10 surprising sources of vitamin C
Although it may not cure your cold (1), vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which can protect and boost your immune system, provide protection against heart disease and stroke and help reduce the visible signs of skin ageing. But forget orange juice, citrus fruits and multivitamins – there are plenty of surprising sources of vitamin C to be found at your local farmer's market or on the supermarket shelves. We've sussed out 10 sources, so prepare to be surprised!
Broccoli is a seriously healthy vegetable and including it in your diet means you'll be getting plenty of vitamin C. One cup of broccoli contains more than your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C, which is 90mg for men, 75mg for women. Broccoli is also packed with vitamin E, fibre, beta carotene (vitamin A), calcium, niacin and thiamin. Try it lightly steamed or in a vegetable stir fry!
#2. Red peppers
Did you know that red peppers are actually just green peppers which have ripened for longer? Their sweet flavour makes them delicious raw, and half a cup of raw red peppers contains 142mg of vitamin C. Add them cooked to stir fries and other dishes and the vitamin C count drops slightly to 116mg, still more than your RDA. We love them raw with home-made hummus for the perfect post-workout snack.
#3. Brussels sprouts
Love them or hate them, these festive favourites can be enjoyed at any time of year, and they're a really great way to boost your vitamin C intake. Half a cup of cooked sprouts contains 48mg of vitamin C, and you can enjoy them raw in salads too, if you fancy. Add flavour to cooked sprouts by tossing them with a healthy olive-oil dressing or enjoy them with bacon and chestnuts at Christmas. Their nutty flavour isn't to everyone's taste, but we love them!
#4. Dark leafy greens
If you haven't checked out our post on greens, now's the time to do so – you'll find plenty of inspiring recipes. But did you know that dark leafy greens are packed with vitamin C? Kale provides the most vitamin C, with half a cup of cooked kale containing 27mg. A healthy kale salad (try our recipe or this recipe by Oh She Glows) is the perfect way to enjoy kale, or treat yourself to some kale chips – yummy!
Guava is one of the highest nautral sources of vitamin C, with half a cup providing 188mg of vitamin C and just 56 calories – wow! Enjoy this sweet, delicious fruit in a fruit salad, with granola or even blended into a healthy breakfast smoothie to boost your immune system and get your day off to a great start.
#6. Tomato juice
Tomatoes contain lycopene, a phytonutrient which can help to fight disease. Tomato juice and other vegetable juices containing tomatoes can be bought at health food stores, or you can make your own at home! Tomato juice is a great source of vitamin C, with a small cup of juice containing around 50mg of the antioxidant. Of course, you'll also get vitamin C from tomatoes used in your cooking too. Enjoy them raw in a salad or whip up a batch of home-made salsa to enjoy. Or add tomatoes to pasta sauces and soups – cooking them cuts the vitamin C content slightly, but your body is still benefiting!
Kiwis provide around 64mg of vitamin C per fruit, making them a great option if you're looking to ditch your multivitamins! Despite their prickly exterior, their sweet, squishy interior is super-delicious and we like to add kiwis to fruit salad or healthy Greek yogurt. Or why not try a kiwi smoothie or bake healthy banana and kiwi muffins?
#8. Papaya or Mango
These tropical fruits are simply yummy, particularly when they're in season during the summer months. Make sure you buy a ripe mango – you'll find a cup contains around 80mg of vitamin C. Mango can be bought fresh or frozen; many supermarkets sell frozen chunks which are great added to smoothies, but buying fresh is best wherever possible. Mangos and papayas are not just great in desserts, or enjoyed with granola and Greek yogurt, they can also be used to add sweetness to savoury dishes too. Make your own mango salsa to enjoy with Thai dishes or mango chutney as an accompaniment to curry. Delicious!
Cranberries are a great source of vitamin C – they can help to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to the proanthocyanidins (PACs) they contain. They can also protect your cardiovascular system and liver, but eating whole cranberries is better than taking supplements or drinking cranberry juice, which is often high in natural sugars (2). A cup of cranberries (100g) provides 13.3mg of vitamin C. We recommend adding a handful of cranberries to a blueberry and strawberry smoothie to boost your immune system, or enjoying mixed berries with yogurt and oats for breakfast. Or why not make some cranberry muffins?
In case you didn't know, half a cup of red or green chillis contains 107.8mg of vitamin C. As if that wasn't enough, capsaicin, the compound responsible for giving peppers their heat, can help relieve muscle and joint pain (3). We're not suggesting you chow down on half a cup of raw chillies, but try adding more to your cooking or make a mango salsa for the ultimate vitamin C boost. Using chillies and herbs to flavour your food also means you will add less salt. Consuming too much salt can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, stomach cancer and osteoporosis.
So ditch those vitamin C supplements; our bodies prefer to get vitamin C from natural sources, and now that you know it can be found in so many more foods than you realised, getting 100% of your RDA should be easier! Adding vegetables and fruits high in vitamin C to salads, soups and smoothies is a great way to boost your intake – remember that a varied diet is a healthy diet.
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