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July 21, 2021 / Alena Kharlamenko, MS, RD, CDN

Top 15 Foods Highest in Vitamin C and Why You Need It

A mother, father, and son drinking homemade orange juice from straws in the same cup.

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 top foods high in vitamin C, and how to eat healthier by incorporating 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 daily 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:

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 foods high in vitamin C, and learn how to get this vitamin 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 reduce 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 the fruits and vegetables on this vitamin C foods list raw anyway.

Keep reading to discover vegetables and fruits that are the best sources of vitamin C.

1. Bell Peppers

When you think of foods high in vitamin C, you might automatically think of citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruits. However, one of the best sources of vitamin C 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:

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.

2. Guavas

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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 it 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 125 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 56 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 food high in vitamin C, try a kiwi berry yogurt bowl with chia seeds.

4. Broccoli

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 122 mg of vitamin C (136% 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.

5. Tomatoes

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 170 mg of vitamin C (193% of the DV). Not only are tomatoes a food that’s high in 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.

6. Papaya

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Papaya is a tropical food 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.

7. Strawberries

One cup of strawberries provides 98 mg of vitamin C (108% of the DV). In addition to earning a place on this vitamin C foods list, 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 the 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.

8. Oranges

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We couldn't make a list of foods high in vitamin C 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 – 124 mg (138% 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. Brussels 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 food high in vitamin C provides.

10. Kale

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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). Beyond vitamin C, kale is also included on the list of foods for happiness, so you can enjoy your vitamin C with a smile.

To boost your vitamin C intake at dinner, try this kale waldorf salad, which packs not one, but two cups of kale per serving!

11. Potatoes

Although this food may be an unexpected one for a list of foods high in vitamin C, potatoes provide a generous dose of vitamin C along with potassium and other essential vitamins and minerals. One medium-sized potato contains 42 mg of vitamin C, or 70% of your DV.

Potatoes are usually cooked during meal preparation, which has been found to lower their total vitamin C content, however, by leaving the skin on, you can make this difference negligible. Prepare harissa roast chicken with potatoes, arugula & yogurt using fingerling potatoes and reap the benefits.

12. Thyme

Another food high in vitamin C that you may not have thought about previously is aromatic thyme. This savory herb boasts the highest concentration of vitamin C out of all the culinary herbs. With 45 mg of vitamin C in one ounce, or 50% of the DV, even a tablespoon or two increases your vitamin C intake.

Boost your immunity and enjoy a delicious snack by preparing apple, honey, and thyme goat cheese toast.

13. Acerola cherries

If you’re looking for a powerful dose of vitamin C in a small package, acerola cherries are ideal. You get 1680 mg of vitamin C, or 1,867% of your DV in a mere one-half cup! The antioxidants and vitamins in acerola cherries make them highly desirable to prevent colds and the flu but are also used for other reasons from an antidepressant to a skin astringent.

Buy them fresh and incorporate in salads or sauces, or use them fresh or frozen in smoothies like in this cherry almond smoothie.

14. Kakadu plums

Known for being the best source of vitamin C recorded for all foods, a 100 g serving of Kakadu plums provides over 3,000 mg of vitamin C. Along with being one of the best foods for a healthy immune system, Kakadu plums are an excellent source of iron, copper, antioxidants, and dietary fiber.

The Kakadu plum is native to Northern Australia and may prove difficult to find in the US, however, it is possible to grow your own tree. Once that bares fruit, use Kakadu plums in these spiced plum buckwheat muffins for a treat full of vitamin C.

15. Blackcurrants

Blackcurrants are a rich, intensely colored summer berry that’s juicy and packed with vitamin C and anthocyanins. There are 181 mg of vitamin C in one-half cup of blackcurrants, which is 201% of the DV. Anthocyanins are responsible for the dark color of blackcurrants and these antioxidant flavonoids have been found to reduce oxidative stress caused by chronic diseases.

Increase your vitamin C intake by substituting some of the raspberries in these raspberry oat crumble bars with blackcurrants.

The Takeaway

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 incorporate foods high in vitamin C and meet your recommended amount each day. A healthy meal plan can help ensure that you’re eating a variety of vitamin C foods and meeting your nutritional needs each day.

Alena Kharlamenko, MS, RD, CDN
Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant @ Alena Menko Nutrition
https://www.alenamenko.com/

Alena Kharlamenko is the founder of Alena Menko Nutrition, a food and nutrition blog where she publishes healthful, plant-forward recipes and makes nutrition approachable with easily digestible information. She’s also passionate about gut health and is a Monash FODMAP-Trained Dietitian. When she's not cooking up a storm in the kitchen or behind her computer, she can be found exploring the vast culinary scene of NYC, traveling around the world, or hiking and spending time in nature. You can find Alena on Instagram @thebalancedbite or on Facebook @AlenaMenkoNutrition.

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