Vitamin C Foods Are Plentiful,
Yet Most Americans Don't Get Enough

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.

Humans vary greatly in their individual requirements for vitamin C.

Some people need 10 times as much as others. A person's age and health status can dramatically change their need for vitamin C.

Food Sources 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:

  • papaya – 1 medium: 187mg
  • broccoli – 1 cup: 124mg
  • brussels sprouts – 1 cup: 97mg
  • red pepper – 1/2 cup: 88mg
  • grapefruit – 1 medium: 88mg
  • strawberries – 1 cup: 82mg
  • orange juice – 6 oz: 75mg
  • orange – 1 medium: 70mg
  • cantaloupe – 1 cup: 67mg
  • grapefruit juice – 6 oz: 60mg
  • kiwifruit – 1 medium: 70mg
  • cauliflower – 1 cup: 55mg
  • kale – 1 cup: 53mg
  • turnip greens – 1 cup: 39mg
  • mustard greens – 1 cup: 35mg
  • tomato – 1 medium: 34mg
  • chard – 1 cup: 31mg
  • cabbage – 1 cup: 30mg
  • lemon juice – 1/4 cup: 28mg
  • romaine lettuce – 2 cups: 27mg
  • pineapple – 1 cup: 24mg
  • green peas – 1 cup: 22mg
  • winter squash – 1 cup: 20mg
  • asparagus – 1 cup: 19mg
  • spinach – 1 cup: 17mg

Factors that Determine
How Much Vitamin C a Food Contains

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.

Consumption of vitamin C rich foods in their fresh, raw form is the best way to
maximize vitamin C intake.

More Information on Vitamin C

Facts on Vitamin C

Health Benefits of Vitamin C

Information on Vitamin C Supplements

What's an Optimal Vitamin C Dosage?

What are Vitamin C Deficiency Symptoms?

Antioxidants Home Page from Vitamin C Foods

Learn more about vitamin C foods at The World's Healthiest Foods


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