Your Guide to Foods with Vitamin C

Curious why everyone seems interested in eating more vitamin C? Though this nutrient performs several functions, its powerful antioxidant effects and relationship to the immune system are what made it a household name. And without vitamin C, the body can’t absorb most of the iron in vegetables, causing severe iron deficiencies for vegetarians.

Thankfully vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is found naturally in a wide range of food. A diet which offers five servings a day of fruits and vegetables should certainly be full of the vitamin. Do you wonder if you get enough vitamin C? If so, we encourage you to give this article a look!

Key Ideas

  • There is no shortage of foods with vitamin C in nature. Ascorbic acid is present in citrus fruits, strawberries, currants, kiwi, tomatoes, broccoli, and peppers. Other fruits like camu camu and acerola contain very high vitamin C concentrations, but are used mainly in supplements.

  • Your daily vitamin C requirements may range anywhere from 15 to 120 mg. Needs vary according to your age and gender, as well as other factors such as whether or not you smoke.

  • When you’re not eating enough food with vitamin C, or you just want to strengthen your nutrient intake, you can turn to natural or synthetic vitamin C supplements. 

Foods with Vitamin C: Which Have the Highest Levels? 

Vitamin C content can vary according to a fruit or vegetable’s ripeness, cooking method, and exposure to oxygen. However, the best way to maximise the vitamin C in your diet is by eating these fruits and vegetables raw. This table highlights how fruits and vegetables are the richest sources of vitamin C in our diets (1, 2)

Foods Containing Vitamin C

Vitamin C Concentration, Measured in Milligrams (mg) in a 100 Gram Serving  

Vitamin C Content in an Average Portion 

Oranges 

42 mg (bitter oranges)

53 mg (sweet oranges)

1 medium-sized orange: 60-90 mg 

200 ml (1 glass) orange juice: 100 mg

Grapefruit 60 mg1 small grapefruit: 90 mg
Peppers

Red pepper: 190 mg

Green pepper: 80 mg

1/2 cup raw peppers:

  • 142 mg (red)
  • 60 mg (green)

1/2 pepper, cooked:

  • 110 mg (red)
  • 50 mg (green)
Tomatoes

23 mg (raw)

22 mg (canned)

1 raw medium-sized tomato: 34 mg

1 cup tomato juice: 45 mg

Raw Parsley133 mg2 large tablespoons fresh shredded parsley: 13 mg 
Broccoli

89 mg (raw)

65 mg (cooked)

1/2 cup cooked broccoli: 37 mg
Strawberries59 mg1/2 cup uncooked strawberries: 50 mg
Kiwi 93 mg1 medium-sized kiwi: 70 mg
Pineapple56 mg1/2 cup uncooked pineapple:  28 mg
Acerola 1680 mg

Generally consumed in supplements (powders, capsules, pills). 

Acerola is eaten fresh in Brazil, its country of origin.

Camu Camu2780 mg

Generally consumed in supplements (powder or capsules). 

Eaten fresh by people in the Amazon, to which it is native. 

Mangoes53 mg1/2 cup mango: 24 mg

Citrus Fruits (Oranges, Grapefruits, Lemons, Limes, and Tangerines)

These fruits constitute one of the most important vitamin C sources in our diet because they’re widely eaten around the world; quite simply, most people like and can afford them. Oranges and grapefruits have the highest ascorbic acid content, but lemons and tangerines also offer considerable amounts of vitamin C (1, 3).

Citrus fruit juices contain practically the same vitamin C levels as an entire fruit. Most of the nutrient keeps for up to 12 hours after squeezing or pressing the fruit. Juices sold commercially are pasteurized, however, which destroys vitamin C. To compensate for this loss, growers add the nutrient at the end of the manufacturing process (2).

Grapefruit offers considerable amounts of vitamin C. (Source: Gualtieri: sevif8oobmc/ Unsplash.com)

Tomatoes

As with citruses, tomatoes are one of the most important and common food sources of vitamin C. It doesn’t matter if you eat it in a salad, a soup, or a stir-fry! Rapid, high-temperature cooking will allow you to preserve most of the vitamin C content. As for cherry tomatoes, they offer 85 mg of vitamin C in every 100 grams (2, 3).

Fresh Parsley

Fresh parsley is an excellent vitamin C source which you can easily grow yourself in a pot on your balcony or in your garden. Two large tablespoons of shredded parsley can cover up to 15% of your daily vitamin C needs. When adding it to a hot meal, ideally do so near the end of cooking to preserve the vitamin as much as possible (1).

Peppers

Red peppers, and especially red and yellow peppers, provide an abundance of vitamin C. A quarter cup of raw yellow peppers offers 70 mg of ascorbic acid. That’s nearly all of the daily recommended intake for women, and about 80% of the daily recommended intake for men (2).

Vitamin C is present in more than just fruit. You can also find it in some vegetables, such as peppers. (Source: Pilger: qhfjpxonxi4/ Unsplash.com)

Strawberries

Strawberries are quite high in vitamin C, especially when eaten fresh. Strawberry jam is not a vitamin C source, however, and neither are tomato and citrus jams. Quick freezing will help preserve most of the vitamin C content in strawberries and similar fruits like raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries (2).

Pineapple

Pineapple is another fruit with standout vitamin C content. It should ideally be eaten fresh in chunks, strips, or homemade smoothies. Though canned pineapple preserved in syrup is a moderate source of vitamin C, as is pineapple juice, they both contain too many simple sugars to be healthy (1, 2).

Broccoli and the Cruciferous Vegetables

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are a set of vegetables with plentiful vitamin C. Also called “cruciferous vegetables”, this group should be steamed or microwaved rather than boiled. Vitamin C is water-soluble and, as such, easily passes out of food into the water used for cooking. Since we typically dispose of that liquid, we’re losing nearly half of the vitamin C (2, 3).

Vitamin C is easy to find! Plenty of common fruits and vegetables like broccoli contain it. (Source: Hansel: h39gharssno/ Unsplash.com)

Other Vitamin C Food Sources

Other foods included in most people’s typical diets also offer moderate amounts of vitamin C. Examples include cucumbers, pears, melons, and unpeeled potatoes. Redcurrant, papaya, guava, acerola cherry, and camu camu are fruits with extremely high vitamin C concentrations (1).

What You Need to Know About Vitamin C in Food 

The importance of getting enough vitamin C in your diet goes far beyond increasing your antioxidant levels or relieving cold symptoms. This micronutrient is involved in many bodily functions. And since our bodies cannot synthesize it themselves, we’re required to ingest it through food.

Why Is Getting Enough Vitamin C Important? 

Vitamin C’s recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adult women is 75 mg per day, while men should get 90 mg per day. If you have a smoking habit, you need to ingest 30 to 40 extra milligrams of vitamin C per day. Eating enough vitamin C-rich food is essential for the nutrient to perform its functions (3):

  • Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant. It combats free radicals, which can create oxidative damage and increase the risk of developing heart conditions, atherosclerosis, and heart attacks (3, 4).
  • It’s involved in collagen production. Collagen is an essential protein used to maintain the health and integrity of your skin, joints, and other body parts (5).
  • It stimulates overall immune defenses. Though it doesn’t actually prevent cold and flu, it can reduce the intensity and duration of your symptoms. Vitamin C deficiency makes you predisposed to infection (4, 6).
  • It’s involved in metabolising fat and cholesterol, as well as the reactions involved in producing energy (4).
  • Vitamin C allows us to absorb the iron present in vegetables, fruits, and egg yolks, which is known as non-heme iron. This helps vegetarians and vegans prevent ferropenic anaemia (anaemia caused by low iron levels) (4, 7).

Does Oxygen Exposure Destroy Vitamin C? 

Oxygen can reduce a food’s vitamin C content, but several hours have to elapse. This can occur, for example, in a restaurant where the tomatoes are chopped several hours before being served in salads. The common belief that orange juice loses most of its vitamin C after 15 minutes in the open is, however, false (2).

How Does Heat Affect Vitamin C?

Heat is not the enemy of vitamin C! Vitamin C-containing foods should be ideally be cooked for short amounts of time by steaming, microwaving, or sautéing. Up to 80% of the vitamin C can be preserved with these methods. Boiling vegetables in a large pot of water is not recommended; the vitamin C passes into the water, especially if salt was added to it (2).

When Are Vitamin C Supplements Recommended?

Severe vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy, an illness characterized by various problems in the gums including ulcers, swelling, and blood loss. It can also cause weakness, skin lesions, poor healing of cuts and wounds, and haemorrhaging. However, this condition is no longer common in this day and age; it is the consequence of a prolonged lack of vitamin C (3).

These days, vitamin C supplements are recommended for people looking to strengthen their immune systems, increase their antioxidant intake, and relieve cold and flu symptoms. They’re also suggested for smokers and people who have recently stopped smoking, since these groups have elevated vitamin C needs (3).

Vitamin C supplements can be derived naturally (from acerola or camu camu) or synthetically. Both options are healthy, and both are available as powders, drops, capsules, or chewable vitamins. Our liposomal vitamin C offers 1000 mg in every dose. It’s also vegan, making it well suited for vegans looking to increase their iron absorption levels (7, 8).

Our Conclusions

The best food sources of vitamin C are fruits and vegetables. Citruses, peppers, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, kiwis, and pineapple are all excellent natural sources of ascorbic acid. To make the most of vitamin C’s benefits, these foods should be eaten raw or cooked for short amounts of time. 

A diet which includes five daily servings of fruits and vegetables will provide enough vitamin C to meet the requirements of children, adults, and even pregnant or breastfeeding women. For those who need to supplement their vitamin intake, however, various products are available as capsules, chewable tablets, powders, and drops. 

Do you know of any other good dietary sources of vitamin C? Do you think you get enough vitamin C in your diet? If you enjoyed this article, feel free to leave us a comment or share on social media. 

References (8)

1. Menchú M, Méndez H. Tabla de Composición de Alimentos de Centroamérica. Organización Panamericana de la Salud. 2013.
Source

2. Gallagher M. Los nutrientes y su metabolismo. En: Mahan L, Escott-Stump S. Krause. Dietoterapia (Edición 12). 2008. Elsevier Masson.

3. Lykkesfeldt J. Vitamin C. 2014.
Source

4. Chambial S et al. Vitamin C in Disease Prevention and Cure: An Overview. 2013.
Source

5. Basabe Tuero B. Funciones de la Vitamina C en el Metabolismo del Colágeno. 2000.
Source

6. Carr A, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. 2017.
Source

7. Cardero Reyes Y, Sarmiento González R, Capdesuñer A. Importancia del consumo de hierro y vitamina C para la prevención de anemia ferropénica. 2009.
Source

8. Lukawski M et al. New oral liposomal vitamin C formulation: properties and bioavailability. 2020.
Source

Document for professionals
Menchú M, Méndez H. Tabla de Composición de Alimentos de Centroamérica. Organización Panamericana de la Salud. 2013.
Go to source
Book
Gallagher M. Los nutrientes y su metabolismo. En: Mahan L, Escott-Stump S. Krause. Dietoterapia (Edición 12). 2008. Elsevier Masson.
Scientific article
Lykkesfeldt J. Vitamin C. 2014.
Go to source
Scientific article
Chambial S et al. Vitamin C in Disease Prevention and Cure: An Overview. 2013.
Go to source
Scientific article
Basabe Tuero B. Funciones de la Vitamina C en el Metabolismo del Colágeno. 2000.
Go to source
Scientific article
Carr A, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. 2017.
Go to source
Scientific article
Cardero Reyes Y, Sarmiento González R, Capdesuñer A. Importancia del consumo de hierro y vitamina C para la prevención de anemia ferropénica. 2009.
Go to source
Scientific article
Lukawski M et al. New oral liposomal vitamin C formulation: properties and bioavailability. 2020.
Go to source
This entry was posted in Blog and tagged .