10 Foods High in Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to some foods, and found in dietary supplements. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant, is essential for protein metabolism and immune function, and helps your body absorb iron from plant-based foods.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is considered an essential nutrient because our bodies can't produce or store it. The best vitamin C food sources are fruits and vegetables.
In this article, you’ll learn more about the health benefits of vitamin C, the best vitamin C food sources, and how to incorporate these foods easily into your diet.
If you're on or considering a low carb diet, using a low carb meal plan can help take the stress and guesswork out of meal planning and make sure you’re meeting your vitamin C needs.
Why Vitamin C is Good for Your Diet
Perhaps the most widely known benefit of vitamin C is its role as a powerful antioxidant. As an antioxidant, vitamin C can protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, and prevent or delay chronic diseases related to oxidative stress, such as heart disease and certain cancers.
Vitamin C is also involved in protein metabolism and wound healing. It is required in order for the body to make collagen, L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters. Vitamin C also plays a crucial role in immune function. In addition, vitamin C helps the absorption of non-heme iron, or iron that is found in plant-based foods.
Although not common in developed countries, vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy, a disease characterized by poor wound healing, joint pain, swollen or bleeding gums, loosening teeth, and depression.
The Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) for vitamin C are:
- Birth to 6 months: 40 milligrams (mg)
- Infants aged 7-12 months: 50 mg
- Children aged 1-3 years: 15 mg
- Children aged 4-8 years: 25 mg
- Children aged 9-13 years: 45 mg
- Teenage boys aged 14-18 years: 75 mg
- Teenage girls aged 14-18 years: 65 mg; if pregnant: 80 mg; if breastfeeding: 115 mg
- Adult men: 90 mg
- Adult women: 75 mg; if pregnant: 85 mg; if breastfeeding: 120 mg
People who smoke have higher vitamin C needs and should add an additional 35 mg to their recommended amount of vitamin C.
Let's take a look at the best vitamin C food sources, and learn how you can increase vitamin C in your diet.
Vitamin C Food Sources to Boost Health
Vitamin C is most commonly found in fruits and vegetables, but it can also be added to certain foods, such as fortified cereals and grains. You can identify if a food was fortified with vitamin C by looking for “ascorbic acid” or “L-ascorbic acid” on the list of ingredients.
Extended storage and heating reduces the vitamin C content of food, so to get the maximum amount of vitamin C, these foods are best eaten raw. Naturally, you’re likely to eat some of these fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C raw anyway.
Keep reading to discover vegetables and fruits that are high in vitamin C.
1. Bell Peppers
When you think of foods that are highest in vitamin C, you might automatically think of citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruits. However, one of the best vitamin C food sources is actually a bell pepper. Another surprising fact is that bell peppers have a different amount of vitamin C depending on the color of the pepper.
Depending on the color, a ½ cup (75 gram) serving of raw bell peppers provides the following amounts of vitamin C:
- Red bell peppers: 95 mg, or 106% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Yellow bell peppers: 69 mg, or 76% of the DV
- Green bell peppers: 60 mg, or 67% of the DV
Remember, the above vitamin C content is for raw bell peppers, so cooking your peppers will reduce the vitamin C content slightly. Bell peppers can be chopped or sliced and added to salads, stir-fries, or roasted. You can also enjoy them in this Mexican spiced tuna steak with red pepper avocado salsa.
Guavas are tropical fruits native to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South America. The most commonly eaten type of guava is the apple guava, and is usually simply referred to as guava. Guava typically has a light green skin and a bright pink or red flesh on the inside. Guava can be eaten raw and is usually eaten like an apple or cut into quarters. It's also great blended into a smoothie to add a smooth, tropical flavor. One guava contains 126 mg of vitamin C, or 140% of the DV, which makes it an especially good vitamin C food source.
3. Kiwi Fruit
One kiwi fruit has 64 mg of vitamin C, or 71% of the DV. Kiwi is native to China, and has gained popularity in many other countries including the United States. Kiwi is typically golden brown and fuzzy on the outside, with a bright green flesh on the inside. Kiwi can be eaten raw or used in smoothies, juices, and baked goods.
For a refreshing way to enjoy this fruit high in vitamin C, try this kiwi berry yogurt bowl with chia seeds.
As mentioned earlier, raw fruits and vegetables tend to contain more vitamin C than their cooked counterparts and broccoli is no exception. While one cup of raw broccoli contains 79 mg of vitamin C (88% of the DV), one cup of cooked broccoli has 62 mg of vitamin C (69% of the DV).
You can incorporate broccoli into your diet by dipping it into your favorite sauce, making broccoli "fries," preparing broccoli salad, incorporating it into stir-fries, or adding it to egg dishes like this crustless broccoli-cheddar quiche.
Tomatoes are an antioxidant-rich vitamin C food source. While raw tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, with one cup containing 25 mg (27% of the DV), you might be shocked to learn that tomato juice has seven times that amount. An eight fluid ounce serving of tomato juice has a whopping 174 mg of vitamin C (193% of the DV). Not only are tomatoes packed with vitamin C, but they also contain powerful antioxidants such as lycopene and vitamin A.
This mouthwatering tomato, orzo and white bean soup can help you satisfy your hunger and boost your vitamin C intake at the same time.
Papaya is a tropical fruit high in vitamin C, and one cup provides 88 mg of vitamin C (98% of the DV). Papaya is native to Mexico and northern South America, and is typically cylindrical in shape, with an orange exterior, and an orange interior with black seeds in the middle. Sometimes, you'll also find green papayas for sale, which are also a delicious option, though not usually as sweet as their orange counterparts.
Papaya can be enjoyed fresh in different dishes like in this papaya coconut yogurt salad, as a salsa, or iced smoothie.
One cup of strawberries provides 98 mg of vitamin C (108% of the DV). In addition to vitamin C, strawberries are a rich source of antioxidants that have been studied extensively for their many health benefits.
Studies have suggested that strawberry consumption may help prevent inflammation-related disorders and oxidative stress, reduce risk of heart disease, and protect against certain cancers. If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy this especially nutritious vitamin C food source, this strawberry toast with yogurt spread and almond drizzle may be for you.
We couldn't make a list of vitamin C foods without including oranges! Citrus fruits are one of the most popular fruits high in vitamin C. Along with oranges, other citrus fruits like grapefruits, mandarins, lemons, and limes are also good vitamin C food sources.
One medium orange contains 70 mg of vitamin C (78% of the DV). Additionally, an eight fluid ounce serving of orange juice contains even more vitamin C – 83 mg (92% of the DV).
To get a head start on your vitamin C intake early in the day, try this orange-pistachio parfaits with mango for breakfast.
9. Brussel Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable high in vitamin C. One cup of raw Brussels sprouts contains 75 mg of vitamin C (83% of the DV), while one cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains 96 mg (107% of the DV).
Not only are Brussels sprouts high in vitamin C, but they are also high in fiber and nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, and manganese. They are also rich in the antioxidant kaempferol, which may improve heart health and reduce inflammation.
Whether you want to enjoy Brussels sprouts raw like in this shaved Brussels sprout salad, or cooked like in this crispy Thai Brussels sprouts chicken satay, you’ll get plenty of the immune-boosting benefits that this vegetable high in vitamin C provides.
Along with the other cruciferous vegetables high in vitamin C on this list, kale is no exception. One cup of raw kale contains 80 mg of vitamin C (134% of the DV), while one cup of cooked kale contains 53 mg of vitamin C (59% of the DV). To boost your vitamin C intake at dinner, try this kale waldorf salad, which packs not one, but two cups of kale per serving!
A healthy diet is important for your overall health and wellbeing, and vitamin C is an essential part of that diet that your body needs to get from food or supplements. Vitamin C helps your body fight inflammation, protects against certain cancers, reduces the risk of heart disease, helps build collagen and other structural proteins, and helps you digest non-heme iron, or iron from plant-based foods such as those found in vegetarian meal plans.
As long as you’re eating a healthy diet full of wholesome foods like fruits and vegetables, you’re likely to meet your recommended amount of vitamin C each day. A healthy meal plan can help ensure that you’re eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and meeting your vitamin C needs.