Although there are vitamin supplements available, it’s always best to get nutrients from whole foods whenever possible because vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients work together synergistically to create their health-promoting effects.
The findings of various studies suggest that vitamin C reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, gout, and possibly other medical problems. Some studies have shown beneficial effects purely from supplementation, but others have found health benefits only in those who eat whole foods rich in vitamin C.
When people think of vitamin C-rich foods, they tend to picture oranges and perhaps other citrus fruits, but there are many vegetables and fruits that provide as much or even more vitamin C per serving than oranges. Some top vitamin C foods include bell peppers, parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, lemons, limes, strawberries, mustard greens, kiwifruit, papaya, kale, cabbage, turnip greens, oranges, cantaloupes, grapefruits, summer squash, and pineapples.
Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, collard greens, raspberries, spinach, green beans, fennel, cranberries, asparagus, watermelon, and winter squash also contain vitamin C, as do liver and clams.
Vitamin C content in foods can be reduced by high temperatures and exposure to water and air.
According to the George Mateljan Foundation (2012), blanching (steaming or boiling for a few minutes) can destroy approximately 25% of a food’s vitamin C content, as can freezing and unthawing. Cooking for 10-20 minutes can cut the vitamin C content by more than half, and produce that is canned and reheated may lose up to two-thirds of its vitamin C content.
Consuming produce fresh and raw provides the highest vitamin C levels. This is why it’s best to buy whole local produce, avoid slicing it until shortly before it will be consumed, and prepare it raw or cook it as little as possible.
Dieticians of Canada, “Food Sources of Vitamin C,” 25 June 2012. http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-C.aspx
George Mateljan Foundation, “Vitamin C,” World’s Healthiest Foods, 2012. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=109
Higdon, J., PhD, & Drake, V.J., PhD, Linus Pauling Institute, “Vitamin C,” 2009. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminC/
University of Maryland Medical Center, “Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid),” 7 July 2011. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/vitamin-c-000339.htm
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