Nutrition for you: Vitamin C

Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle includes eating healthy, nutritious foods every day.

Eating nutritious foods helps to strengthen your immune system and keeps your body working at its’ peak performance. To achieve this healthy lifestyle, a variety of nutrients need to be consumed. One of these nutrients is vitamin C. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. Water soluble vitamins are not stored in your body. Since you can’t store vitamin C and your body isn’t able to make it, you need to eat or drink foods high in vitamin C every day to meet your body’s needs. Any excess amount of vitamin C is simply excreted through your urine. One of the earliest signs of a lack of vitamin C is bleeding gums.

How does vitamin C help you? Vitamin C is important for maintaining healthy tissue. It helps fight off infections, helps cuts and burns heal and is important for the absorption of iron. Vitamin C helps with the development of healthy teeth and gums. This important vitamin is also an antioxidant. What this means is that vitamin C helps fight off free radicals. Free radicals are random molecules that cause damage in the body including heart disease and cancers. You might think of these molecules as the aging of our bodies like the rust that builds up on old cars.

What should I eat for vitamin C? Vitamin C is found in almost all fruits and vegetables.

According to Medline Plus, fruits with the highest levels of vitamin C include:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Citrus fruits and juices, such as orange and grapefruit
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries
  • Watermelon

Vegetables with the highest sources of vitamin C include:

  • Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
  • Green and red peppers
  • Spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens
  • Sweet and white potatoes
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Winter squash

Vitamin C is destroyed by high heat so for most of the time, eat your vegetables and fruits raw. If you do cook them, use as little water as possible and cook for the shortest amount of time. Steaming and cooking in a microwave are the best cooking methods for preserving some vitamin C.

For a healthy lifestyle, ask yourself each day, “Have I had a good source of vitamin C?”

For more information about healthy lifestyles including nutrition and physical activity, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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