You may take vitamin C for granted—it’s one of those ho-hum nutrients most of us forget about unless it’s winter, and you’re battling a cold. But this crucial antioxidant plays a profound, year-round role in our health. Some of its most important benefits:
Strong, healthy joints
Vitamin C regulates the synthesis of the structural protein collagen, involved in building joint cartilage—especially important during summer when hiking, biking, running, and other activities can take a toll on joints. Studies also suggest that vitamin C improves healing of soft tissue and tendon injuries.
The role of vitamin C in collagen production, plus its powerful antioxidant benefits, makes it essential for healthy, youthful skin. Studies show that vitamin C helps diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, protects skin from free-radical damage, and promotes faster wound healing.
Your immune system can use some insurance before a summer vacation. Vitamin C supports several components of the immune system, and studies link deficiencies with impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections. Plus, if you do get sick on your summer trip, vitamin C can ease symptoms and shorten the duration of colds and respiratory tract infections.
A healthy heart
Summer heat, humidity, and exercise put stress on your heart—keep yours strong with vitamin C. It’s linked with healthy cholesterol levels and improved blood vessel health, and many studies show that a high intake of vitamin C can reduce the risk of—and death from—heart disease.
Vitamin C supports the health of blood vessels in the eye and protects against UV damage—especially important when you’re spending more time in the sun. Additionally, studies suggest that vitamin C lowers the risk of developing cataracts and, when taken with other essential nutrients, slows the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and loss of visual acuity.
Sounds pretty important, right? Lucky for us, some of summer’s freshest foods are packed with this powerful nutrient. Here are eight of the best (all DVs are based on January 2020 updated recommendations of 90mg for adults):
* One cup, cubed = 87 mg
* DV: 97 percent
Recipe Tips: Sprinkle cold papaya wedges with chili powder and fresh lime juice; toss papaya cubes with blackberries, baby arugula, olive oil, and crumbled feta cheese; purée papaya with pineapple cubes and coconut milk for a tropical smoothie.
Related: Raspberry-Papaya Oat Breakfast Bowl
2. Yellow peppers
* One cup, chopped = 274 mg
* DV: 304 percent
Recipe Tips: Sauté yellow peppers, leeks, and garlic, then purée with fresh basil for a colorful alternative to tomato sauce; grill halved yellow peppers then stuff with quinoa, black beans, chopped tomatoes, and avocado cubes; purée yellow peppers, yellow tomatoes, green onions, cucumber, and cilantro into a fresh, bright gazpacho.
* One cup, cooked = 101mg
* DV: 112 percent
Recipe Tips: Cut broccoli into thin spears, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder and cumin, and grill until tender; simmer broccoli florets and yellow onions in stock, then purée with coconut milk and chill for a creamy soup; toss small broccoli florets with baby spinach, shaved red cabbage, grated carrots, and chopped strawberries, and dress with a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette.
* One cup, cubed = 58mg
* DV: 64 percent
Recipe Tips: Purée cantaloupe cubes with fresh peaches and minced thyme and freeze in an ice cream maker; toss diced cantaloupe with minced serrano peppers, red bell peppers, red onion, cilantro, and lime juice for a zesty salsa; make a breakfast bowl with cantaloupe balls, blueberries, Greek yogurt, and low-sugar granola.
Related: Cantaloupe-Basil Sorbet
5. Kiwi fruit
* One medium = 64mg
* DV: 71 percent
Recipe Tips: Purée kiwi chunks and lime juice until smooth, add whole raspberries and freeze in Popsicle molds; toss kiwi slices with endive, blackberries and goat cheese, and dress with a lemon-basil vinaigrette; purée kiwi with frozen bananas, baby spinach, strawberries, and chia seeds for a fruity morning smoothie.
* One cup, sliced = 98mg
* DV: 109 percent
Recipe Tips: Toss strawberries with aged balsamic vinegar, minced basil, and coarsely ground black pepper, and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or mascarpone cheese; dip large strawberries in melted dark chocolate and crushed walnuts; purée strawberries with lemon juice, honey, ice cubes, and mint leaves for a refreshing, booze-free party beverage.
Related: No-Bake Strawberry-Pistachio Tart
7. Cherry tomatoes
* One cup = 19mg
* DV: 29 percent
Recipe Tips: Thread cherry tomatoes on rosemary sprig skewers and grill until tender; make Caprese salad with whole cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, olive oil, and fresh mozzarella cheese; coarsely chop cherry tomatoes and lightly sauté with diced yellow peppers, baby spinach, red onion, and minced thyme, and toss with pasta for a light, fresh alternative to pasta sauce.
* One cup, chopped = 80mg
* DV: 89 percent
Recipe Tips: Coat whole Tuscan kale leaves with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and grill until crispy; finely chop baby kale and toss with corn kernels, grilled zucchini, red onion, avocado cubes, and shredded Asiago cheese; combine kale, green peas, basil, pumpkin seeds, garlic, and olive oil in a blender and process into a creamy pesto.
Click here for the Grilled Pepper Salad with Black Beans & Avocado recipe.