Increasing your intake of vitamin C supports your body's immune response, and adding vitamin-C-rich foods to your daily diet is an excellent way to do just that.
Why vitamin C?
"Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, most known for supporting your immune system1,"* board-certified physician Bindiya Gandhi, M.D., tells mindbodygreen. The nutrient, also known as ascorbic acid, has been shown to enhance immune functioning.*
As an antioxidant and unique nutrient, vitamin C helps do this by fighting free radicals, participating in anti-inflammatory pathways, and directly promoting the synthesis and function of white blood cells.* For an added benefit, vitamin C also supports healthy aging by helping buffer against oxidative stress.*
"Vitamin C is important for cellular repair and collagen production,"* Gandhi says. "Because it helps in collagen production, it promotes healing and is a great barrier-supporting nutrient for skin health."*
The recommended daily dose of vitamin C2, according to the National Academy, is 90 milligrams in adult men and 75 milligrams in adult women, and the daily dose that the general population is recommended not to exceed is 2,000 milligrams.
While vitamin C can be taken in supplement form, it's also found in many fruits and vegetables. Both sources of this essential water-soluble micronutrient can be complementary. Remember that vitamin and mineral content varies in foods based on a host of factors, including soil content and growing conditions, so the amounts included here are estimates based on nutrient analysis date from the USDA. These are the top seven sources of vitamin C, according to the USDA's food data charts3:
Guava is a vibrant, pink fruit native to Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, often esteemed for its anti-inflammatory properties. Just one cup of guava contains about 375 milligrams of vitamin C4, according to the USDA.
Though this tropical fruit might strike you as summer produce, it's actually in season from November to April. If you want some inspo for how to use this sweet fruit, try enjoying it raw, tossed into a smoothie, or baked into gluten-free guava coconut bars.
Red sweet peppers
Red sweet peppers, even the canned variety, are beneficial in terms of nutrition and flavor. One large bell pepper contains around 210 milligrams of vitamin C5, while one cup (or one serving) has around 115 milligrams. You can use red peppers in a number of tasty dishes: One fun way to brighten your day is with this vegan rainbow sushi roll.
Physician and researcher William Li, M.D., calls kiwis a "grand slammer" food and says they activate all five health defense systems in the body: angiogenesis, regeneration, the microbiome, DNA protection, and immune support. With around 65 milligrams of vitamin C6 (in one kiwifruit), among other nutrients, like fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, they sure are a grand slam.
To support your body's immune response, throw them in your morning smoothie or enjoy on their own.
Oranges are probably the first fruit that comes to mind when you think about vitamin C. The bright citrus contains about 65 milligrams of vitamin C7, as well as 120 grams of water to keep you hydrated. Not only are oranges delicious to snack on, but their refreshing aroma is thought to promote positive energy, according to ancient traditions.
Make some fresh-squeezed orange juice with turmeric and ginger to enhance gut health and support immune function.
Unlike their sweet citrus counterpart, the orange, grapefruits are bittersweet and borderline sour in flavor. While the taste can be divisive, those who enjoy it can reap nutritional benefits beyond immune support. In fact, half of one grapefruit contains around 40 milligrams of vitamin C8 and 1.3 grams of fiber, which can help promote healthy digestion.
Impress your friends at your next party (or virtual happy hour) with this Thai grapefruit martini. For a mocktail version, simply replace the vodka with tonic or seltzer water.
Along with approximately 75 milligrams of vitamin C9 in one cup, Brussels sprouts also have high levels of sulfur. Though good for the gut, sulfur-containing veggies can lead to bloating in some. To get all the health benefits without the discomfort, naturopathic doctor Kellyann Petrucci, M.S., N.D., recommends steaming the veggies, which makes them easier to digest.
If you're not interested in steamed Brussels sprouts, shave them into a crunchy, cruciferous salad, or roast them with garlic and cayenne pepper.
Just one cup of broccoli contains around 80 milligrams of vitamin C10, plus good amounts of folate, vitamin K1, beta-carotene, potassium, and calcium. If you're craving comfort food right now, this vegan broccoli-cheddar soup should hit the spot.
Add any of these vitamin-C-rich foods to your daily diet for a delicious, immune-supporting upgrade, or consider taking a vitamin C supplement.*
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.