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Where Can You Find Vitamin C in Food?

There are many sources of vitamin C in food other than citrus fruits. Are you getting enough to keep your immune system strong?

Are you getting your vitamins? Trying to stay healthy to avoid infection with COVID-19 is prompting some people to take a closer look at their diets. Do you need to make some changes to ensure you are getting enough vitamins, especially vitamin C, in food?

Looking for Vitamin C in Food:

Q. A few weeks ago, a reader wrote about not being able to tolerate citrus fruit and wondered about vitamin C deficiency. You answered the question regarding supplements, but you never once mentioned whole foods that have plentiful vitamin C. In some cases, they have even more than citrus.

Most nutritionists recommend that healthy individuals get their vitamins and minerals from whole foods and skip the supplements. Some, like vitamin B12 or vitamin D, could be hard to get from the diet but most are unnecessary.

I’m not suggesting one shouldn’t take synthetic vitamins. But I think that most vitamin pills can’t compare to obtaining nutrients from whole foods in which vitamins and other phytonutrients work synergistically. Perhaps vitamin C in a tomato works with lycopene to be effective.

Here are some examples of non-citrus whole foods that have a significant amount of vitamin C (based on a one-half cup serving unless noted):

  • Red bell pepper—95 mg
  • Kiwifruit (medium)—64 mg
  • Green bell pepper—60 mg
  • Broccoli—51 mg
  • Strawberries—49 mg
  • Brussel sprouts—48 mg
  • Kale—40 mg
  • Tomato juice (3/4 cup)—33 mg

I could go on, but that is enough to give you the idea.

A. Thank you for making the point that it is possible to get the recommended daily amount of vitamin C in food, even without consuming orange or grapefruit juice. The RDA for adult men is 90 mg per day and for women is 75 mg per day. There are more details on RDA at various ages and a longer list of food sources of vitamin C (including citrus fruits) at this page from the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

We are in favor of including plenty of nutrient-dense foods like bell peppers and broccoli in your diet. However, people may need supplements sometimes. The best resource we know to determine where your diet might be wanting and how much vitamin or mineral you should take is the book by Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More. Your local library should have a copy. We also offer a paperback edition.

Researchers are now considering the possibility that vitamins could help fight infection (Nutrients, Aug. 23, 2020). While studies are incomplete, many scientists think that adequate amounts of vitamins A, C, D and E may help reduce inflammation and help protect against a COVID-induced cytokine storm (Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, Oct. 2020).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Jovic TH et al, "Could vitamins help in the fight against COVID-19?" Nutrients, Aug. 23, 2020. DOI: 10.3390/nu12092550
  • Fiorino S et al, "Cytokine storm in aged people with CoV-2: possible role of vitamins as therapy or preventive strategy." Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, Oct. 2020. DOI: 10.1007/s40520-020-01669-y
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