You were likely told as a child that eating oranges is a great way to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin C-rich foods to support your immune system. While oranges are loaded with a whopping 51mg of vitamin C in one small orange, citrus fruits are rich in histamines and can cause a reaction in some people. I’ll talk more about that later.
Now more than ever, it’s essential to support your immune system, and vitamin C tops the list of nutrients your body needs. Vitamin C-rich foods not only facilitates a healthy immune system response, they also promote healthy eyes and skin as well as support heart health.
Getting enough vitamin C from vitamin c-rich foods can be a challenge because your body cannot store it for use later. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning your body uses what it needs and eliminates any excess through your urine.1 The other issue is your body only absorbs 12% to 14% of vitamin C you consume. If you’re following an AIP diet, it can be even more of a challenge to get enough vitamin C as you limit specific types of foods.
The good news is that there are many other vitamin C-rich foods you can enjoy. I will tell you about vitamin C-rich foods you can enjoy while following an autoimmune protocol diet (AIP), why you need vitamin C and my best kept secret to ensure you are getting maximum absorption of this essential vitamin.
Why is Vitamin C So Important?
Vitamin C, also called L-ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant that plays a vital role in maintaining optimal health. In fact, it is critical for the development, growth, and repair of all your body’s tissues.
The daily recommended value of vitamin C is 65 to 90 mg.2 However, you should get 500mg of vitamin C each day to receive the optimal benefits of this essential nutrient.3 Keep in mind that RDVs are different from optimal levels. I’ll go more into that later. Let’s take a look at the benefits of vitamin C.
1. Vitamin C an Antioxidant
Vitamin C works as an antioxidant by blocking damaging free radicals that come from toxins, fried foods and alcohol. Free radicals are created as part of a chemical reaction in our bodies that happens due to oxidative stress.4
Not all free radicals are bad. In fact, free radicals serve important functions such as healing wounds, detoxification, and supporting the heart when it’s under stress. However, too much of a good thing is bad. Large amounts of free radicals can lead to serious health conditions such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis, as well as premature aging.5
Eating enough vitamin C-rich foods can support a healthy inflammatory response and fight free radicals.6
2. Vitamin C Boosts Collagen Production
Collagen is the glue that holds your body together. Our bodies produce collagen on their own. However, starting at about age 35, collagen production naturally begins to slow. By age 40, collagen begins to deplete faster than your body can reproduce it, and by age 60, over ½ of your body’s collagen has been depleted.7
Did you know that vitamin C plays an important role in collagen production? In fact, your body cannot make collagen without it! Vitamin C is a cofactor for essential enzymes that promote a stable collagen triple-helix structure.8 Taking a collagen supplement along with eating vitamin C-rich foods can provide optimal benefit of this protein.
3. Vitamin C Supports Eye Health
You might have noticed that your vision is starting to get worse as you get older. That’s not your imagination. It even happened to me! Age-related macular degeneration is very common and is the leading cause of vision loss in people 50 or older.9 This occurs because the macula, which is a part of your retina, gets damaged.
In some studies, vitamin C slowed the progression of age-related macular degeneration and delayed the progress of cataracts.10
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for optimal health, however if you have an autoimmune disease it can be difficult to get enough of it from vitamin C-rich foods on an AIP diet. Let’s talk about an AIP diet and why it’s necessary if you have autoimmune disease.
What is an AIP Diet?
The autoimmune protocol, sometimes called an autoimmune diet or AIP diet, is designed to help reduce the pain and inflammation that comes with being on the autoimmune spectrum. In functional medicine, we use diet and supplementation to get to the root cause of your symptoms.
If you have autoimmune disease inflammatory foods such as gluten and dairy can make your symptoms worse. Some people with autoimmune disease also have sensitivities to toxic foods such as processed sugars, caffeine, nightshade vegetables, and citrus fruits! The autoimmune diet eliminates toxic and inflammatory foods and replaces them with foods rich in essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C-rich foods.
Following an AIP diet can help heal your leaky gut, reduce inflammation, and move you back down the autoimmune spectrum. However, even if a food is a vitamin C-rich food, it can cause your symptoms to worsen. Let’s talk about which vitamin C-rich foods you should avoid and which vitamin C-rich foods you can enjoy to support optimal levels of this essential vitamin.
Vitamin C-Rich Foods to Avoid on an AIP Diet
Believe it or not, some common vitamin C-rich foods are not as good for you as you might think. Especially if you are following an AIP diet. Here’s a list of Vitamin C-rich foods to avoid.
1. Citrus Fruits
As I mentioned earlier, citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C. However, they are also loaded with histamines. These chemicals cause an immediate immune system response. It serves as a red flag to your immune system to warn it of potential attackers. If you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system cannot tell the difference between healthy cells and foreign invaders.
While oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, tangerines and mandarins are considered vitamin C-rich foods, they can be a problem if you have a sensitivity to them. I recommend an elimination diet if you have unexplained symptoms such as brain fog or digestive issues as a food sensitivity may be the root cause. If you have completed an elimination diet, you can reintroduce citrus fruits only if you are able to tolerate them.
NIghtshades are also vitamin C-rich foods that can make your symptoms worse if you have autoimmune disease. Tomatoes, all forms of peppers, eggplant, and white potatoes are all in the nightshade family. Nightshades, including vitamin C-rich tomatoes and peppers, contain alkaloids that contribute to inflammation and are not well tolerated by those with autoimmunity. Furthermore, tomatoes are also rich in histamines. Just like with citrus fruits, do an elimination diet and reintroduce nightshades if you can tolerate them.
3. Non-Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruit and nightshades aren’t the only vitamin C-rich foods that are full of histamines. Strawberries and pineapple, while vitamin C-rich foods, also should be avoided if you have autoimmune disease. If you have histamine intolerance, your body cannot break these chemicals down. These foods can also be reintroduced to your diet if you have followed an elimination diet and they don’t cause symptoms.
If you cannot tolerate histamines or have symptoms after eating these foods, don’t worry! I’m about to tell you about some great vitamin C-rich foods that you can substitute to ensure you’re getting vitamin C while following an AIP diet!
Vitamin C-Rich Foods to Enjoy on an AIP Diet
Here a list of vitamin C-rich foods you can enjoy on an AIP diet that won’t make your autoimmune symptoms worse:
1. Avocados (18 mg/medium avocado)
Avocados actually help lower cholesterol, with their powerful punch of healthy fats, while supplying plenty of heart-healthy vitamin C, monounsaturated fatty acids, and fiber. They are also a great source of potassium, which supports your nervous system and promotes healthy muscles.11
2. Blueberries (9 mg/cup)
Blueberries are packed with vitamin C and also serve as a powerful antioxidant that limits the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are a type of protein that makes autoimmune disease worse.12 Eating blueberries can also lower your risk for heart disease and cancer, and their anti-inflammatory benefits extend to warding off other chronic conditions caused by systemic inflammation.13
Phytonutrients known as anthocyanins give blueberries their characteristic hue, so when buying blueberries, the darker the better!
3. Broccoli (81.2 mg/cup)
Broccoli is a great vitamin C-rich food. Some people have a sensitivity to the goitrogenic compounds in raw broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. Goitrogens can lead to gas and bloating and impact your thyroid health. In this case, it’s better to cook your broccoli rather than eat it raw.
4. Brussels Sprouts (74.8 mg/cup)
This vitamin C-rich food also contains high amounts of folate, vitamin K, vitamin A, fiber, and potassium. Vitamin K supports your cardiovascular system and the absorption of vitamin D. Fiber supports your digestive health, while vitamin A facilitates a healthy immune system response and supports reproductive health.
5. Cauliflower (51.6 mg/cup)
This is another cruciferous vegetable that is a vitamin C-rich food. Cauliflower supports healthy weight loss and digestion. It also contains choline that is essential for learning and memory.14
6. Kale (130 mg/cup)
There’s a reason for the rise in kale’s popularity. This leafy green vegetable is one of the most vitamin C-rich foods you can find. It is packed with more vitamin C than other leafy greens. This powerhouse also has large amounts of vitamins A and K and plenty of minerals.
7. Kiwi (64 mg/cup)
The little kiwi not only packs in C, it also contains potassium and high amounts of zinc. In fact, this vitamin C-rich food has more potassium than a banana. Potassium is essential to prevent muscle cramps. Zinc is an important nutrient to support your immune system and boost your metabolism.
8. Mango (60.1 mg/medium mango)
In addition to being a vitamin C-rich food, mangoes contain enzymes that support digestion of protein. Mangos also contain large amounts of fiber.15
9. Spinach (28.1mg/cup)
Do you remember the Popeye cartoon? There’s a reason he was encouraging you to eat your spinach. This leafy green is the go-to powerhouse green vegetable. Aside from being a vitamin C-rich food, it contains optimal levels of zinc, antioxidants, iron, and protein.16
10. Watermelon (67 mg/cup)
Watermelon is a vitamin C-rich food that also contains high amounts of vitamin A and potassium. It is also full of water, which supports hydration. It’s the perfect summer treat!
Now that you know which vitamin C-rich foods you should be eating, I’m going to tell you why you should also supplement with Liposomal Vitamin C.
Why a Vitamin C Supplement is Critical for an AIP Diet
I talked briefly about how vitamin C isn’t fully absorbed by your body. Even if you eat vitamin C-rich foods for every meal, your body will only absorb 50% of a 200mg daily dose. While the recommended daily value (RDV) is 65 to 90 mg, I recommend getting 1,000 mg of vitamin C per day. Why do I recommend so much more? The RDV is a recommendation of how much you need to avoid disease, not for optimal health.
Another reason I recommend more is because modern farming practices have decreased the nutrient value in our produce. This is partly because the nutrients in the soil are being depleted and partly because modern hybrids are bred for size and fast growth, not nutrition.
Finally, the level of toxins in our water, air, and soil is increasing all the time. We need more vitamins and minerals than ever to boost our immune systems to resist these toxins.
So how do you get optimal levels of vitamin C? I’m going to tell you my best kept secret for how you can make sure you’re getting optimal levels of vitamin C with maximum absorption.
Liposomal Vitamin C for an AIP Diet
Some people find that traditional vitamin C supplements can be hard on their stomachs. The truth is, most oral vitamin C supplements on the market today do not work. They do not provide optimal amounts of this essential vitamin and your body only absorbs 50% of what your body gets each day. Even if you eat vitamin C-rich foods for every meal, you won’t be getting enough to support optimal health.
That’s why I personally formulated Liposomal Vitamin C. After decades of research, I knew there had to be a better way to get optimal levels of vitamin C and make sure it could be absorbed.
Liposomal Vitamin C contains 1,000 mg of vitamin C that is bound to beneficial fatty acids for maximum absorption and bioavailability. The absorption rate for Liposomal Vitamin C is 135% that of traditional vitamin C supplements. The vastly improved absorbability is because of Liposomal Vitamin C’s liquid form, which is then encapsulated into nanosized micelles. These micelles are further enveloped in liposomes (healthy fat cells) to allow it to travel through your digestive system.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for optimal health because of how it supports your immune system, eye health, and boosts your collagen production for healthy hair, skin, and nails. I follow an AIP diet and have a tablespoon of Liposomal Vitamin C every day. I absolutely love it because it tastes just like an orange popsicle!
- 15 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency. Erica Julson, MS, RDN, CLT. Healthline. 2018.
- 7 Impressive Ways Vitamin C Benefits Your Body. Ryan Raman, MS, RD . Healthline. 2020.
- Vitamin C: optimal dosages, supplementation and use in disease prevention. Callen Pacier and Danik M. Martirosyan. Functional Foods in Health and Disease. 2015.
- What Are Free Radicals?. Jessie Szalay. Live Science. 2016.
- How do free radicals affect the body?. Zawn Villines . Medical News Today. 2017.
- Influence of Vitamin C Supplementation on Oxidative Stress and Neutrophil Inflammatory Response in Acute and Regular Exercise. Ljiljana M. Popovic. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2015.
- Decreased Collagen Production in Chronologically Aged Skin. Jessie Szalay. The American Journal of Pathology Vol. 168. 2006.
- Efficacy of Vitamin C Supplementation on Collagen Synthesis and Oxidative Stress After Musculoskeletal Injuries: A Systematic Review. Zawn Villines . The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 6,10. 2018.
- What Is Macular Degeneration?. Kierstan Boyd. American Academy of Ophthalmology . 2021.
- Diet and Nutrition. American Optomeric Association. 2021.
- Why is avocado good for you?. Megan Ware, RDN, L.D. . Medical News Today. 2017.
- Proinflammatory cytokines. C A Dinarello. Chest Vol. 118. 2000.
- Superfoods' Everyone Needs. Susan Seliger. WebMD. 2007.
- Everything you need to know about cauliflower. Megan Ware, RDN, L.D.. Medical News Today. 2017.
- 8 Incredible Benefits of Mangoes, The King of Fruits. Sushmita Sengupta. NDTV Food. 2018.
- Spinach: Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts (& Popeye). Jessie Szalay. Live Science. 2015.