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.
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)
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)
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.
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