Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is vital for normal growth and development and for maintaining good health.
Why Do You Need Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is classified as an antioxidant, and its main function is to boost the immune system. It is also needed for the growth and repair of cells and tissues throughout your body.(1)
Moreover, it protects your body against a number of ailments, such as common cold, asthma, heart issues, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and age-related macular degeneration. This vitamin is also needed for the proper absorption of iron in plant foods.(4)
How Much Vitamin C Should You Consume?
According to the National Academy of Sciences, the recommended dietary allowances of this vitamin based on gender and age are as follows:
Male and female smokers need more vitamin C than the recommended dosage.(5)
What are the Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency?
Signs and symptoms associated with vitamin C deficiency are:
- Dull skin
- Gum problems
- Tooth loss
- Decreased ability to ward off infections
- Increased tendency to bruise or bleed
- Swelling of the joints
- Hair loss and split ends
Severe deficiency of this vitamin is called scurvy.(6)
Precautions While Taking Vitamin C
- Keep your oral intake of Vitamin C limited to food amounts or the doctor recommended dosage. Excessive consumption has been associated with certain harmful side-effects in some people, such as heartburn, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, among others side effects. As a general rule of thumb, anything over 2000 mg daily is considered unsafe as it can trigger serious side effects, including severe diarrhea and kidney stones. Consuming more than 1000 mg of vitamin C daily can lead to a recurrence of kidney stones.
- People with renal disease should also exercise precaution with regards to vitamin C consumption. Since vitamin C is known to increase the amount of oxalate in the urine, excessive intake by mouth will make people with already compromised kidney function more susceptible to the risk of kidney failure.
- Pregnant women should be extra mindful about not exceeding the stipulated intake of vitamin C as excessive consumption can jeopardize the development of their fetus.
- Diabetics are recommended to monitor their blood glucose closely when using Vitamin C as it can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels. Diabetics should limit their vitamin C intake to the doses found in basic multivitamins. Conversely, taking vitamin C in amounts greater than 300 mg daily has been linked to increased fatal risk on account of heart disease, particularly in older women with diabetes.
- Schizophrenic patients are strictly advised against taking vitamin C along with vitamin E and antipsychotic drugssince it might worsen their psychosis symptoms.
- People with Alzheimer’s disease should avoid consuming vitamin C along with vitamin E and alpha-lipoic acid as this concoction might end up further deteriorating their mental function.
It is easy to get the required amount of vitamin C through your diet. Vegetables and fruits are the major sources of this essential nutrient.
Foods that Increase Your Vitamin C Content
Here are the 10 food items that help you meet the recommended vitamin C intake.
Known as the “fruit of the angels,” papaya also has a good amount of vitamin A, potassium, and calcium. Plus, it contains beta-carotene, folate, fiber, magnesium, and protein. Moreover, it is very low in calories and contains no cholesterol.
When included as a regular part of your diet, papaya helps protect against heart diseases, improve digestion, protect the eyesight, treat arthritis, improve the complexion, nourish the hair, boost the immunity, aid in weight loss, prevent cancer, and reduce premature aging signs.(8)
- Enjoy ripe papaya on its own or add it to your salads, smoothies, and juices.
- You can use unripe green papaya in stews, stir-fries, curries, and soups.
2. Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers have 92.9 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 97% of the recommended daily intake.(10)
In addition to vitamin C, red bell peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin K, B6, and E as well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, and folate.
They are rich in carotenoids, including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin.
One serving of red bell peppers is equal to 1 cup of chopped raw peppers or 2 small peppers.
- You can add chopped bell peppers to salads, soups, and stir-fry dishes.
- Roasted or steamed bell peppers also taste quite good.
Along with red bell peppers, the green and yellow varieties are also good sources of vitamin C.
Broccoli has 89.2 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 107% of the recommended dietary allowance.(14)
This healthy and nutritious veggie is rich in dietary fiber. Other nutrients present in it include vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sulfur.
Broccoli offers a variety of health benefits. Including it in your diet can help promote weight loss, improve heart health, regulate blood pressure, boost brainpower, improve eye health, and prevent premature aging signs. It is also effective in reducing your risk of several types of cancers.
- Eat at least 1½ cup of broccoli two or three times per week. You can enjoy it as a healthy snack or add it to your salads, stir-fries, curries, and soups.
Raw green kiwi has 92.7 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 112% of the recommended daily intake.(16)
This fuzzy fruit also contains vitamin A, E, and K as well as potassium, copper, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and beta-carotene. It is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates.(16)
- Eat 1 medium-size kiwi daily as a healthy snack.
- You can add kiwi slices to fresh salads, yogurt, smoothies, and fruit tarts.
Strawberries have 58.8 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 71% of the recommended daily intake.(18)
They are a very good source of manganese, dietary fibers and folate, and also contain vitamin B6, copper, potassium, biotin, and magnesium. In addition, strawberries have a high water content.
When eaten regularly, strawberries help improve skin health, support brain health,(19) promote weight loss, whiten teeth, improve heart health, reduce cholesterol, fight cancer, and protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.(19)
Eat a handful of ripe strawberries daily as a healthy snack to enjoy its health benefits.
- You can also add a few strawberries to your favorite smoothie, milkshake, salad, ice cream, and pies.
Oranges are perhaps the first thing most people think of when looking for foods rich in vitamin C. This fruit also contains vitamin A and B, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, choline, and dietary fiber.
In addition, oranges have more than 170 phytochemicals and over 60 flavonoids with strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.(21)
Eat oranges or drink orange juice to boost immunity, fight skin problems, lower cholesterol, support heart health, strengthen bones, slow down the aging process, prevent cancer, and improve eyesight.(21)
- Enjoy 1 to 2 organic oranges as a healthy snack or drink 1 glass of orange juice daily.
Along with oranges, grapefruit and lemons also contain a good amount of vitamin C.
7. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts contain 85 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 102% of the recommended daily allowance.(22)
Brussels sprouts, which resemble a small cabbage, also contain a good amount of vitamin K. Other nutrients in them include folate, manganese, fiber, vitamin B1 and B6, potassium, phosphorus, and iron. They are also rich in cancer-preventing phytonutrients and contain only a few calories.(23)
- Eat at least 1 to 2 cups of this leafy vegetable two or three times a week. You can enjoy it boiled, steamed, grilled, roasted or add it to stir-fry dishes. Be sure not to overcook them.
Just like Brussels sprouts, cabbage is also a good source of vitamin C
Pineapple has 47.8 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 58% of the recommended daily intake.
This water-rich fruit is a natural source of bromelain, a digestive enzyme that has anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains vitamin A, B1, and B6, calcium, potassium, copper, phosphorus, manganese, folate, and dietary fiber. In addition, it is low in fat.(25)
- Eat 1 cup of fresh pineapple chunks daily as a healthy snack or add it to fruit salads, fruit kabobs, stir-fry dishes, salsa, and pizza.
- You can even enjoy this savory fruit grilled or sautéed.
- Many people also like to drink pineapple juice.
Kale has 93.4 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 93% of your recommended dietary allowance.
It also contains vitamin A, K, B1, B2, B3, and B6. Other nutrients found in kale are manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, dietary fiber, and protein.(27)
Moreover, kale is a good source of carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Eat kale on a regular basis to fight inflammation, improve eye health, support detoxification, improve heart health, manage diabetes, treat anemia, and reduce your risk of various cancers.(28)
- Enjoy 1½ to 2 cups of kale four or five times per week. Instead of boiling it, opt for steaming, microwaving, or stir-frying kale to retain its nutrients.
- You can even enjoy kale chips, which can be easily prepared at home.
- You may add kale to your smoothie recipes.
Cauliflower has 48.2 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 58% of the recommended daily intake.(29)
Cauliflower is also an excellent source of vitamin B1, B2, B6, and K, folate, and pantothenic acid. In addition, it contains choline, dietary fibers, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, manganese, biotin, and protein.
It is low in fat and carbohydrates and also consists of several phytochemicals and carotenoids.(29)
- Include at least 1½ cup of this cruciferous vegetable in your diet two or three times per week. Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, mashed, steamed, or eaten raw.
If you are not eating enough vitamin C-rich foods, boost your intake of this important nutrient through supplementation under your doctor’s supervision. Vitamin C supplements are available as chewable tablets, capsules, and drops that are similar to hard candy.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Ms. Jackie Newgent (RDN)
Is Vitamin C beneficial against the common cold?
Vitamin C may be beneficial for reducing the severity and duration of the common cold, but it does not seem to reduce the frequency of its occurrence among the general population.
That said, vitamin C may be helpful for reducing the incidence of the common cold infection in some specific situations, such as if you partake in extreme exercise.
What are the richest sources of Vitamin C?
Bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, papaya, strawberries, pineapple, and oranges are some of the richest food sources of naturally-occurring vitamin C.
Can a Vitamin C overdose lead to any harmful side-effects?
A Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of 2000 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day has been established for adults. It’s the maximum daily intake that can be safely consumed without the threat of any potential adverse health effects.
Is Vitamin C helpful in curing skin ailments?
Vitamin C may help promote skin health, given its critical role in collagen production. Moreover, it acts as an antioxidant and may prove useful as a part of the treatment plan for certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis, which is an inflammatory skin disorder.
Please provide some additional tips or inputs to help our readers meet their recommended dose of Vitamin C.
If you’re eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and getting adequate servings of produce daily, you’ll most likely get ample vitamin C through diet alone. To that end, aim to include non-starchy vegetables in every meal and fruit in every snack.
About Jackie Newgent, RDN: Ms. Jackie is a Brooklyn-based classically-trained chef, registered dietitian nutritionist, recipe developer, cooking coach, media personality, and award-winning cookbook author of several cookbooks, including The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.
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