Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is important for normal growth and development as well as maintaining good health.
Classified as an antioxidant, the primary function of vitamin C is to boost your immune system. It’s also needed for the growth and repair of cells and tissues throughout your body.
Vitamin C aids the production of collagen (a supportive component in your skin), ligaments and blood vessels. It also helps repair and maintain bones and teeth.
In addition, it protects against heart disease, high blood pressure, the common cold, osteoarthritis, age-related macular degeneration and asthma. This vitamin is also needed for the proper absorption of iron.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, the recommended dietary allowances of vitamin C by age and gender are as follows:
Smokers of both genders need more vitamin C than the recommended dosage.
Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include dull skin, gum problems, tooth loss, fatigue, a decreased ability to ward off infections, an increased tendency to bruise or bleed, swelling of the joints, hair loss, split ends, and nose bleeds. Severe deficiency of this vitamin is called scurvy.
You can easily get the required amount of vitamin C through your diet. Fruits and vegetables are the major dietary source of this important nutrient.
Here are the 10 best natural sources of vitamin C.
Papaya has 62 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 75 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
Called 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. It is also very low in calories and contains no cholesterol.
When included as a regular part of your diet, papaya helps protect against heart disease, improve digestion, protect eyesight, treat arthritis, improve complexion, nourish hair, boost immunity, aid weight loss, prevent cancer and reduce premature aging signs.
Enjoy ripe papaya as it is or add it to your salads, smoothies and juices. You can use unripe green papaya in stews, stir-fries, curries and soups.
Note: Avoid papaya if you are pregnant or allergic to latex or papain.
2. Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers have 80.4 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 97 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
In addition to vitamin C, red bell peppers contain vitamins K, B6 and E as well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber and folate.
They are also rich in carotenoids, such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin.
When eaten regularly, red bell peppers help decrease anxiety, reduce bloating, prevent hypertension, support eyesight and increase the body’s metabolic rate.
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 are also tasty. Along with red bell peppers, the green and yellow varieties are good sources of vitamin C.
Broccoli has 89.2 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 107 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
This cruciferous veggie is also rich in dietary fiber. Other nutrients in it include vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, potassium, magnesium and sulfur.
By including broccoli in your diet, you can reduce your risk of several cancers, support detoxification, aid weight loss, improve heart health, regulate blood pressure, boost brainpower, improve eye health and prevent premature aging signs.
Eat at least 1½ cups of broccoli 2 or 3 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 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
The fuzzy fruit also contains vitamins A, E and K as well as potassium, copper, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and beta-carotene. It is also high in fiber and low in carbohydrates.
Eating kiwi on a regular basis helps boost immunity, fight stress, make skin healthy, promote weight loss, lower high blood pressure, and flush out toxins.
Eat 1 medium-size kiwi daily as a healthy snack. You can add kiwi slices to fresh salads, yogurt, smoothies and fruit tarts.
Note: Do not eat kiwi if you are allergic to actinidin.
Strawberries have 58.8 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 71 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
They are also a very good source of manganese, dietary fiber, and folate. They also contain vitamin B6, copper, potassium, biotin, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, they have high water content.
When eaten regularly, strawberries help improve skin health, support brain health, promote weight loss, whiten teeth, improve heart health, reduce cholesterol, fight cancer and protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
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, milk shake, salad, ice cream and pies.
Note: Do not eat strawberries if you are allergic to this fruit.
Oranges have 53.2 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 64 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
Oranges are often the first thing most people think of when looking for vitamin C-rich foods. They also contain vitamins 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.
Eat oranges or drink its juice to boost immunity, fight skin problems, lower cholesterol, support heart health, strengthen bones, slow down the aging process, prevent cancer and improve eyesight.
Enjoy 1 to 2 organic oranges as a healthy snack or drink a glass of orange juice daily. Avoid drinking too much orange juice, as it can cause tooth decay or wear away tooth enamel due to its sugar and acidic content.
Along with oranges, grapefruit and lemons also contain a good amount of vitamin C.
7. Brussels Sprout
Brussels sprout has 85 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 102 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
Brussels sprout, which resembles a small cabbage, also contains a good amount of vitamin K. Other nutrients in it include folate, manganese, fiber, vitamins B1 and B6, choline, copper, potassium, phosphorus, omega-3 fats and iron. It is also rich in cancer-preventing phytonutrients and contains only few calories.
By making Brussels sprout a regular part of your diet, you can reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It also improves bone health, energy level and vision.
Eat at least 1 to 2 cups of this leafy vegetable 2 or 3 times a week. You can enjoy it boiled, steamed, grilled or roasted as well as add it to stir-fry dishes. Be sure not to overcook them. Just like Brussels sprout, cabbage is also a good source of vitamin C.
Note: People taking anticoagulants should avoid eating Brussels sprout due to its high vitamin K content.
Pineapple has 47.8 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 58 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
This water-rich fruit is also a natural source of bromelain, a digestive enzyme that has anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains vitamins A, B1 and B6, calcium, potassium, copper, phosphorus, manganese, folate and dietary fiber. In addition, it is low in fat.
Pineapple promotes healthy digestion, boost immunity, aid weight loss, fight inflammation, support oral health, improve vision, strengthen bones and keep skin healthy.
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 it as a juice.
Kale has 41 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 41 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
It also contains vitamins A, K, B1, B2, B3 and B6. Other nutrients found in kale are manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, dietary fiber and protein.
It is also a good source of carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. In addition, it contains omega-3 fatty acid called ALA (alpha linolenic acid).
Eat kale to reduce your risk of various cancers, fight inflammation, improve eye health, support detoxification, improve heart health, manage diabetes, and treat anemia.
Enjoy 1½ to 2 cups of kale 4 or 5 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 you can make it at home easily, or add it to your smoothie recipes.
Cauliflower has 48.2 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (3.5 oz), which is 58 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
Cauliflower is also an excellent source of vitamins B6 and K, folate and pantothenic acid. In addition, it contains vitamins B1 and B2, choline, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, manganese, biotin, and protein. It is low in fat and carbohydrates and also contains several phytochemicals and carotenoids.
By eating cauliflower, you can protect against cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, fight cancer, improve brain function, and support detoxification.
Include at least 1½ cups of this cruciferous vegetable in your diet 2 or 3 times per week. It 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 or drops that are similar to hard candy.