sliced strawberries can provide you with 82% of your daily value of this nutrient. This type of fruit also contains various important minerals, while it is particularly high in manganese.

Lemons

Citrus fruits are among the foods highest in vitamin C. One lemon can provide you with 139% of your DV of this vitamin. They are also a good source of copper. One of the best ways to increase your vitamin C intake is to drink lemon juice as one cup contains 187% of the recommended value of this nutrient.

Papayas

Papayas are packed with various nutrients, including vitamin C. In a cup of papaya cubes, you will get 144% of your daily value of this vitamin. In addition, they are a great source of vitamin A, folate, and potassium.

Pineapple

Pineapple is another tropical fruit belonging to foods rich in vitamin C. A cup of pineapple chunks will cover 131% of your daily needs of this essential vitamin. Furthermore, this fruit contains most B vitamins, such as thiamin and vitamin B6. It also has a high manganese content.

Mangoes

Mangoes are an excellent source of vitamin C. If you eat one cup of sliced mangoes, you will obtain 76% of your DV of this vitamin. Moreover, this fruit is rich in vitamin A and vitamin B6. It also contains various minerals, like potassium and copper.

Blackberries

Various berries are great sources of vitamin C. For example, one cup of blackberries contains 50% of your daily value of this nutrient. They are also rich in dietary fiber, vitamin K, copper, and manganese.

Raspberries

Raspberries offer numerous health benefits thanks to their nutritive content. One cup of fresh raspberries will give you 54% of the recommended value of vitamin C. In addition, they are a great source of vitamin K and manganese.

Purple Passion Fruit Juice

Another amazing source of vitamin C is purple passion fruit juice. One cup of this drink can provide you with 123% of your daily value of this vitamin. What’s more, it is high in other vitamins as well, including vitamin A, riboflavin, and niacin. It’s also a great source of potassium and magnesium.

Lime Juice

Lime juice has a high content of vitamin C. In one cup of this fruit juice, you will get 121% of your DV of this important nutrient. In addition, it will provide you with other vitamins and minerals, such as folate and potassium.

Now when you know what foods have vitamin C, you can add them to your eating plan and enjoy all the benefits it offers.

Recommended Daily Intake

The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) established the Dietary Reference Intakes which provides you with the recommended daily values for all the nutrients, including vitamin C. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) should meet daily requirements of most healthy people. RDAs for vitamin C are different depending on age and sex.

No matter whether you are taking vitamin C pills or not, RDAs for this nutrient are as follows:

  • From birth to 6 months – 40 mg
  • From 7 to 12 months – 50 mg
  • From 1 to 3 years – 15 mg
  • From 4 to 8 years – 25 mg
  • From 9 to 13 years – 45 mg
  • From 14 to 18 years – 75 mg (male) and 65 mg (female)
  • 19+ years – 90 mg (male) and 75 mg (female)

Pregnant women aged 14-18 should increase their daily intake of vitamin C to 80 mg, while pregnant women aged 19 and older are recommended to have 85 mg/day of this vitamin. Also, women who are breastfeeding need more vitamin C. Those aged 14-18 need 115 mg per day, while women who are 19 and older require 120 mg per day.

It’s also important to note that smokers should take 35 mg/day more vitamin C than people who don’t smoke.

Vitamin C Deficiency

A varied diet which includes lots of fruit and vegetables prevents a deficiency in vitamin C. Therefore, people in developed countries are rarely deficient in this nutrient. However, those with alcohol problems, anorexia, or severe mental illness are at greater risk of developing this medical condition.

Ascorbic acid deficiency can lead to scurvy, a life-threatening medical condition caused by low vitamin C intake (below 10 mg per day). The first signs of the inadequate intake of this vitamin are fatigue and gums inflammation. Later, this deficiency negatively affects collagen production, and connective tissues may become weakened, which results in joint pain, poor wound healing, and corkscrew hairs. Other symptoms include loss of teeth and depression. In addition, low levels of vitamin C may cause iron deficiency as the absorption of iron from plant-based foods becomes impaired. A deficiency in this important vitamin must be treated as it may lead to death.

Who Should Take a Vitamin C Supplement?

Certain groups are at higher risk of developing a deficiency in vitamin C due to inadequate intake or malabsorption problems, so they might benefit from taking vitamin supplements. It’s always recommended that you check with your physician if you should take any dietary supplements containing ascorbic acid and consult with them about vitamin C dosage.

First, those who don’t eat varied foods are likely to have low levels of vitamin C. People with a limited food variety are usually alcoholics, drug addicts, poverty-stricken people, and those with mental illness.

Next, people with medical conditions that decrease vitamin C absorption are usually advised to take vitamin supplements. For example, people with certain types of cancer or end-stage kidney disease can have low concentrations of vitamin C.

Furthermore, the Institute of Medicine came to the conclusion that people who smoke need more vitamin C. Also, passive smokers are advised to meet the recommended daily value of this vitamin.

Finally, infants who are fed with evaporated or boiled milk can have a low concentration of vitamin C since cow’s milk is not a good source of this nutrient. That’s why they should be fed with breast milk or infant formula.

Vitamin C Side Effects

There isn’t sound evidence that too much vitamin C can cause severe adverse effects on our health. Sometimes, people taking high doses of this vitamin can experience gastrointestinal problems, such as abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea. There are some concerns that high intakes of vitamin C can lead to kidney stone formation, excess iron absorption, low levels of vitamin B12 and copper, as well as other serious health problems, but more research needs to be done to confirm these claims. However, the FNB developed Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for this vitamin.

Conclusion

Vitamin C is vital for a number of processes in our body. Among other roles, it contributes to the production of collagen, boosts our immune system, and neutralizes free radicals as an antioxidant. Considering all the health benefits of vitamin C, you should create a healthy eating plan including a variety of foods rich in this essential vitamin. Since most fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, you are highly unlikely to develop a deficiency in this nutrient. However, people with a poor diet or some medical conditions are recommended to take vitamin supplements as low levels of vitamin C may cause severe adverse effects and lead to a potentially fatal disease, called scurvy.

FAQs

What are the benefits of taking vitamin C?

Vitamin C has numerous important roles in our organism. Since it is involved in the production of white blood cells, it is of great importance for our immune system, keeping it strong and healthy. It also contributes to the production of collagen, which is responsible for wound healing. In addition, it may prevent iron deficiency and anemia as it improves the absorption of iron from foods of plant origin. Finally, as an antioxidant, it protects us from free radicals.

How can I increase my vitamin C?

The best way to increase your vitamin C intake is to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, some fortified cereals are enriched with this vitamin, so you can add them to your healthy breakfast. Moreover, you can take dietary supplements containing ascorbic acid.

What not to eat while taking vitamin C?

If you are taking supplements with vitamin C, you shouldn’t drink alcohol as it can lower your body’s ability to absorb this vitamin. Also, it’s not advised to consume milk and supplements of this vitamin at the same time because vitamin B2 from milk can reduce the effectiveness of vitamin C.

Is 1000mg of vitamin C too much?

The recommended daily intake of vitamin C for men is 90 mg, while women need 65 mg a day. Although our body isn’t able to store vitamin C, meaning that all the excess amounts are eliminated through the urine, we shouldn’t take more than 2,000 mg per day. This upper limit was established because high doses of this vitamin may cause some mild side effects, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and headaches. Therefore, 1,000 mg a day isn’t harmful, but it is usually unnecessary as a varied diet provides a sufficient amount of this nutrient.

Which foods are highest in vitamin C?

Vitamin C is found in numerous foods, but fruits and vegetables have the highest content of this essential vitamin. Various berries, such as raspberries and blackberries, and citrus fruits, like lemons and oranges, are naturally packed with vitamin C. In addition, a great number of tropical fruits, such as papayas, passion fruit, and mangoes, are rich in this nutrient. Among vegetables, peppers have the highest vitamin C content.

Which vegetables contain vitamin C?

A wide range of vegetables are rich in vitamin C. Red sweet peppers are especially high in this nutrient. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are also rich in vitamin C. In addition, green leafy veggies, such as spinach and kale, contain this nutrient. It’s best to eat raw vitamin C foods since this vitamin is heat-sensitive, so try to eat these vegetables in fresh salads as much as possible.

Secret of how plants regulate their vitamin C production revealed

Professor Roger Hellens, working with Dr William Laing from New Zealand’s Plant and Food Research, has discovered the mechanism plants use to regulate the levels of Vitamin C in each of their cells in response to the environment.

“Understanding these mechanisms may help in plant breeding programs to produce hardier plant crops and improve human health because iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of malnutrition worldwide,” Professor Hellens, from QUT’s Institute of Future Environments.

“This discovery will also help us to understand why some plants such as the Kakadu plum are able to accumulate super-high levels of vitamin C.

“Vitamin C is important in our diet because it enables more iron, which carries oxygen to our cells, to be taken up and absorbed.

“We humans gradually lost the ability to produce our own vitamin C thousands of years ago because it was so abundant in our hominid ancestors’ largely fruit diet.

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“As we know, fruit can be higher in vitamin C than leafy vegetables so we can now study why fruit is so high and why some fruits make huge amounts.”

Professor Hellens said plants responded to factors in the environment like extreme light or drought by producing vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, to protect themselves from damage.

“Each cell assesses whether it should produce more of the antioxidant which would absorb the energy from the high levels of light or stop the damaging oxidative process in amount the a dehydrated plant.

“In vitamin C regulation it is the ascorbate molecules which interact with a critical enzyme in the biochemical pathways to make vitamin C. Plants can move the level of ascorbic acid between cells as needed.”

Professor Hellens said plants had two ways to regulate cell processes.

“One way is during transcription when DNA is turned into the messenger molecule RNA, the molecule that distinguishes cells into different types of tissue. The second way is to regulate while turning RNA into an enzyme that makes vitamin C.

“So if a cell wants to increase its level of vitamin C it’s generally got two ways to do it — and we’ve discovered vitamins C uses the second method, and in an unexpected way.

“We discovered it’s not whether the cell is making the RNA but whether the RNA is converted into a protein that is the deciding mechanism.

“It’s very interesting because we found it was the level of vitamin C itself in each cell that decides whether RNA turns into the protein which makes vitamin C.”

Oct. 31, 2013— — intro: If you chug a glass of orange juice every time you start sniffling, you may be onto something. Though studies show that consuming vitamin C can’t actually prevent colds, loading up on the nutrient may help slightly shorten the length of time you’re sick and reduce the severity of your symptoms.

But despite their reputation for being loaded with vitamin C, the 69.7 mg that a medium orange provides is actually less than many other common fruits and veggies. To pack the ultimate vitamin C punch, fill up on these 12 superfoods.

15 Best Superfoods for Fall

quicklist: 1 category: Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges title: Chili peppers url: text: A half-cup of chopped or diced chili peppers delivers 107.8 mg of vitamin C. Plus, researchers from the University of Buffalo found that capsaicin, the compound that makes chili peppers hot, may help relieve joint and muscle pain.

quicklist: 2 category: Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges title: Red bell pepper url: text: A cup of chopped red bell pepper contains nearly three times more vitamin C than an orange—190 mg. Red peppers are also a great source of vitamin A, which promotes eye health.

The Truth About Common Vision Myths

quicklist: 3 category: Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges title: Green bell pepper url: text: A cup of chopped green bell pepper contains less vitamin C than its sweeter sister, but at 120 mg, it’s still 200 percent of your recommended daily allowance. Green bell pepper is also a great source of fiber.

quicklist: 4 category: Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges title: Kale url: text: In addition to twice your recommended daily intake of vitamin A and seven times the recommended amount of vitamin K, a one-cup serving of kale provides 80.4 mg of vitamin C. The nutrition powerhouse also delivers a sizeable dose of minerals and fatty acids.

11 Healthy Kale Recipes

quicklist: 5 category: Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges title: Broccoli url: text: This cruciferous veggie provides 132 mg of vitamin C plus a punch of filling fiber for just 30 calories per serving. Plus, research shows broccoli may have cancer-preventing properties.

quicklist: 6 category: Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges title: Papaya url: text: Research shows that eating papaya can help clear your sinuses, brighten your skin, and strengthen your bones. A one-cup serving delivers 88.3 mg of vitamin C.

Getting a Cold? Do This Right Now

quicklist: 7 category: Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges title: Strawberries url: text: A cup of this superfruit contains 84.7 mg of vitamin C, plus healthy doses of folate and other compounds shown to promote heart health. Another unexpected benefit of strawberries? They may help whiten your teeth naturally.

quicklist: 8 category: Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges title: Cauliflower url: text: Whether you roast it, steam it, or mash it, eating a small head of cauliflower gives you a 127.7 mg dose of vitamin C, plus 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.

5 Myths About the Common Cold

quicklist: 9 category: Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges title: Brussels sprouts url: text: These little cabbages are loaded with cancer-preventing phytonutrients and fiber, not to mention 74.8 mg of vitamin C. If you’re usually turned off by their bitter taste, bring out their natural sweetness by roasting them.

quicklist: 10 category: Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges title: Pineapple url: text: In addition to 78.9 mg of vitamin C, pineapple contains bromelain, a digestive enzyme that helps break down food and reduce bloating. Bromelain also acts as a natural anti-inflammatory that can help you recover faster after a tough workout.

10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

quicklist: 11 category: Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges title: Kiwi url: text: One NLEA serving of kiwi (about 2 fruits) boasts 137.2 mg of vitamin C. The fuzzy fruit is also rich in potassium and copper. (Check out 15 more foods that are high in potassium.)

quicklist: 12 category: Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges title: Mango url: text: Taste the tropics for a 122.3 mg boost of vitamin C. Mango is also a great source of vitamin A, which like vitamin C plays a key role in immunity and additionally keeps your eyes healthy.

12 Foods with More Vitamin C Than Oranges originally appeared on Health.com.

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