Vitamin C Foods: Benefits, Lists, and Recipes

Vitamin C, celebrated for its immune-boosting prowess, hides a treasure trove of health benefits beyond fighting off colds.  In this article, we’ll uncover the many facets of this vital nutrient and the foods.

From fortifying your immune system and enhancing skin health to aiding in wound healing and mood regulation, vitamin C is a true nutritional superhero, especially when it comes to boosting immunity, promoting skin health, and combating cold and flu symptoms.

We’ll guide you through vitamin C rich foods, offer delectable recipes, and reveal its roles in the body, historical significance, and factors affecting its availability.

Get ready to unlock the full potential of vitamin C – a journey that promises a healthier, happier you!

High Vitamin C Foods (Per Serving)

Vitamin C is found in plant foods.  It is primarily concentrated in greens, citrus, and brightly coloured produce.  For this reason, it is not a nutrient of concern for someone on a plant-based diet if they’re consuming nutrient-dense foods.

If you fall short of the recommended vitamin C intake, focus on foods that contain more vitamin C per serving, like:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • orange
  • bell peppers
  • broccoli
  • kiwi fruit
  • grapefruit
  • cauliflower
  • strawberries
  • kale
  • mango
  • cabbage
  • bananas

To help you get started, the infographic below shows the thiamine provided by popular foods in the average serving sizes consumed by our Optimisers.  

high vitamin C foods per serving

Once you’re ready to revitalise your diet with a wider variety of high-vitamin C foods, download our printable list of foods with more vitamin C per serving here.

Vitamin C Rich Foods (Per Calorie)

Once you know you’re getting the minimum amount of vitamin C your body needs, you can zero in on vitamin C rich foods that deliver more vitamin C per calorie to increase your satiety and nutrient density, like:

  • bell peppers
  • mustard greens
  • kale
  • bok choy
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • kimchi
  • broccoli
  • strawberries
  • kiwi fruit
  • cabbage
  • orange

Fresh fruits and vegetables are often the best sources of vitamin C. The infographic below shows popular foods that provide more vitamin C per calorie.   

vitamin C rich foods per calorie

For more variety, check out our printable vitamin C foods list per calorie.

Vitamin C Foods Chart

Are you curious about how your favourite foods stack up in the vitamin C?  Chick out our chart showcasing popular foods, comparing vitamin C content per calorie and serving.  For an immersive experience, explore the interactive Tableau version

vitamin C foods chart

How Much Vitamin C Do You Need?

A vitamin C-rich diet is essential to prevent deficiency and promote overall health. Regularly incorporating high-vitamin C foods can make a significant difference.

Our satiety analysis reveals that your body craves at least 55 mg of vitamin C per 2000 calories.  However, achieving the Optimal Nutrient Intake of 200 mg per 2000 calories from food aligns with a 14 % reduction in energy intake.

satiety response to vitamin C in food

We do not see a greater satiety response from supplemental vitamin C.  Amounts of vitamin C only achievable from supplementation tend to align with a higher calorie intake.  So, while vitamin C supplements may be beneficial if you have a deficiency, boosting your vitamin C with supplements will not improve the satiety value of an otherwise nutrient-poor, low-satiety diet. 

Vitamin C-Rich Recipes

Elevate your culinary game with our chart, showcasing over 1400 NutriBooster recipes used in our Micros Masterclass.  We’ve plotted these recipes based on vitamin C content versus protein percentage.  The further right you go, the more vitamin C you can enjoy with fewer calories.

vitamin C rich recipes

Dive into the details with our interactive Tableau chart on your computer.  Click on each recipe to uncover its magic and even feast your eyes on mouthwatering pictures!

Vitamin C-Rich Recipe photos

Why is Vitamin C Important? 

  • Immune system support: Vitamin C helps the body produce white blood cells, which are important for fighting infections and diseases.
  • Collagen production: Vitamin C plays a critical role in producing collagen, a protein essential for the health of your skin, hair, nails, and bones.
  • Antioxidant properties: Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, which means it helps protect cells from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals.  This can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
  • Iron absorption: Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from plant-based foods and supplements.  Iron is an essential mineral for producing red blood cells and preventing anaemia.
  • Mood regulation: Vitamin C has been shown to play a role in regulating mood and reducing symptoms of depression.

Roles of Vitamin C in the Body

Many plant and animal species can synthesise their own vitamin C.  However, humans and certain mammals lack this ability.  For this reason, vitamin C is an essential nutrient for humans because we can’t make our own.  It is thought that humans lost the ability to make Vitamin C because it was so plentiful in our native diets during the time we evolved.

  • The body needs vitamin C to synthesise collagen, elastin, and other critical elements in our bone matrix, skin, tooth dentin, gums, blood vessels, and tendons. 
  • The body requires vitamin C to utilise other nutrients like B vitamins.
  • Vitamin C is infamously known as an antioxidant.  In this sense, it helps to protect against cellular damage from free radicals.
  • Our immune system requires vitamin C to protect against infections.  In addition, vitamin C is antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial, and it helps reduce the severity of allergic reactions.
  • Vitamin C is known for its detoxifying properties. 
  • Blood sugar regulation and glucose control require vitamin C.
  • We require vitamin C to convert cholesterol into bile acids. The body produces bile acids to process toxins and break down dietary fats.
  • Vitamin C is protective against various conditions, like cardiovascular diseases, cancers, joint disorders, cataracts, and even the common cold. 

What happens if vitamin C is low?

Vitamin C is helpful for a variety of chronic health issues, including:

Vitamin C Supports Neurotransmitter Synthesis

Neurotransmitters are chemicals the body produces that trigger emotion, initiate movement, and initiate reactions.  Vitamin C is critical to help you make neurotransmitters like dopamine, noradrenaline, and acetylcholine that:

  • stop you from peeing at night,
  • prevent you from overeating,
  • make you happy,
  • improve your focus and motivation,
  • increase your sex drive,
  • stop your hair from going grey, and
  • boost your thyroid, adrenal and sex hormones. 

History of Vitamin C

Since the 1500s, we have known that fresh fruits and vegetables could prevent scurvy, or a condition that results from low vitamin C. Scurvy was a common killer of sailors on long voyages because of their inability to consume fresh produce.  As a result, sailors consumed sauerkraut, which contains adequate amounts of vitamin C, to stave off deficiency.

James Lind undertook the first documented, controlled trial to establish that citrus fruits prevented scurvy.  Subsequently, Vitamin C was the first vitamin to be discovered in 1912.  Vitamin C was later isolated in 1928 and synthesised in 1933.

Conditions that Increase Your Demand for Vitamin C  

Because fresh produce is more readily available in the modern food environment, Vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) is rare today.  However,  you may still be at a higher risk of Vitamin C deficiency if you:

  • are not able to eat fresh or minimally processed foods (e.g., the elderly, low-income households, or someone suffering from an eating disorder),
  • are exposed to large amounts of toxins (e.g., have heavy metal toxicity, are recovering from mould exposure, have a chronic infection like Lyme),
  • use a lot of Advil, aspirin, or other NSAID pain relievers,
  • are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment,
  • suffer from conditions like autoimmunity or cancer resulting from compromised immunity,
  • are dependent on cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs, or
  • have a health condition like coeliac disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease that inhibits the absorption of nutrients.

Preserving Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient sensitive to alkalinity, heat, and light.  It remains stable in dry powder form but is highly unstable and degrades in food if mishandled.  Losses during processing can range from 10 to 90%.  Hence, it’s critical to focus on fresh food and avoid overcooking foods rich in vitamin C. 

Vitamin C Side Effects, Toxicity, and Overdose

While many recommend high doses of Vitamin C for general health, the Upper Limit (UL) of Vitamin C is set at 2000 mg/day to account for gut tolerance.  Too much supplemental vitamin C has a laxative effect and will send you running to the toilet!

While an upper limit has been set for vitamin C, no known dose causes toxicity or overdose unless someone has a pre-existing condition.  Because vitamin C is water-soluble, excess amounts are excreted.  The body can also absorb only so much through the intestinal tract.

Because of vitamin C’s relationship with other nutrients, chronic high Vitamin C supplementation can lead to excess iron absorption (iron overload), which increases oxidative stress, Vitamin B12 deficiency, and dental enamel erosion. 

Availability of Vitamin C in the Food System

Vitamin C availability has varied over time.  Today, a significant amount of Vitamin C is used as an additive in food to prevent browning.  Based on USDA data, there may have been an increase in Vitamin C fortification around 1970.

Availability of Vitamin C in the Food System

Getting adequate vitamin C to meet the EAR and RDI from our modern food system is reasonably easy. However, to achieve more optimal levels, you will need to eat vitamin C-rich foods and meals.

Bioavailability

Vitamin C absorption depends on how much you’re getting through your diet.  If you consume high amounts of supplementation, your body will likely downregulate Vitamin C absorption.  In contrast, your body will absorb more vitamin C if the demand is high.  This is because your intestines regulate absorption based on body requirements.

Approximately 70%–90% of Vitamin C is absorbed in moderate intakes of 30–180 mg/day.  However, absorption falls to less than 50% at doses above 1.0 g/day.  Unmetabolised Vitamin C is excreted in the urine. 

It’s also worth noting that adequate Vitamin C is required to absorb non-heme iron successfully.

Vitamin C in Meat

Glucose and Vitamin C have similar chemical structures and compete for the same transporters in the cell membrane.  Both are escorted into the cells by the action of the hormone insulin.  

Thus, high glucose levels in your diet mean you will require more insulin and more Vitamin C to get glucose into the cell. Based on this logic, a diet with less glucose may require less Vitamin C. 

Liver and organ meats contain some Vitamin C.  However, other meats are typically assumed to have no Vitamin C, and their content is not measured.  Fresh meat and fish contain some, although much is lost during cooking.  While people consuming lots of fresh meat do not appear to develop scurvy, there are anecdotal reports of people following a strict carnivore diet developing symptoms of scurvy. 

The minimum required Vitamin C intake to prevent deficiency is reasonably easy to obtain from eating fresh food on an omnivorous diet.  However,  if your diet has minimal glucose, your minimum requirement for Vitamin C may be even lower.  

Other nutrients commonly found in plant foods, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, appear to be a more significant concern for people consuming only animal products.

It is unknown whether the lower Vitamin C intake on a carnivorous diet would affect iron absorption, given that iron availability would be high.

How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Vitamin C? 

Curious about your Vitamin C intake?  Take our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge and discover if you’re hitting the Vitamin C sweet spot in your diet.

After just one week of tracking your daily meals with Cronometer, Nutrient Optimiser will unveil a personalised roadmap, your guide to a healthier, more nutrient-rich lifestyle. 

You’ll receive a curated list of foods and tantalising NutriBooster recipes that not only fill your Vitamin C gaps but also ensure you’re not missing out on critical nutrients.

Ready to unlock your nutrient potential?  Join the challenge and journey towards a brighter, healthier you!

Nutrient Density Starter Pack

Ready to supercharge your nutrition?  Get our Nutrient Density Starter Pack – your all-access pass to a healthier, more vibrant you!

In our quest to make Nutritional Optimisation a breeze, we’re thrilled to offer you this treasure trove of tools and resources when you join our vibrant Optimising Nutrition Community:

  • Food Lists: Discover our carefully crafted lists optimised for each essential nutrient, tailored to your goals, preferences, and unique conditions.
  • The Healthiest Meal Plan in the World: Peek into a week of mouthwatering, nutrient-dense meals that’ll leave you satisfied and energised.
  • Recipes: Download delectable samples from our NutriBooster recipe books, designed to elevate your nutrition while tantalising your taste buds.
  • 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge: Unearth your priority nutrients and pinpoint the foods and meals that pack a nutrient punch so you can kickstart your journey to better health.

Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to transform your nutrition effortlessly.  Join our community and unlock your path to a healthier, more vibrant you!

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