vitamin c foods in a colorful display

Top Vitamin C Foods

Vitamin C is an important component of a healthy diet. In this post, learn what it does and the top vitamin C foods. Plus, I’m highlighting one of my favorite fun ways to get an energy boost along with all the awesome benefits of vitamin C.

vitamin c foods in a colorful display

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C – also known as ascorbic acid – is a water-soluble vitamin that’s essential for health. “Essential” means that your body can’t make it, so you have to consume vitamin C foods or bridge the gap with a supplement, depending on your diet.

Oranges and other citrus fruits are famous vitamin C foods. However, other vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamin C, too. More on that below.

What Does Vitamin C Do?

Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, plays important roles in the function of the immune and nervous systems, in skin healing and anti-inflammation, eye health, and more.

Vitamin C and the Immune System

Perhaps most well-known is the role vitamin C plays in the immune system. In certain immune cells, vitamin C is found in high concentrations. When deficient due to a lack of vitamin C foods or other factors, immune cell function is impaired. (1, 2)

colorful vitamin c rich foods

Vitamin C and Skin

Vitamin C plays a role in skin integrity. Notably, it’s a cofactor that’s important in stabilizing the structure of collagen. It also promotes the gene expression of collagen. Vitamin C also appears to play a role in wound healing via fibroblasts. For skin concerns like UV damage and inflammation, more research is needed, though vitamin C can help reduce the signs of aging through collagen production – though this is harder to measure. (3)

In general, it’s probably realistic to conclude that applying vitamin C application to the skin itself needs more study, while the nutrition advice to get vitamin C from the inside through food – fruits and veggies – is realisitc.

Vitamin C and the Nervous System

As a cofactor of dopamine, vitamin C plays a role in making adrenalin and noradrenalin. It is a potent antioxidant that protects cells in the nervous system against oxidative damage. Vitamin C also plays a role in making the myelin around nerve cells. (4, 5)

The Estimated Average Requirement (6) for vitamin C in adults is:

  • 60 milligrams per day for adult women, and
  • 75 milligrams per day for adult men.

However, it’s important to note that these levels don’t represent optimal amounts.

And results of the 2003-04 NHANES study found that, “About 21 million Americans have serious vitamin C deficiency, 66 million may develop vitamin C deficiency depending upon their health habits and disease status, and less than 30 million Americans achieve optimal vitamin C level.” (7)

broccoli thyme and brussels sprouts

Top Vitamin C Foods

Getting enough vitamin C from the foods you eat is important. Below are 10 top vitamin C foods, all fruits, vegetables, or herbs (per 100 grams of the food):

  • Rose hips | 426 milligrams
  • Guava | 228 milligrams
  • Yellow peppers | 183 milligrams
  • Thyme | 160 milligrams
  • Parsley | 133 milligrams
  • Kiwi fruit | 93 milligrams
  • Broccoli | 89 milligrams
  • Brussels sprouts | 85 milligrams
  • Strawberries | 59 milligrams
  • Oranges | 53 milligrams

Other great vitamin C foods include kale, lemons, papayas, persimmons, lychees, blackcurrants, acerola cherries, and chili peppers.

Get a variety of vitamin C foods in your diet for best results.

strawberries tomatoes and oranges

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Hi, I'm Steph!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more, not less: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.


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