You should try to, and very likely could, get your vitamin C directly from foods.
Good news everyone (now if you watched Futurama, please say the words in your head in Dr. Farnsworth’s voice)! Vitamin C is present in large quantities in A LOT of fruits and veggies. In fact, it is so highly abundant that you might need to watch out to not overshoot your daily intake.
According to the latest updated document from the National Institute of Health of the United States , the recommended daily intake allowance (the RDA, so this amount will meet 97-98% of your nutrient requirement) for vitamin C is based on body size and age, same as many other nutrients. In addition to preventing deficiency and the subsequent scurvy, this RDA is set for vitamin C’s known physiological and antioxidant functions in white blood cells as well (for more details please see the first blog of our vitamin C series: all about the immune system) . The following chart as copied from the NIH document lists the RDA for people in different age groups :
Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin C
Individuals who smoke require 35 mg/day
more vitamin C than nonsmokers.
* Adequate Intake (AI)
As we had mentioned in the previous post, a dosage around 1000mg is considered high dosage since it is more than 10 times of the RDA for a fully grown man (as shown in the chart), it is still probably safe to take. As you go up the dosage level, however, things start becoming dangerous past 1000mg at around 2000mg. This information is pretty consistent across the board from most government health officials . Unfortunately, we don’t see RDA on nutrition labels (well, it would be too crowded to see 8 labels for different populations on one product), so there is “Daily Value (DV)” on nutrition labels to serve as a guideline for the general public. Since we’re based in Canada, we’d like to include that the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C on food labels is 60mg in Canada. The DVs of vitamins and minerals are often expressed as percentages on the nutrition labels; this nutrition fact below showed that this product provides 100% DV of vitamin C, i.e. 60 mg. The new DV value for vitamin C in some products in the US is 90mg, but some other products still remain at 60mg until Jan 2021 .
So how does the required vitamin C intake look like in food forms? This question perhaps can only be answered when we take a look at the vitamin C concentrations in each food item. With information from both the US and Canadian government health official sites and in combination with some research online, we had put together a list of the TOP 20 FOODS high in vitamin C. Like, REALLY, really high. The list goes as such:
“Wow, so consuming enough daily vitamin C is super easy to achieve!” we thought to ourselves as we did the research. Indeed, according to these numbers from food science studies, consuming 1/3 of a cup of guava (100g), gives you more than enough vitamin C for the day. And this isn’t limited to guavas only (though I LOOOVE it and would happily eat a few) — as our graph shows, peppers despite their colours and types are generally ALL very high in vitamin C (so snack on that sweet pepper sticks!). This is great news!
To cook or not to cook?
However, beware that the data we have here are all of RAW foods. Cooking the food generally decreases the amount of vitamin C in it. Take broccoli for example, cooking it with oil (ie. stir frying) reduces the unit vitamin C content to 62mg/100g . Though this is not a huge difference, the decrease in vitamin C may be more in other foods when cooked.
Coming from a Chinese background with the habit of eating most of our veggies cooked, we understand that sometimes foods just taste better cooked. Vegetables certainly have their place in stews and soups, both of which we wouldn’t want to give up on either. This is not to mention that some anti-nutrients are also reduced in the process of cooking. Take spinach for example: it is high in oxalate which blocks the absorption of iron. Cooking spinach reduces the oxalate level up to 87% and is thus favourable . On the other hand, I typically like eating my kiwi fruits raw, whether it’s in a smoothie, alone or as a topping. So really, I eat a bit of everything. When we take down everything we eat in a day, we found that as long as we’re eating diverse enough foods, we should be fine in the case of hitting our vitamin C goals.
Take home message
With everything combined, we see that it is easy to reach our vitamin C goals at the end of the day. As food enthusiasts, we’re super excited to get a range of different foods in our bodies — we encourage you to do the same. One of the most direct benefits of having a balanced diet is that you likely will not lack any specific micronutrients, like vitamin C. To us, this is huge! In our upcoming posts, we’ll share a few favourite recipes that help with reaching your vitamin C (and many other micronutrients) goals! If you’re curious about WHY we should take vitamin C, be sure to check out our previous post vitamin C and health benefits . If you have questions about the different vitamin C supplements, give a read at the second part of our vitamin C series Vitamin C how to use it .
What are your 1) favourite fruits, and 2) veggies you’d never eat raw?! Comment below and let us know!
Growing up with a Chinese background with exposure to Chinese medicines (which partially consists of food items), Cynthia adopted the mindset that food is eaten to fuel and nourish our bodies and souls. In her undergraduate studies, trainings in biomedical sciences instilled the curiosity in her to find out about WHY things are the way they are. In combination with her graduate studies for her Master of Sciences degree in human health and nutrition, she was inspired to dig deep into the realm of nutrition sciences and bring forth to a broader audience the no-bs, fact-based information she had learned to help wellness-oriented consumers make better decisions when it comes to eating.