Updated: Sep 29, 2020
Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrition therapies for stress and immune health. Whether you’re struggling with the stress of fires, politics, personal trauma or just want to make your immune system as strong as possible during the year of Covid-19, Vitamin C is helpful. Like all recommendations, Vitamin C won’t ‘treat’ covid-19, but it can help to strengthen your immune and stress system to better handle any sickness.
Luckily, right now the farmers market and produce aisles are brimming with freshly picked vitamin C and flavonoid foods. Interesting that Vitamin C is less available in the winter, when we usually need it as an immune booster.
Vitamin C occurs naturally in all fresh fruits and vegetables. As soon as the produce is picked and processed then vitamin C begins to degrade rapidly. For example, 6 fresh large strawberries (100 grams) have about 60 mg vitamin C when first picked. 5 days later the same strawberries that have been stored in the refrigerator have about 43 grams of vitamin C. If those strawberries were left out on the counter for 5 days they would have 7 grams of vitamin C even if they still look bright and beautiful enough to eat. (1)
Vitamin C occurs naturally along with flavonoids which are a group of beneficial plant compounds that help vitamin C to be more effective in smaller amounts. Flavonoids provide the color in strawberries, the strong flavor and smell of garlic and the texture of tea tannins. Conveniently, as vitamin C degrades over time the flavonoids often get stronger over time. Have you seen strawberries change to a deeper red as they sit on the counter for 5 days? You can chop garlic and then let it sit for 10 minutes while the antioxidant flavonoids intensify – you can smell this happening as the garlic aroma grows stronger.
How to enjoy more Vitamin C and flavonoids
Farmers markets are in full swing and even some grocery stores now buy freshly picked produce direct from the farmers. Here are some of the best August Vitamin C and flavonoid foods.
Strawberries – I recommend eating strawberries right out of the basket on the way home. If you’re generous enough to share them with your family – rinse well then pull out the stem with a church key can opener and leave them in a bowl for the family to enjoy. Or for a special occasion, slice strawberries and cover with fresh whipped cream and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Oranges and grapefruit – these are high in Vitamin C and the skin packaging helps to preserve the vitamin C. As soon as you cut or juice citrus, Vitamin C will begin to degrade. Citrus fruits store their flavonoids in the white pith between the skin and the fruit. You can chew on this flavonoid rich white pith for extra health benefits.
Tomatoes are fabulous right now. Again, I enjoy them warm from the vine and eaten right out of the basket. Fresh tomatoes are full of vitamin C that degrades quickly. The flavonoid in tomatoes is known as lycopene and concentrates with time and with cooking. If summer gifts you with too many tomatoes– cook them down and add oregano and salt. While cooking you’ll lose some of the Vitamin C, but you’re concentrating other health benefits and fresh tomato sauce is wonderful.
Broccoli is high in vitamin C and a variety of anti-cancer flavonoids. Cooking degrades some of the Vitamin C, but makes flavonoids more available. I like to cut up extra broccoli and place it in a pot with ¼ inch of water to steam just until it turns a bright green. After dinner, if I leave the leftovers in the fridge, easily accessible, my family will munch on them while I’m gone.
Snow peas are another great source of summer vitamin C. Rinse them, remove the stems and place them in a bowl on the table and they will disappear before dinner.
Red, yellow and orange bell peppers are high in Vitamin C and wonderful chopped up raw or sautéed into a stir-fry. Bell peppers are great fresh and raw or fresh and cooked. Green bell peppers are fine, but they’re unripe and don’t have as much vitamin C.