Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient that is so critical to life that almost all mammals are able to manufacture their own supply. Humans, apes, guinea pigs and birds are among the few mammals that can't make their own vitamin C and thus need a steady supply of vitamin C foods in their diet.
Because of its widespread use as a dietary supplement, vitamin C may be more familiar to the general public than any other nutrient. Surveys show that 25 percent or more of the population in the U.S. take vitamin C supplements.
As early as the 1700's, vitamin C foods were known to prevent the disease called scurvy. Scurvy was first discovered in British sailors, whose sea voyages left them far away from land for long periods of time, and without fresh fruits or vegetables. British sailors thus began carrying large stores of limes aboard ship, knowing that limes were a good source of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is present to some degree in almost any fruit or vegetable. Daily consumption of 5 servings of vitamin C rich foods would likely provide you with your daily requirement, but statistics show that less than 1 in 10 people eat this many servings of foods rich in vitamin C.
Foods high in vitamin C are listed here, along with the amount contained in a typical serving:
The amount of vitamin C found in food varies just as dramatically as the requirements for one person versus another. In general, an unripe vitamin C food is much lower in vitamin C content than a ripe vitamin C rich food.
Vitamin C is highly sensitive to air, water, and heat. About 25% of the vitamin C in vegetables can be lost simply by boiling or steaming the food for a few minutes. You lose about the same amount in the freezing and thawing of vitamin C foods.
Cooking vegetables and fruits for longer periods of time can result in a loss of over one half the total vitamin C content. Canning fruits and vegetables and then reheating them before serving leaves only about one-third of the original vitamin C content.
Learn more about vitamin C foods at The World's Healthiest Foods