Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, plays an important role in maintaining the immune system. It helps fend off infections by promoting the production of antibodies and increasing the activity of immune cells such as lymphocytes and phagocytes. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that can protect the body against harmful free radicals that can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation.
The production of collagen, a crucial structural protein in the body, heavily relies on vitamin C. Collagen is the main structural protein in the body responsible for the strength and elasticity of tissues such as skin, bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. The vitamin also aids in cell formation and neurotransmitter synthesis.
Vitamin C is involved in the absorption of iron from iron-rich foods, especially from plant sources. Combining vitamin C-rich foods with iron-rich plant-based foods like spinach or legumes can enhance iron absorption in the body. Vitamin C helps convert the iron from plant foods into a form that the body can more easily absorb and utilize. Our vitamin C table can help you quickly and easily identify foods that are particularly high in vitamin C.
Who Should Pay Attention To A Vitamin C-Rich Diet?
The vitamin C requirements vary depending on a person's age, gender, and health condition. Certain groups may need more:
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women require more vitamin C to promote the growth and development of their fetus or baby.
- Smokers also need more vitamin C as smoking exposes the body to increased oxidative stress caused by tobacco consumption.
- People with certain health conditions such as chronic inflammation, infections, or stress-related illnesses also have an increased need for vitamin C.
- In the aging process, nutrient absorption from food may be impaired in older individuals, leading to potentially higher requirements. They should especially ensure their bodies are supplied with vitamin C-rich foods to prevent deficiencies that can manifest as infections, joint pain, and poor wound healing.
- An increased requirement can occur in individuals experiencing stress and/or engaging in physically demanding activities. This is because vitamin C plays a crucial role in combating free radicals that can be caused by physical or emotional stress.
A balanced diet rich in vitamin C-containing foods can meet the requirement for vitamin C and reduce the risk of vitamin C deficiency and associated health problems. Symptoms of deficiency may include fatigue, weakness, muscle aches, joint pain, gum bleeding, poor wound healing, rough skin, and increased susceptibility to infections.
Vitamin C-Rich Foods
There are many different plant-based foods that are high in vitamin C. The following list reveals which ones you can incorporate into your diet:
- Fruits: Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are known for their high vitamin C content. A larger orange contains about 75 mg of vitamin C, which is almost 100% of the recommended daily intake. But other fruits like berries, papayas, mangoes, and pineapples are also good sources. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are particularly rich in vitamin C. This table shows which fruits contain vitamin C.
- Vegetables: Bell peppers and broccoli are especially high in vitamin C. A medium-sized red bell pepper can contain up to 150 mg of vitamin C. Other vegetables like tomatoes, kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes also have a high presence of vitamin C according to the table. Vegetables like broccoli and kale, which can also be eaten raw, also contain many other nutrients like iron and calcium that are essential for a healthy diet. This table shows vegetables with vitamin C.
- Legumes: Legumes also contain a significant amount of vitamin C. Green peas are extremely rich in vitamin C, with approximately 40 mg per 100 g. Other legumes listed in the vitamin C table include lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, and white beans. You can find more legumes with vitamin C in this table. Legumes are particularly great additions to a healthy diet, especially in vegan cuisine, as they are protein-rich foods. Keep in mind that legumes also contain phytates, which can inhibit nutrient absorption. It is recommended to soak and rinse them thoroughly before consumption to reduce phytate content and improve nutrient absorption.
- Herbs and Spices: Dill, parsley, chives, cilantro, and thyme are rich in vitamin C. Use them in various dishes and recipes to boost your vitamin C levels. You can discover more herbs and spices with vitamin C in this table.
- Nuts and Seeds: While they do not have the highest concentrations of vitamin C, they can still contribute to meeting your vitamin C needs. Good sources of vitamin C in this category include almonds, cashews, and sunflower seeds. They also provide you with plenty of plant-based protein. The table with vitamin C in nuts and seeds is available here.
- Grain Products: Grains and grain products are not very good sources of vitamin C. Corn, whole grain bread, and the pseudo-grain amaranth contain even lower amounts.
- Juices and Beverages: Apart from getting vitamin C from foods, there are also many drinks and juices that contain this nutrient. Orange juice, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, passion fruit juice, and apple juice are among the best vitamin C drinks. Additionally, energy drinks are often fortified with vitamin C. Keep in mind that both energy drinks and fruit juices can contain a lot of sugar or artificial additives. Prefer natural sources whenever possible.
Vitamin C Is Heat-Sensitive
Vitamin C is sensitive to heat and can be destroyed by heating. This is because vitamin C is a labile compound that breaks down quickly at high temperatures. The exact temperature at which this happens depends on various factors, such as the duration of heating, the type of food, and the pH level of the medium. It is advisable to consume vitamin C-rich foods as unprocessed as possible and avoid heating them above 70°C (158°F). Vitamin C is more heat-resistant in acidic foods.
What Does A Vitamin C-Rich Diet Look Like?
Incorporating vitamin C-rich foods into a vegan diet is quite simple. Include vitamin C foods like citrus fruits, berries, bell peppers, broccoli, and legumes in your meals. The following list provides some suggestions:
- Fruity Smoothie: Blend an orange, a handful of strawberries, and a banana together with a little oat milk and ice cubes to make a delicious smoothie.
- Pepper Salad: Cut a red pepper into small pieces and mix it with a handful of tomatoes, half a cucumber, and a handful of spinach. Add a dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic.
- Lentil Soup: Cook lentils in vegetable broth until they are soft. Add carrots, celery, and onions and cook them together until they are also soft. Season the soup with cumin, paprika powder, and a pinch of cinnamon. You can then add spinach for additional vitamin C.
- Orange Carrot Salad: Slice a handful of carrots into thin slices and mix them with orange segments. Add chopped parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil.
- Beet Hummus: Blend chickpeas with roasted beets, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and salt to make a creamy dip.
- Lemon Herb Amaranth: Cook amaranth and add chopped herbs, lemon juice, and olive oil.
- Tomato Avocado Salad: Dice tomatoes, avocados, and onions and mix them together. Add lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.
- Mango Salsa: Cut mango, bell peppers, onions, and cilantro into small pieces and put them in a bowl. Season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
- Broccoli Salad: Cut broccoli into small florets and briefly cook them until they are soft. Mix them with roasted almonds, raisins, lemon juice, and olive oil.
- Kiwi Banana Smoothie: Blend kiwi, banana, coconut milk, and ice cubes to make a refreshing smoothie.
- Sautéed Brussels Sprouts: Sauté Brussels sprouts in a pan with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice.