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Fruits and vegetables full of vitamin C.

Natural sources of vitamin C

With cold and flu season upon us, doctors tout the importance of boosting your immune system with powerful antioxidants, like vitamin C.  This nutrient, also known as ascorbic acid, is water-soluble and found in many fruits and vegetables.  

“Vitamin C is essential for the body,” says Lena Beal, M.S., RD, LD, a therapeutic dietitian at Piedmont’s Fuqua Heart Center.  “As an antioxidant, it protects your cells from the damage caused by free radicals. It can help the body make collagen, which is a protein that heals wounds. It helps your body absorb iron in plant-based foods. And though it doesn’t prevent colds, it may shorten the window.”

Beal says that adults need at least 60 milligrams of vitamin C per day.  So this fall, consider adding some of these great vitamin C-rich foods to your diet:

  • Citrus fruits: Oranges have the highest concentration of vitamin C among citrus fruits, but grapefruit, lemons and limes can also provide you with your daily needs. A medium-sized orange has 70 milligrams of vitamin C, while half of a grapefruit has 40 milligrams of vitamin C.
  • Red, yellow and green peppers: These colorful, crunchy peppers are actually higher in vitamin C than oranges. A cup of chopped red peppers contains a whopping 190 milligrams of vitamin C.  A half-cup of chopped yellow peppers contains 155 milligrams of vitamin C. And a cup of chopped green peppers comes in at around 120 milligrams of vitamin C.
  • Dark green vegetables: Dark green vegetables, like Brussels sprouts and broccoli are a great source of vitamin C.  Brussels sprouts have almost 75 milligrams of vitamin C, meeting your daily needs. And one cup of chopped broccoli contains about 81 milligrams of vitamin C.
  • Kiwi fruit: This sweet little fruit carries 132 milligrams of vitamin C, almost twice as much as oranges.
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C.  Sun-dried tomatoes have the highest concentration of vitamin C with about 40 milligrams per 100 grams. A medium red tomato contains 28.78 milligrams and a green tomato contains 23.4 milligrams of vitamin C.

“Steaming or microwaving fruits and vegetables can denature, or lower the content of vitamin C in foods,” says Beal. “The best way to absorb all of the vitamins and minerals is to eat produce when it is raw.”

For more food and nutrition tips, click here.

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