Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, works in so many ways to improve the functioning of bodily systems and enhance the quality of your health. It plays a role in protein metabolism, collagen production, and immune health, but it is also very important to the cardiovascular system. Not getting enough of this nutrient in your diet can even be dangerous and lead to connective tissue weakness and fatigue, also known as scurvy.

Recent epidemiological studies have been testing Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, to prove a correlation between that and heart health, and what they found was impressive.

1. Role of Vitamin C in the Cardiovascular System 

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Before advanced studies were conducted concerning the role of vitamin C to the cardiovascular system, it was understood that it at the very least reduced the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis. Due to the inherent antioxidant quality found in fruits and vegetables high in this vitamin, the study found a reduction in oxidative stress, which is a major contributor to heart disease. This antioxidant prevents oxidation of LDL-protein, a lipoprotein that raises bad cholesterol levels and can be incorporated into plaque.

Consuming foods with elevated levels of antioxidants from any source will help protect your body from cellular damage, but much more can be said for that of vitamin C. It has been shown to reduce apoptosis, which stops plaque instability, and lowers the risk of white blood cells, or monocytes, from attaching to the endothelium and producing atherosclerosis lesions. Vitamin C was also found to lower blood pressure by reducing the dilation of blood vessels, referred to as vasodilation.

When taking in the recommended doses of vitamin C, about 75-90 mg per day, as well as maintaining a balanced, plant-based diet, you can significantly lower your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases!

2. Highest Sources of Vitamin C

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Because our bodies do not naturally produce vitamin C endogenously, it is very important that we consume it dietarily. This nutrient is also water-soluble, meaning our bodies do not store it, which is why we must regularly ingest it.

Fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C are:

  1. Strawberries contain 49 mg of vitamin C in just 1/2 cup meeting 82% of your Daily Value. Antioxidants like ellagic acid found in strawberries can also improve blood flow by relaxing blood vessels.
  2. Citrus Fruits, including grapefruit, lemons, limes, and oranges, are the pinnacle of vitamin C. Of all the citrus fruits, oranges contain the most with 70 mg per medium-sized orange.
  3. Acerola Cherries are different from the rest because they possess the complete vitamin C complex and have a whopping 1,600 mg per 100 g. Because this fruit is so high in vitamin C, it is recommended to not supplement with additional vitamin C when consuming it.
  4. Kiwifruit meets the daily requirement of vitamin C with just one serving! They also can reduce inflammation that can lead to heart disease because of their antioxidant quality.
  5. Bell Peppers surprisingly has 60 mg of vitamin C in a 1/2 cup serving size.
  6. Melons are absolutely delicious and hydrating and also are an excellent source of antioxidant, vitamin C. One cup of cantaloupe has 58 mg and 96% of your DV.
  7. Guava sometimes referred to as a super-fruit, has more vitamin C than oranges, exceeding your DV by 628%!
  8. Brussel Sprouts are another vegetable that you probably would not consider being rich in vitamin C. In one 1/2 cup serving, you are meeting 80% of your DV!
  9. Dark Leafy Greens have a plethora of health benefits, but kale, in particular, has 32% of your DV per cup, so bulk up on nutrients with a dense leafy green salad!
  10. Broccoli has 135% of your DV per cup!
  11. Papayas have 88 mg of vitamin C per serving, with other tropical fruits like mango and pineapple ranking close behind.
  12. Cauliflower, another cruciferous vegetable on this list falls only slightly below broccoli with 94% of your daily dose of vitamin C.

3. How to Incorporate More Vitamin C into your Diet 

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie/One Green Planet

With summer approaching, fresh fruits and veggies bursting with Vitamin C are abundant. If you are a lover of fruit, getting your daily dose of vitamins probably comes naturally to you, but sometimes you need recipe inspiration.

For recipes packed with heart-healthy vitamin C, try this Raw 3-Ingredient Strawberry Sorbet, Breakfast Bowl with Oats, Pistachios, and Grapefruit, Arugula, Kiwi, and Fennel Salad, Watermelon Gazpacho with Beet Noodles, Hawaiian Papaya ‘Rawnola’ Bowl, or this Nutrient-Dense Broccoli, Peas, and Kale Soup!

Supplementing with Vitamin C may also be the right option for you! If you are looking for a vegan vitamin C supplement, Amazing Formulas and Source Naturals are great choices.

For more heart-healthy tricks like 10 Tips for the Heart-Healthiest Plant-based Diet, we recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

Lead Image Source: Peter Massas/Flickr