You probably know about oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes. But berries rock too -- strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries. Papaya, kiwi, pineapple, cantaloupe, plums, and watermelon are good sources. Even bananas, apples, and pears have some.
Eat them fresh and raw. Vitamin C breaks down over time when it's heated.
Think green. Bell peppers are your big C winners. Load up on leafy greens too -- kale, Swiss chard, collards, plus cabbage, and bok choy. Crunch into broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Don't forget tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.
If you really have to cook your veggies, stick with steaming or microwaving. These methods tend to keep more of the vitamin's benefits.
Vitamin C can help other nutrients work better. Put red peppers in your spinach salad. Slip some broccoli in your baked beans. Pair up strawberries with your oatmeal.
Your immune system does need vitamin C to work right. But extra won't help you avoid a cold. It may make it go away faster or not feel as bad -- if you were taking it before you got sick.
Vitamin C helps you get rid of chemicals causing damage inside your body. It helps offset the effects of pollution, cigarette smoke, sunlight, radiation, and even helps turn food into energy. That could help keep things working better for longer and protect you from diseases, including Alzheimer's and cancer.
Your body needs vitamin C to help it make bones, cartilage, skin and muscles (including your heart), ligaments, tendons and blood vessels. Vitamin C is important for new skin and scar tissue when you get cut and to keep you from getting wrinkles.
You need vitamin C to help carry signals from your brain all over your body. These affect your mood, memory, motivation, and how you feel pain.
The vitamin A in carrots isn't the only thing that's good for your eyes. Vitamin C might slow age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but it won't prevent the disease. C may also cut your risk of cataracts.
Very high doses, especially through an IV, may slow the growth and spread of cancer cells. In some case it can help chemotherapy and radiation work better. It may help you feel better and have fewer side effects, too. But be careful. It can also make treatments less effective. Check with your doctor to see if it makes sense for you.
When you smoke, you'll have lower levels of vitamin C in your body. Try to get a little extra every day to make up for it.
People who are around smokers are also affected and could use more vitamin C, too.
Most people who eat a variety of vegetables and fruits daily get more than enough vitamin C from their diet.
If you want to take a supplement, look for the inexpensive ascorbic acid form. Check with your doctor about how much is right for you.
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- Harvard School of Public Health: "Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype."
- Journal of the American Medical Association: "Ascorbic Acid Supplements and Kidney Stone Incidence Among Men: A Prospective Study."
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Vitamin C and Skin Health," "Vitamin C: Summary."
- Mayo Clinic: "Cold remedies: What works, what doesn't, what can't hurt," "Is it possible to take too much Vitamin C?"
- National Cancer Institute: "High-Dose Vitamin C (PDQ) – Patient Version."
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- World's Healthiest Foods: "Vitamin C."