Vitamin C is considered to be an essential nutrient because it is not produced naturally within the body. This means that, in order to meet our daily nutritional needs for Vitamin C, we must consume foods that contain this nutrient.
The good news is, many of the foods that you already eat are loaded with Vitamin C. Although, sometimes we still struggle to consume enough so that our body is fully optimized.
To help, in this article, we’ve listed out some of the best sources of Vitamin C that you can consider adding to your diet. Before before we get into them, first, let’s figure specifically what this vitamin consists of.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. It is a water-soluble vitamin which means that the body does not store it for later use. We know that vitamin C may play an important role in the immune system functioning, but it has other important roles in the body.
One of its main roles is being a cofactor. This means that it is a required component of reactions in the body that create substances like collagen.
In the immune system, vitamin C may help in the production of white blood cells. Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant as well. Antioxidants are responsible for getting rid of harmful substances in the body called free radicals. Free radicals can cause oxidative damage to cells and antioxidants like vitamin C can help to prevent this.
As far as requirements of vitamin C go, the body needs about 75-90 milligrams per day. This recommended intake is increased to 110-125 milligrams per day for those who smoke. This is because smoking is a habit that increases the oxidative stress on the body. So, more vitamin C is needed per day in order to maintain the body’s normal functioning.
What is Vitamin C Deficiency?
Vitamin C deficiency is quite rare now. It used to be more common historically when access to fresh fruits and vegetables was limited. Signs of vitamin C deficiency include bleeding gums, anemia, easy bruising, and hair loss.
Keep in mind that each of these symptoms can be related to other conditions as well, so if you are concerned be sure to speak with your healthcare provider.
What Happens When You Consume Too Much Vitamin C?
Since Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, it is difficult to take so much of it that it will cause harm. This is because the body does not store it like it does the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). There is a possible increased risk of kidney stone formation with high levels of vitamin C intake so those predisposed to this should be cautious.
Now let’s take a look at some of the best sources of Vitamin C that you can consider adding to your diet to boost your immune system.
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Best Sources of Vitamin C for Boosting the Immune System:
The best way to get more vitamin C from oranges is by eating more of the whole fruit. You can get this from orange juice as well but be careful about the added sugars that can often be found in juices. You can also try some other orange citrus fruits like mandarins and Minneolas.
Add tomato slices to fresh salads or throw a few slices on your sandwich. You can also make a quick fresh salsa with tomatoes for a vitamin C packed snack.
Try steaming some broccoli from fresh or frozen or adding some raw broccoli to your salad.
4. Red Pepper
Red peppers, specifically sweet peppers, are a great source of vitamin C. Peppers come in a variety of colors and flavors. Hot peppers contain a substance called capsaicin that has many benefits. Sweet peppers, however, have high levels of vitamin C.
Half a cup of chopped red pepper contains about 59 milligrams of vitamin C. This small amount meets almost your entire daily need! Consider the color of peppers as well. Red, orange, and yellow peppers have higher levels of vitamin C than green peppers.
You can use sliced red pepper as an addition to sauteed veggies. They are also delicious roasted or grilled.
You can eat kiwi sliced on its own or add it to smoothies.
Grapefruit is one fruit that may affect how some medications work. Consult your healthcare provider before adding grapefruit to your diet.
Strawberries are delicious on their own, but you can also add them to yogurt or smoothies.
8. Brussel Sprouts
Brussel sprouts stand up well to roasting and can also be eaten raw.
As with any vegetable, cooking methods play a role in its benefits. Choose baking or roasting potatoes over frying them. Also, consider keeping the skin on potatoes as often as possible as it has added nutrients.
A banana is a great pre or post-workout snack. Consider adding it to oatmeal or cereal for an added boost in the morning.
Apple slices are a great snack at any time of day. Sprinkle them with cinnamon for some added anti-diabetic effects.
Use spinach as the base for a salad instead of mixed greens.
You can certainly eat lemon slices, but this may be a bit too sour for some. Add fresh lemon juice to your salads and vegetables. You can always add slices to your water or tea to give your drinks added flavor and function.
The above list contains whole-food sources of the vitamin. Certainly, there are many products on the market that are sold as vitamin C supplements. Eating the whole-food version often confers added benefits that a stand-alone supplement may not. Yet, depending on your personal goals and needs a supplement may be a consideration. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.
What’s amazing about vitamin C is that you can get nearly 100% of your daily need just by eating small amounts of the foods in the list above. Consider adding any of them to boost your vitamin C intake and keep your body healthy!
The following are the sources that were used while doing research for this article:
- “Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid).” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 22 May 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499877.
- “Vitamin C Fortification of Food Aid Commodities: Final Report.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 1997, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK230157.
- “Synthetic or Food-Derived Vitamin C—Are They Equally Bioavailable?” PubMed Central (PMC), 1 Nov. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3847730.
- “Vitamin C and Immune Function.” PubMed Central (PMC), 1 Nov. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707683.