Vegetables that are the highest sources of vitamin C include:
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower
Green and red peppers
Spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens
Sweet and white potatoes
Tomatoes and tomato juice
Some cereals and other foods and beverages are fortified with vitamin C. Fortified means a vitamin or mineral has been added to the food. Check the product labels to see how much vitamin C is in the product.
Cooking vitamin C-rich foods or storing them for a long period of time can reduce the vitamin C content. Microwaving and steaming vitamin C-rich foods may reduce cooking losses. The best food sources of vitamin C are uncooked or raw fruits and vegetables.
Serious side effects from too much vitamin C are very rare, because the body cannot store the vitamin. However, amounts greater than 2,000 mg/day are not recommended because such high doses can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea.
Too little vitamin C can lead to signs and symptoms of deficiency, including:
A severe form of vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy, which mainly affects older, malnourished adults.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamins reflects how much of each vitamin most people should get each day. The RDA for vitamins may be used as goals for each person.
How much of each vitamin you need depends on your age and gender. Other factors, such as pregnancy and illnesses, are also important.
The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins, including vitamin C, is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods.
Dietary Reference Intakes for vitamin C:
0 - 6 months: 40* milligrams/day (mg/day)
7 - 12 months: 50* mg/day
*Adequate Intake (AI)
1 - 3 years: 15 mg/day
4 - 8 years: 25 mg/day
9 - 13 years: 45 mg/day
Girls 14 - 18 years: 65 mg/day
Boys 14 - 18 years: 75 mg/day
Men age 19 and older: 90 mg/day
Women age 19 year and older: 75 mg/day
Smokers or those who are around secondhand smoke at any age should increase their daily amount of vitamin C an additional 35 mg per day.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and those who smoke need higher amounts of vitamin C. Ask your doctor what amount is best for you.
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Sarubin Fragaakis A, Thomson C. The Health Professional's Guide to Popular Dietary Supplements. 3rd ed. Chicago, Il: American Dietetic Association; 2007.
Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2000.
Douglas RM, Hemila H, Chalker E, Treacy B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev; 2007(3):CD000980.
A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, Nutritionist, University of Washington Medical Center Diabetes Care Center, Seattle, Washington (2/15/2011).