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Healthy Foods that Contain Vitamin C

If you take a look at a variety of vitamin C supplements, you will find that the majority of them contain only ascorbic acid or a compound called ascorbate, which is a less acidic form of acorbic acid. Ascorbic acid is NOT vitamin C. It represents the outer ring that serves as a protective shell for the entire vitamin C complex, much like an orange peel that serves as a protective shell for an orange.

Real vitamin C found in whole foods like fruits and vegetables contains the following components:

  • Rutin
  • Bioflavonoids (vitamin P)
  • Factor K
  • Factor J
  • Factor P
  • Tyrosinase
  • Ascorbinogen
  • Ascorbic Acid

When you take only ascorbic acid found in your synthetic vitamin C tablet or powder, your body must gather all of the other components of the full vitamin C complex from your body's tissues in order to make use of it. In the event that your body does not have adequate reserves of the other components, ascorbic acid itself does not provide the same range of health benefits that the full vitamin C complex does. After circulating through your system, unused ascorbic acid is eliminated through your urine.

What does the full vitamin C-Complex do in your body?

  • Helps to form collagen, which is a key structural component of your bones, ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels
  • Acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting your cells against damage and premature aging due to free radicals, toxins, and other harmful substances that make their way into your blood
  • Prevents damage to fatty acids, amino acids, and glucose in your blood
  • Helps to make norepinephrine, a hormone that is essential to the health of your nervous system

Most nutritional indices list orange juice and grapefruit juice as good sources of vitamin C. While you'll be sure to get some vitamin C from these juices, I recommend that you avoid drinking 100 percent fruit juices most or all of the time. Fruit juices place unhealthy stress on your liver and pancreas. They also raise your blood insulin and sugar levels over the short and long term, which predisposes you to every chronic, degenerative disease that we know of. If you want to have some freshly squeezed orange juice on occasion, try mixing it with romaine lettuce and celery juice, with the orange juice making up no more than 1/3 of the total volume of your juice. The minerals from the greens will help to regulate the pace at which the sugars in the orange juice enter your bloodstream.

Here are some healthy, whole food sources of vitamin C:

Whole Food Sources Serving Vitamin C (mg)
Sweet red pepper 1/2 cup, raw 141
Strawberries 1 cup 82
Orange 1 medium 70
Brussels sprouts 1/2 cup 68
Broccoli, cooked 1/2 cup 58
Collard greens, cooked 1/2 cup 44
Grapefruit 1/2 medium 44
Canteloupe 1/4 medium 32
Cabbage, cooked 1/2 cup 24
Tomato 1 medium 23

Signs of Vitamin C Deficiency

  • Poor wound healing
  • Frequent infections
  • Bleeding or bruising easily
  • Unexplained pain and swelling of joints
  • Hair and tooth loss
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) - 1998
Life Stage Age Males (mg/day) Females (mg/day)
Infants 0-6 months 40 40
Infants 7-12 months 50 50
Children 1-3 years 15 15
Children 4-8 years 25 25
Children 9-13 years 45 45
Adolescents 14-18 years 75 65
Adults 19-years and older 90 75
Smokers 19 years and older 125 110
Pregnancy 18 years and younger - 80
Pregnancy 19 years and older - 85
Breastfeeding 18 years and younger - 115
Breastfeeding 19 years and older - 120


When you obtain natural vitamin C from whole foods, there is virtually no potential for toxicity or undesirable reactions. Large doses of synthetic vitamin C can cause you to experience uncomfortable GI symptoms like bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea. I recommend obtaining vitamin C from whole foods or whole food supplements only. For the reasons explained in our article on synthetic vs. natural vitamins, I recommend that you avoid synthetic forms of vitamin C completely.

Note: If you are looking for an all-natural source of the full vitamin C complex, I recommend acerola cherry powder.

Go To Nutrient Index


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This is really good

Great information on various sources of vitamin C and the amount of vitamin C that is to be consumed by people of different age groups and in accordance with their health conditions. Thanks for letting us know how vitamin C impacts our body!

Stupid but obvious question... Why then do synthetic vitamins not include the other components to make them more "realistic"?

Not all the other components are made in isolated fashion. It's important to note that some synthetic nutrients do get utilized within the body - D-3 and B-12 in methylcobalamin form are two examples of synthetic nutrients that can be health-enhancing. But most others are definitely best acquired through minimally processed foods, especially vitamins A and E.