Vitamin C is an essential nutrient and antioxidant with several human health benefits. It is involved in bone formation, the prevention and treatment of many cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, wound healing and keeping gums healthy.
Since vitamin C is water-soluble, you need to get adequate vitamin C supplementation from dietary sources, including kale, strawberries, kiwifruit, lemons, broccoli, and more.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 75-90 mg and can go up to 120 mg for women during lactation (1).
Although only fair amounts of fruits and vegetables can help you meet your daily needs of vitamin C, most Americans turn to fortification and supplements to avoid falling short.
Here are 10 foods that contain higher vitamin C concentrations than that of oranges.
- Kakadu Plum
The Kakadu plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana L.) is a unique fruit native to Australia. It has an impressive nutrient profile which includes vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants that eliminates radical damage. Kakadu plum contains the highest vitamin C concentration of all plants — 57 to 100 times that of oranges. For 100 grams of fruit, it contains up to 4000 mg of vitamin C and 0.9 grams of copper. A single plum contains 480 mg of vitamin C, or 530% of the recommended DV. Throughout history, it has been used by Indigenous Australians as a folk medicine to treat colds and headaches. Recent advances have shown it can be beneficial in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Red Chili Peppers
Red chili peppers (Capsicum annuum L.) are more than just a hot spice. They pack a range of essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, and non-nutrient phytochemicals, such as beta-carotene and quercetin. One-half cup of chopped chili peppers has just 30 calories and provides 241.5 mg of potassium and 14% and 179% of the recommended daily intakes for vitamins A and C, respectively. Several publications have shown that red peppers consumption has favorable effects on metabolic syndrome and may reduce the risk of mortality due to heart disease. Cayenne pepper —which has a higher grade than red peppers on the Scoville scale— can lower blood pressure and soothe joint pain when applied topically.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) is an immunity-boosting herb with potent antibacterial properties. A 3.5-ounce (100 grams) serving of fresh thyme has 101 calories and contains abundant amounts of vitamins and minerals, including 609 mg of potassium, 14 grams of dietary fiber and almost 266% of the recommended DV for vitamin C. Different cultures have recognized the therapeutic values of thyme and its extracts (e.g. thyme essential oil) and used them to alleviate coughs, lower blood pressure and improve movements in dyspraxia patients. Other notable uses include flavoring salads, repelling pests and removing mold.
Black currants (Ribes nigrum L.) are a berry with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A single cup (112 grams) of black currants has just 71 calories and contains 361 mg of potassium and almost 10% and 338% of the recommended DV for iron and vitamin C, respectively. Several sources of evidence have shown that the compounds contained in black currants have beneficial effects on platelet function, help reduce bad LDL cholesterol levels and prevent damage to the optic nerve which transfers impulses from your eye to your brain.
Kale (Brassica oleracea var. sabellica L.) is a nutrient-dense vegetable that belongs to the Cruciferae family. It is laden with heart-healthy antioxidants, most notably kaempferol and quercetin, and plant compounds that help increase good HDL cholesterol levels. One cup (about 67 grams) of chopped kale has just 33 calories and delivers 329 mg of potassium and 134% and 133% of the recommended DV for vitamins C and A, respectively. It is best to eat raw kale as it contains a higher concentration of vitamin C than when it is boiled.
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica L.) provides you with a range of vitamins, minerals and fiber. One NLEA serving of fresh broccoli has 50 calories and packs 3.8 grams of dietary fiber, 467.7 mg of potassium and up to 220% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. This green vegetable is particularly rich in glucoraphanin, a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals and that is enzymatically converted into sulforaphane during the digestion process. The health benefits of sulforaphane include reducing inflammation and blood pressure and improving symptoms of constipation.
Kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa L.) is high in vitamin c, fiber and other beneficial compounds. One NLEA serving of kiwis has 90 calories and contains almost 462 mg of potassium and 228% of the recommended DV for vitamin C. Eating kiwifruit can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduce high blood pressure and improve your sleep if you struggle to fall asleep at night. In fact, a 2011 study in 24 adults examined the relationships between kiwifruit consumption and sleep quality and found that kiwifruit consumption improved sleep onset (2).
- Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera L.) are another member of the Cruciferae family that packs several beneficial compounds. One cup (88 grams) has almost 38 calories and delivers 3 grams of protein, 342 mg of potassium and roughly 123% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, as well as sufficient amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids. Consuming Brussels sprouts is associated with reduced oxidative damage, inflammation and certain types of cancer (e.g. colorectal cancer). Several publications have indeed shown that higher intakes of Brussels sprouts are inversely related to the risk of pro-inflammatory diseases. This is particularly due to their kaempferol content.
Lemon (Citrus x lemon L.) is one of the most popular citrus fruits. It is rich in several nutrients, as well as non-nutrient plant compounds and antioxidant agents that improve heart health, prevent stroke and the formation of kidney stones and fight cancer cells. One cup (212 grams) of sectioned lemons has just 61 calories and delivers almost 293 mg of potassium, 6 grams of dietary fiber and almost 187% of the recommended DV for vitamin C. A 2012 study on the effects of lemon seeds consumption and breast cancer reported that aglycones and glucosides found in seeds extract act as chemopreventive agents that inhibit cancer cells (3).
Guava (Psidium guajava L.) is a tropical fruit native to Central America that offers one the highest amounts of vitamin C. A single cup (165 grams) of Guava contains 4.2 grams of protein and abundant amounts of dietary fiber (36% DV), potassium (19% DV) and vitamin C (627% DV). Consumption of guavas improves insulin resistance —especially in the case of diabetes patients— rises HDL cholesterol levels, enhances the immune defense system and soothes symptoms of menstruation.