For men who are 20 years and older, the vitamin C average is 96 milligrams per day, and for women of the same age group, vitamin C requirements are a minimum of 82 milligrams per day. So even though adults are averaging adequate intake of vitamin C from their food, the amount is not as high as some people might expect given widespread familiarity and interest in vitamin C. Of the world's healthiest foods, a staggering 27 items rate as excellent sources of vitamin C, with plenty of variety to build a menu plan that can easily exceed your vitamin C goal.
What is vitamin C?
Vitamin C is best known as an antioxidant, meaning these forms of molecules help keep chemical reactions in your body in check. In particular, antioxidants help prevent excessive activity on the part of free radical molecules. Free radicals are forms of molecules that tend to be very reactive, and too many free radicals in the wrong place at the wrong time can do damage to the body’s cells and tissue. It is vitamin C that helps prevent this damage.
Another noteworthy fact is that vitamin C is necessary to make certain neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are the signals that carry thoughts, feelings, and commands around your brain and throughout your nervous system. In particular, you need vitamin C to produce serotonin, a hormone that plays a critical role in a wide variety of body systems, including the nervous system, endocrine system, immune system, and digestive system. Many of your moods, daily bodily rhythms, and experiences of stress and pain have serotonin included as a factor in their occurrence.
As a result, dietary intake of vitamin C is recommended on a daily basis to promote healing, and ward off possible long-term illnesses.
Foods highest in vitamin C
Prior to delving into the top foods highest in vitamin C, it’s important to remember that the vitamin C content of food will start to decline as soon as it is picked, even though this decline can be slowed down and minimized by cooling and retention of the food in its whole form. Yet a fresh, vitamin C-rich vegetable like broccoli—if allowed to sit at room temperature for six days—can lose almost 80% of its vitamin C. That potential vitamin C loss is one of the reasons it is so important to store all vitamin C-rich foods in a proper manner to help minimize nutrient loss from each food
Long-term storage of vegetables can cost a significant amount of vitamin C. The same applies to frozen vegetables or fruits high in vitamin C, if kept frozen for a year or longer. Canning is even more detrimental, with 85% of the original vitamin C lost over the same year.Thus, these top foods ask that you eat them fresh, eat them often, and enjoy every bite.
- Papaya - One medium yields 224% of the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) of vitamin C and is considered the most excellent source at 119 calories.
- Bell Peppers - One cup yields 157% of the DRI, yet has an exceptionally high nutrient density rating at 98.9. Very low in calories at only 29 per cup.
- Broccoli - A single cup of broccoli has 54 calories and provides 135% of your vitamin C daily requirement.
- Brussel Sprouts - Excellent source of vitamin C, with one cup offering 129% of your daily recommended vitamin C allowance.
- Strawberries - At 46 calories for a single cup, strawberries are the fifth highest vitamin C-rich food, with a DRI percentage of 113.
- Pineapple - Another excellent citrus food that benefits digestion, and at a single cup, pineapple is loaded with vitamin C and only 83 calories.
- Oranges - One medium orange tops out at 62 calories and 105% of your daily vitamin C requirement.
- Kiwi - 85% DRI provided with two slices, and around 42 calories of excellent vitamin C.
- Cantaloupe - One cup yields 78% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C.
- Cauliflower - One cup at 73% DV and DRI of vitamin C, and also excellent when used as a substitute for processed flour or white rice.
- Kale - A single cup of this leafy green provides 71% of your DV and only 37 calories.
- Cabbage - Whether purple or green, one cup yields 69% of your DV of vitamin C.
- Bok Choy - One cup offers 59% of your daily recommended C intake.
- Grapefruit - Similar to bok choy, a half grapefruit or one cup of grapefruit also provides 59% DV.
- Parsley - Super low in calories and super excellent in vitamin C at 54% DRI.
- Turnip Greens - One cup yields 53% daily recommended vitamin C and is also considered an excellent source.
- Beet Greens - One cup is 39 calories and 48% of your DV for vitamin C.
- Mustard Greens - One cup is 47% DV and an excellent source of vitamin C.
- Raspberries - One cup offers 64 calories and 43% of your total daily vitamin C requirement.
- Swiss Chard - A single cup is 35 calories and provides 42% DRI of vitamin C.