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Top 13 Best Sources of Vitamin C (Boost Immune System)

by | Apr 21, 2021

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:

1. Oranges

This is an obvious one, but oranges truly are one of the best natural sources of vitamin C. Oranges grow on trees and are typically found in warmer climates. One medium orange has about 65 milligrams of vitamin C.

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.

Oranges as a Source of Vitamin C

2. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C. You can typically find them year-round though they are in season in the summer months. A medium tomato contains about 17 milligrams of vitamin C.

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.

3. Broccoli

Broccoli is a superfood so it’s no surprise that vitamin C is one of the various vitamins it contains. Broccoli can be cooked or eaten raw. Half a cup of cooked broccoli contains about 51 milligrams of vitamin C. A typical serving size of broccoli, even as a side, would be more like a cup so you could get 100 milligrams of vitamin C or more from just one serving!

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.

5. Kiwi

Kiwis are a unique fruit that grows on vines. The kiwi doesn’t get too much attention, but it has one of the highest amounts of vitamin C of any food. One Kiwi contains about 131 milligrams of vitamin C! This means that just one kiwi meets your entire daily need for vitamin C.

You can eat kiwi sliced on its own or add it to smoothies.

6. Grapefruit

Grapefruits are classic health food. As with many citrus fruits, it has a healthy amount of vitamin C. Half of a medium grapefruit has about 44 milligrams of vitamin C.

Grapefruit is one fruit that may affect how some medications work. Consult your healthcare provider before adding grapefruit to your diet.

7. Strawberries

Strawberries are a popular, sweet fruit. Strawberries grow on plants that sit low to the ground and come from a variety of climates. One cup of whole strawberries has a massive 85 milligrams of vitamin C!

Strawberries are delicious on their own, but you can also add them to yogurt or smoothies.

8. Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts are part of the cabbage family that grows on large stems. Half a cup of cooked Brussel sprouts has about 37 milligrams of vitamin C.

Brussel sprouts stand up well to roasting and can also be eaten raw.

Brussel Sprouts as a Source of Vitamin C

9. Potatoes

It may be a surprise that potatoes made this list. However, potatoes have been a diet staple for years with good reason. Potatoes are not only a good carbohydrate source, but they also contain a nice amount of vitamin C. A medium-sized baked potato has around 22 milligrams of vitamin C.

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.

10. Banana

Bananas are a commonly consumed fruit. They grow on trees in tropical locations. Bananas are best known as a source of potassium, but did you know they have vitamin C as well? One medium banana has 10 milligrams of vitamin C.

A banana is a great pre or post-workout snack. Consider adding it to oatmeal or cereal for an added boost in the morning.

11. Apple

Apples are a classic crunchy fruit that’s most commonly in season during the fall. Apples are a great source of fiber and they also have vitamin C! One medium apple has about 8 milligrams of vitamin C. While this isn’t quite as much as some of the other fruits listed, the other benefits of apples make them worth adding to your diet.

Apple slices are a great snack at any time of day. Sprinkle them with cinnamon for some added anti-diabetic effects.

12. Spinach

Spinach has a permanent place on the superfood list. Cooked or raw, spinach is an amazing way to get a wide array of vitamins and minerals. Specifically, one cup of raw spinach has about 8 milligrams of vitamin C. Combine this with the other benefits of spinach, it’s a powerhouse for the immune system and the body’s general well-being.

Use spinach as the base for a salad instead of mixed greens.

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13. Lemon

Most people think of lemon as a garnish for drinks but it’s an amazing source of vitamin C! One lemon contains about 44 milligrams of vitamin C.

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.

Final Thoughts

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient. Without proper amounts, our bodies will not function appropriately. Luckily, it is very easy to get enough vitamin C to meet your daily needs. Even small amounts of vitamin C in the daily diet have been shown to have positive effects.

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: