Vitamin C: Does Heat Destroy Its Health Benefits?

Are you destroying vitamin C when you cook your food? Find out what you can do to preserve it.

Humans and guinea pigs are two animals that can’t produce their own vitamin C – which means both needs to get it from dietary sources. Why is it so important? Vitamin C is critical for three major functions in the human body. It’s involved in the synthesis of collagen – the protein that gives skin, cartilage, ligaments, and bone its structure. It also helps the immune system function properly and acts as an antioxidant to help prevent cellular damage. Few people realize that vitamin C also helps with the absorption of iron from the digestive tract.

The RDA for vitamin C is seventy-five milligrams per day – which is the minimum most people need for good health. Many people get their vitamin C quota from fruits such as oranges, while others get it from cooked vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and collard greens – which are all excellent sources of this vitamin. How about the cooking process? Does heat destroy vitamin C?

Does Heat Destroy Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is one of the most fragile and easily destroyed vitamins. It’s so sensitive to heat that cooking a vitamin C rich food for as little as ten minute wipes out up to half of its vitamin C potency. Even sautéing briefly causes the loss of significant amounts of vitamin C. Plus, when foods are cooked in water, vitamin C leeches out into the water – along with its benefits.

Other Factors that Destroy Vitamin C

Not only is vitamin C destroyed by heating or cooking it’s also sensitive to light, so vitamin C supplements should always be kept in a dark bottle. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, but when they’re stored for prolonged periods of time, they lose it – although the skin of the potato is somewhat protective until it’s cut with a knife. One way to avoid loss of vitamin C when cooking a potato is to leave the skin on during the cooking process. Vegetables also lose vitamin C if they’re allowed to set around on the counter for days before preparing them.

How to Reduce Loss of Vitamin C

When preparing vegetables, cook them at a low heat for a short period of time and use as little water as possible to preserve more vitamin C. Avoid using cast iron pans. Fresh fruits should be stored with their skin intact in the refrigerator until they’re ready to be used, and should be eaten within forty-eight hours for maximal vitamin C. Fruits and uncooked vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C since they aren’t exposed to heat.

The Bottom Line?

If you’re destroying vitamin C by exposing your fruits and vegetables to too much heat and water, reduce the heat and water you’re using. Also, try diversifying your vitamin C sources by eating raw fruits with the skin still on such as kiwi and strawberries. Both are good sources of vitamin C. Oranges are an excellent source too, but keep them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cut and eat them.

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  1. Very very useful health info..

  2. as usual: Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

    Best regards,

  3. Hi

    I am very interested in the heat damage of foods but am struggling to find any scientific articles on the topic. Have you got any references for the vitamin C damage via heat etc.



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