7 Best Vitamin C Foods to Eat During Cold and Flu Season

If you're looking to get more vitamin C in your diet, you might consider turning to supplements or sour powders. But if you'd like a more enjoyable way to get your C, there are many foods — besides oranges — that contain a solid dose of this vital antioxidant.

Combine kale and citrus for a double punch of vitamin C. Credit: bhofack2/iStock/GettyImages

Since your body doesn't produce its own vitamin C, formally known as ascorbic acid, it's essential to consume it in your daily diet. Vitamin C helps the body build muscles and blood vessels, repair and maintain cartilage as well as make collagen. It also aids in wound healing and helps the body absorb iron, according to MedlinePlus. There's also evidence that vitamin C can, in some cases, reduce the severity of the common cold, according to a January 2013 analysis in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for women. Women who are pregnant should bump that up to 85 milligrams and women who are breastfeeding, up to 120 milligrams. Those who smoke should get even more, an additional 35 milligrams daily.

Because vitamin C is water-soluble, it's hard to overdose on the nutrient since you'll simply urinate out any excess. However, taking more than 2,000 milligrams a day can cause diarrhea or an upset stomach.

Read more: Fresh vs. Frozen Produce: Which Is Healthier?

While oranges tend to be the popular go-to fruit for vitamin C — one small fruit contains 51 milligrams — there are actually a number of fruits and veggies that contain even more vitamin C. Next time you go grocery shopping, make sure you're passing these foods in the produce aisle.

Citrus Fruits

The juicy fruits in this group serve up substantial amounts of ascorbic acid. A half of a pink grapefruit offers about 38 milligrams of vitamin C, so try pairing your morning bowl of oatmeal with a side of the tart fruit. If you're in the mood for a sweet snack, go for a clementine, which packs in 36 milligrams of this vitamin. Even making your own spa water can add C to your diet: squeezing the juice from one lemon into a pitcher of water will make for a super refreshing sip, not to mention, get you 34 percent closer to your daily C goal.

Kale

There are numerous reasons why this leafy green became a health trend, one of them being its vitamin C content. Just one cup of the raw veggie boasts 21 percent of your DV for vitamin C. If you plan to sautée it, a one-cup serving will deliver 59 percent of your DV. If you find yourself craving a kale salad (and yes, it does happen!), top it off with some extra-virgin olive oil, as the veggie is also packed with fat-soluble vitamins that need healthy fats for your body to better absorb them.

Acai Berries

Touted as a superfruit, acai berries are chock-full of antioxidants and fiber. The juice contains 112 milligrams of vitamin C per 8-ounce cup. "That's about twice the amount of vitamin C found in a small orange," Katherine Brooking, RD and co-founder of Appetite for Health, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

"They have an earthy taste that's often described as a cross between blackberries and unsweetened chocolate," Brooking says. However, fresh acai berries have a short shelf life and aren't available outside of where they are grown, Brooking says, which is why they're sold as either a frozen fruit purée, dried powder or pressed juice. Try adding the powder or purée to your own smoothies at home.

Potatoes

Who says all white foods should be avoided? One large baked potato with skin contains 28.7 milligrams of vitamin C. Keep in mind that the method of cooking plays a role in this root vegetable's nutritional value, as well. A May 2013 review published in the journal Advances in Nutrition found that a potato — which is a member of the nightshade family — that is either baked or microwaved is packed with approximately twice the amount of ascorbic acid compared to a fried or boiled potato.

Read more: Why Potatoes With More Color Are Healthiest

Kiwis

Kiwis are readily available, and this bright green, tangy-yet-sweet fruit is packed with vitamin C — 138 milligrams per two fruits. In addition to their high vitamin C content, kiwis may have other health benefits.

In fact, this fruit can help improve digestion in both healthy individuals as well as those suffering from constipation and/or other gastrointestinal disorders, per a December 2018 review published in the European Journal of Nutrition. The study authors also discovered that kiwifruit is associated with improving metabolic markers in people with diabetes and heart disease.

Brussels Sprouts

This leafy cruciferous vegetable, which belongs to the same family as cabbage and broccoli, contains 72 milligrams per one-cup serving. Even better, an April 2018 study discovered an association between Brussels sprouts (as well as other members from the cruciferous group) and a reduction of common side effects of breast cancer treatment — including hot flashes and night sweats — in breast cancer survivors, per the Breast Cancer Research and Treatment research.

Bell Peppers

Even though these crispy veggies that can be enjoyed raw or cooked appear last on this list, bell peppers provide a whopping 77.6 milligrams of vitamin C per a 3.5-ounce serving — about 26 milligrams more than an orange! Also, the bioactive compounds and antioxidants in these peppers can protect cells from oxidative damage, which in turn are linked to boosting the body's ability to ward off numerous degenerative diseases, such as cancer, heart diseases, cataracts, diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, according to a June 2015 study published in the journal Antioxidants.

Read more: Are You Eating the Daily Recommended Amount of Fruits and Vegetables?

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