To live a vibrantly healthy life, we must get enough vitamin A and vitamin C in our diets. Vitamin A ensures we have healthy teeth, bones and skin, while vitamin C protects us from colds, infections and free radical damage. According to World's Healthiest Foods, both vitamin A and vitamin C improve our iron absorption and help us avoid anemia. Vitamin C is also thought to help us fend off certain cancers.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in cartenoids, the pigments that create their bright colors. The colorful red, orange, yellow, purple and green of fruits and vegetables are all readily converted into vitamin A. Many vegetables far exceed the minimum recommended daily requirements of vitamin A. One cup of raw carrots has 686 percent of the daily value and one cup of spinach has 377 percent. Even a simple salad with 2 cups of Romaine lettuce has 67 percent of our daily requirement for vitamin A. A few pieces of fruit can also reach the daily values. A cup of cantaloupe cubes is worth a third of the requirement and one apricot is equal to almost 20 percent.
A lot of people drink orange juice for vitamin C. Many leafy greens and vegetables are full of vitamin C as well. Not everyone realizes that a cup of steamed broccoli provides 85 percent of our daily requirement. A half-cup of raw, red bell peppers will bring you 105 percent. Other foods that offer high doses of food-based vitamin C are cauliflower, Romaine lettuce, and Brussels sprouts. Among fruits, a cup of strawberries, papaya, kiwi, oranges and cantaloupe can give you more than a third of your vitamin C for the day.
Food harvesting and ripeness can make a difference in how much vitamin C is available to you. For some reason, vitamin A is largely unaffected by these variables, but vitamin C is easily lost. Fruits and vegetables have the most vitamin C when they are plucked young and allowed to age before eating. The riper they are, the more vitamin C they possess.
Vitamin C is so vulnerable that even minimal cooking can destroy it. Steaming causes a loss of about 25 percent. If you cook a fruit or vegetable for more than 10 minutes, you can eliminate more than 50 percent of its vitamin C content. By the time you reheat food, there is often very little vitamin C left. Freezing, then unthawing, creates the same problem. Keep this in mind, because the National Institutes of Health emphasizes that getting enough vitamin C every day is vital to healthy nutrition.
The Daily Values established by the FDA are 3000 IU for vitamin A and 60 mg for vitamin C. It is hard to know exactly how much is enough, since our nutritional needs vary. You may need 10 times more or less vitamin C than the person next to you. Vitamin A is easily assimilated, but since our bodies cannot make or store vitamin C, MedlinePlus recommends we make a point to eat foods that are high in vitamin C.