What can vitamin C do for your health? Vitamin C is one of the safest and most effective nutrients. Higher blood levels of vitamin C may be the ideal nutrition marker for your overall health.

There has been a lot of research on the health benefits of vitamin C, and the data makes a strong case for including vitamin C food sources in your meal plan every day. For one, it appears that free-radicals-busting vitamin C may help protect against cancers of the esophagus, mouth, stomach, and pancreas. Studies have also linked high blood levels of vitamin C with reduced risks for cardiovascular disease. And while you may not be able to prevent a cold by upping your consumption of vitamin C, research shows that high intakes may boost the immune system’s ability to track down and fight viruses and bacteria, potentially lessening a cold’s duration and severity.

Great vitamin C food sources include fruits and veggies like papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, grapefruit, oranges, cantaloupe, kiwi and pineapple. While having citrus or cantaloupe at breakfast is an excellent head start toward filling your daily needs of this nutrient, those fruits are not your only option. Vitamin C–packed vegetables and cereals like peppers, broccoli and couscous help make lunch and dinner optimal times to reap its benefits.