Eating foods high in vitamin C is one of the best things you can do for your health. Also known as L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is only available through food sources. Your body can’t produce it on its own.1
Vitamin C is primarily found in fruits and vegetables, and I’ll show you some of the richest sources. I’ll also tell you about the dangers of vitamin C deficiency.
Why Is Vitamin C So Important?
Consuming a diet filled with foods high in vitamin C is critical to your well-being. One of the biggest reasons is that it’s a powerful antioxidant. An antioxidant is a nutrient that reduces the risk of cell damage due to “free radicals.”
Free radicals are molecules created by oxidation. They can increase your chances of developing a serious disease. Antioxidants help limit the damage that free radicals can do.2
Which Vegetables Are Good Food Sources of Vitamin C?
You already know that you need vegetables in your diet. Foods high in vitamin C include vegetables such as tomatoes, turnip greens, spinach, and cabbage. It’s important to make these foods a part of your daily diet.
Tomatoes have a good amount of vitamin C – 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) contains 13.7 milligrams of the vitamin.3 But tomatoes offer other health benefits as well.
Tomatoes contain a compound known as lycopene. Research shows that lycopene can help boost heart health.4 There is also evidence that lycopene may decrease the amount of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.5
Studies also show that tomatoes could help protect your blood vessels and lower the risk of potentially dangerous blood clots.6
Adding turnip greens to your diet can give you a nice boost of vitamin C. One cup of chopped, raw turnip greens contains 30 milligrams of vitamin C.7
You can eat turnip greens raw or cooked. It is mostly a matter of taste, though you may lose some of the nutrients in the cooking process.
This vegetable is also a good source of vitamin K. This vitamin helps keep your bones strong and healthy. In one study, researchers found that women with lower vitamin K intakes had lower bone density than women with higher intakes.8/sup>
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable (in the same family as broccoli and cauliflower). It contains 25.6 mg of vitamin C per cup (shredded).9 It’s also been shown to be good for digestive health.
Cabbage is also rich in dietary fiber, which helps make sure you have enough “good” bacteria in your gut. It acts like food for your beneficial gut bacteria. That, in turn, may help reduce your risk of digestive problems.10
Cayenne pepper might not seem to belong on a list of vegetables, but it’s still worth mentioning. Cayenne pepper not only gives a delicious kick to some of favorite dishes, it’s also packed with vitamin C.11
Cayenne peppers can boost your health in other ways as well. They’re rich in a compound known as capsaicin. Capsaicin increases your body heat, helping you burn calories.12 The method by which the body burns calories through food is known as thermogenesis.
Other Vegetables Rich in Vitamin C:
- Broccoli — 53.3 mg per 100g13
- Cauliflower — 48.2 mg per 100g14
- Spinach — 28.1 mg per 100g15
- Brussels sprouts — 85 mg per 100g16
- Red peppers — 127.7 mg per 100g17
Which Fruits Are Good Food Sources of Vitamin C?
Many fruits are high in vitamin C. High on the list are strawberries and oranges, but just as with vegetables, all fruits contain some vitamin C.
Strawberries are incredibly rich in vitamin C. If you eat just one cup of strawberry halves, you’ll get 149% of your recommended daily amount of the vitamin.18 That same cup will contain only about 49 calories.19 Strawberries have also been shown to help protect your heart health.20
And they taste great! To me, there’s nothing much better than a bowl of strawberries on a hot day.
Oranges and Other Citrus Fruits
Just one orange packs nearly 70 mg of vitamin C – 116% of the recommended daily amount. But you don’t have to limit yourself to eating an orange each day, or drinking a cold glass of orange juice.21 Other citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, as well. These include grapefruit and limes.22,23
Oranges also contain a lot of potassium.24 Potassium is a mineral that you need in order for your body to work as it should. Getting enough potassium can help keep your heart healthy.25
In addition, oranges and other citrus fruits contain compounds known as flavonoids. These help boost the immune system.26 This could help you ward off infections, such as the common cold. If you tend to get colds on a regular basis, you might want to consider increasing your vitamin C intake.
Other Fruits Rich in Vitamin C
The kiwi is another fruit that delivers a lot of vitamin C. One medium-size kiwi contains 71 mg – about 79% of your recommended daily amount.27
Other fruits to pile on your plate when you want a boost of vitamin C include:
- Cantaloupe — 36.7 mg per 100g28
- Mango — 36.4 mg per 100g29
- Papaya — 60.9 mg per 100g30
- Pineapple — 47.8 mg per 100g31
- Watermelon — 8.1 mg per 100g32
What Are the Effects of Vitamin C Deficiency?
Even though our bodies can’t make vitamin C, we typically get plenty from the foods we eat. That’s a good thing, because a vitamin C deficiency can mean big problems. It can even lead to bone disease in children.33
If you go too long without enough vitamin C, your body’s connective tissue can start to fail. This can lead to skin problems, joint pain, delayed healing of wounds, and several other issues.34
How much vitamin C do you need? Here are the daily recommended amounts of vitamin C, by age group:
- 0-6 months – 40 mg
- 7 months to 1 year – 50 mg
- 1-3 years – 15 mg
- 4-8 years – 25 mg
- 9-13 years – 45 mg
- 14-18 years – 75 mg for males; 65 mg for females
- 19 years and older – 90 mg for males; 75 mg for females35
Ready to Reap the Many Benefits of Vitamin C?
Despite the many benefits these fruits and vegetables provide, you should never make any major changes in your diet without talking to your doctor first. Even if a food is high in vitamins and minerals, you want to be sure it will be completely safe to consume in higher quantities.
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