Vitamin C Foods

25 Vitamin C Foods That Will Boost Your Immune System

by Mira Rakicevic

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.

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