Recently, our Dietetics and Nutrition department was featured at the Springfield Clinic sponsored Illinois Products Farmers’ Market. Our topic was “Vitamin C at the Market” and my goal was to help educate Market-goers on foods that are nutritionally dense in Vitamin C.
Juice is one of the first things that come to most people’s minds when they think of Vitamin C. You want to get rid of a cold faster? Drink some orange juice. How do you increase Vitamin C with breakfast? Drink some orange juice.
These old nutrition practices have been around for decades. The reality of the matter is that juice is no different than soda once it’s consumed. It is processed the exact same way in the body. Liquid sugar (juice) is one of the most rapidly digested food sources and quickly converts to glucose and enters the blood stream. So, the technical term for juice we should be using is “soda with a squirt of Vitamin C”.
Not only can we derive the same amount (or even more) Vitamin C from whole foods compared to juice, we gain greater benefits from their consumption. Whole foods provide us the benefit of fiber (something juice certainly does not have)! Fiber aids in digestion, helps control blood sugar levels and keeps you fuller longer. Juice is often overloaded with one particular vitamin or mineral. Whole foods contain a plethora of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and the synergistic consumption of all these nutrients has been found to have a higher absorption rate compared to large doses of one single vitamin or mineral.
Here are some additional sources of Vitamin C found in natural foods. The top 5 food sources are (and listed in order of Vitamin C content):
- Red Bell Peppers. Enjoy them all year round. Add them to salads, omelets, sautéed with onions, zucchini and mushrooms or string them on a kabob.
- Kiwi. Simply cut a kiwi in half and scoop out the middle with a spoon. They are great on their own or can be blended in a smoothie, added to Greek yogurt or mixed with strawberries and other fruit for a nutritious fruit salsa.
- Strawberries. Best consumed in the summer time when they are in season!
- Oranges. Opt for citrus fruits like oranges in the winter months when other fruits aren’t in season in the US.
- Broccoli. A nutritional powerhouse full of fiber, folate, Vitamin K and antioxidants.
Vitamin C has many functions in the body. It is an antioxidant that strengthens the body’s immune system, aids in collagen formation as well as wound healing and helps improve the absorption of iron. The latter is especially important for those who are anemic. A great tip to enhance absorption of iron found in spinach is to consume it with red bell peppers, tomatoes or strawberries. I know summertime screams strawberry spinach salads in our household!