Beyond Orange Juice: How Much Vitamin C Do You Really Need (and What’s the Best Way to Eat It?)

updated Aug 6, 2020
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It’s been ingrained in me from a young age, thanks to having a doctor and a nurse as parents, that as soon as I feel a cold coming on it’s time to start chugging the orange juice. With all of us trying to stay our healthiest during these uncertain times, it certainly makes sense to think about boosting your citrus intake in an attempt to get more immune-boosting vitamin C in your system. However, as a Registered Dietitian, I’ve learned that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to this popular vitamin.

Here’s what you need to know with regards to how much you need, if it’s even worth loading up on, and the best ways to get it.

How Much Vitamin C Do You Really Need?

The recommended daily amount of vitamin C varies depending on age and gender. The average male adult needs 90 milligrams a day while the average female adult needs 75 milligrams. Pregnant and lactating women have different need: 85 milligrams and 120 milligrams respectively. Kids generally need less vitamin C than adults but that amount ranges from 15 to 75 milligrams depending on what stage of life they’re in.

What’s the Best Way to Get Vitamin C?

There are plenty of vitamin C supplements that supply 1000 milligrams or more in a single pill. But while it usually isn’t harmful to go so far above and beyond your actual daily needs, it also isn’t necessarily beneficial. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means your body takes however much it needs and the rest leaves your body when you head to the bathroom.

It’s quite easy to get your fill through fruits and vegetables you likely already have in the kitchen. So skip the pill and eat your Vitamin C instead.

Does Vitamin C Really Help Prevent Sickness?

Vitamin C is important for so many things: Bone health, skin and tissue formation, immune function, and iron absorption are just a few. It’s been touted as a natural remedy for illnesses such as the common cold and flu; unfortunately studies have shown that it doesn’t really help prevent you from getting sick. However, there’s still good reason to make sure you’re getting your daily needs each daily, especially now: It can help lessen symptoms and have you feeling better sooner.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5 Surprising Ways to Eat Enough Vitamin C

Sure, swigging back a glass of orange juice in the morning is the most obvious way to get a good dose of vitamin C but that’s hardly the only way. Fresh citrus and citrus juice are the most popular sources of vitamin C but here are five more great ones you may not have thought of.

Bell Peppers: Sweet peppers deserve just as much attention as citrus, if not more: They actually contain more vitamin C than your average orange or grapefruit! 1/2 cup of red bell pepper contains 106% of your daily needs while 3/4 cup of orange juice contains 103% and a medium orange contains 78%. Opt for red, orange, or yellow bell peppers versus green as they are a richer source of the vitamin, though green does contain a fair amount, too.

Broccoli: You’ll get 57% of your daily needs from 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli. If you like to crunch on raw broccoli as a snack or in salads, you’ll get even more vitamin C, as you do loose a little during the cooking process. Either way, the cruciferous vegetable is a great source of the nutrient.

Cantaloupe: If you’re tired of eating an orange every morning in an attempt to get your vitamin C, consider cantaloupe. 1/2 cup of melon contains 32% of your daily needs. Plus an uncut cantaloupe lasts a full week or more in the fridge. You can even freeze chunks — which keep for months — to toss into smoothies.

Cabbage: Whether you prefer cabbage shredded in slaws or cooked, it provides a surprising amount of vitamin C. You’ll get about 31% of your daily needs from 1/2 cup of cooked cabbage and even more from raw cabbage. It’s also another variety of produce that keeps well in the fridge for weeks and even months.

Tomatoes: It doesn’t matter if you’re eating fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, or even sun dried tomatoes — they all contain vitamin C. The amount they contain varies by item but you’ll get anywhere from about 15 to 40% of your daily needs.

7 Easy Vitamin C-Filled Recipes