Which foods are rich in vitamin C and what are the benefits to our health and wellbeing? We asked nutritionist Nicola Shubrook to explain.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is active throughout the body. It's water-soluble, meaning it dissolves in water, and is not stored by the body, so we need to ensure we get adequate amounts from our diet everyday.
What are the benefits of vitamin C?
Vitamin C is important as it helps to maintain healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage due to it being involved in the formation of collagen, which is a protein found in connective tissue. It helps to protect the health of our cells and is employed in wound healing.
How much vitamin C should we eat?
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C for adults aged 19 and over is just 40mg per day, which you should be able to get from your diet through fruit and vegetables. Being water-soluble, some vitamin C is lost when cooked. Raw fruit and vegetables will contain the most vitamin C but if you need to cook them at all then steaming appears to be the best method for retaining the most nutritional value.
10 foods high in vitamin C
1. Blackcurrants – 160mg per 80g serving (cupped handful) or 200mg per 100g
Blackcurrants are small, round, sour-tasting, deep purple-black berries which typically need some sort of sweetness added to make them more palatable. Just one 80g serving provides almost 200% of your RDA of vitamin C, and they also contain some vitamin A, calcium and iron. Blackcurrants can be easily used to make a jam or sorbet.
Discover eight ways to cook with blackcurrants.
2. Red pepper – 100mg per 80g serving (½ large pepper) or 126mg per 100g
Red peppers are very versatile and can be eaten in salads or as a crudité with a dip, such as hummus or guacamole, or they can be used in soups, stews and stir-fries. Half a large red pepper contains just over the RDA of vitamin C, and also has a good amount of vitamins A, E and K as well as B6, folate and fibre.
Discover more recipes using red peppers.
3. Kiwi fruit – 47mg per 80g serving (1 medium kiwi fruit) or 59mg per 100g
The kiwi fruit is a bright green, tropical fruit, typically eaten raw. Simply peel and chop or cut in half and scoop out with a teaspoon. It can also be added to fruit salad, used to top yogurt or in a smoothie. A single kiwi contains just over 50% of the RDA of vitamin C and they're also a good source of vitamin K and fibre.
4. Guava – 126mg per 55g serving (1 fruit) or 230mg per 100g serving
Guavas are a tropical fruit that can be eaten by scooping out the inside or eating it whole without the skin. You will need to remove the seeds in larger fruit. They can be juiced, added to fruit salads or made into a jam. One guava fruit contains 140% of the RDA of vitamin C, and they're also a good source of fibre, vitamin A, folate and potassium.
5. Green pepper - 96mg per 80g serving (½ large pepper) or 120mg per 100g
Just like the red pepper, green peppers are very versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked. Half a large green pepper will provide around 100% of the RDA of vitamin C along with vitamins A, B6, K and fibre.
Try using green peppers in a healthy stir-fry dish.
6. Orange – 73mg per 140g serving (1 orange) or 52mg per 100g
This bright, juicy fruit can simply be peeled and eaten as it comes, or added to savoury salads, fruit salads or used to top breakfast bowls. A single orange contains 90% of your RDA as well as a good mix of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, folate, calcium and magnesium. Bear in mind that unsweetened juice can only count as one of your five-a-day, and you should limit intake to 150ml (a small glass) each day, as juicing releases the sugars from fruit.
Read more about the health benefits of oranges.
7. Strawberries – 47mg per 80g serving (7 medium strawberries) or 57mg per 100g
Strawberries are a British summer fruit that are naturally sweet and can simply be eaten raw, chopped and added to your breakfast or served as dessert with cream or ice cream. They're a good source of fibre and just 7 strawberries will provide half of your RDA of vitamin C, along with a good mix of other vitamins and minerals, especially manganese and folate.
Read more about the health benefits of strawberries.
8. Papaya – 94mg per 80g serving (½ small papaya) or 60mg per 100g
Papaya is a tropical fruit with soft, edible flesh in the middle. It can be added to salads, smoothies and desserts. Half a small papaya will easily give you the RDA of vitamin C required, along with some vitamin A, folate and potassium.
9. Broccoli (raw) – 63mg per 80g serving (cupped handful) or 79mg per 100g
Whether eaten raw or cooked, broccoli is a very versatile source of vitamin C. It can be eaten as crudités or even added to a juice or smoothie. You may prefer to lightly steam it as an accompaniment to your main meal, or add to soups, stir-fries or salads. A cupped handful of raw broccoli is about 80g and will provide just over half the RDA of vitamin C. If cooked, this drops to about 44mg per 80g serving as heat does destroy some of the vitamin C. Broccoli is also an excellent source of fibre, vitamins and minerals especially the B vitamins.
Read more about the health benefits of broccoli.
10. Kale (cooked) – 57mg per 80g serving (one handful) or 71mg per 100g
Kale has become very popular over recent years, and this leafy green vegetable can be eaten raw in smoothies or salads, lightly steamed or stir-fried as a side to your meal. One large handful is about an 80g serving and will provide one third of the RDA of vitamin C. It is also an excellent source of vitamin K, as well as containing vitamin A, fibre and manganese. If you like raw kale, an 80g serving will provide around 110mg of vitamin C.
Discover more ways with kale.
This article was published on 26 April 2019.
Nicola Shubrook is a qualified nutritionist registered with the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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Nutrition data from McCance and Widdowson’s Composition of Foods unless otherwise stated.