Animal-based food is not known as a rich source of vitamin C, however, it certainly contains enough vitamin C to protect you from scurvy.

This post provides an extensive list of sources of vitamin C on the carnivore diet and recommends the best sources of this essential nutrient.

Table of Contents

Vitamin C’s roles in the human body

Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is a natural water-soluble nutrient that plays many important functions in the human body. However, unlike many other animals, humans can’t make vitamin C endogenously and must obtain it from dietary sources. [1]

Vitamin C can be found in abundance in many plant-based foods such as oranges, lemons, berries, cherries, guavas, kiwis, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, and kale.

Animal-based foods like meat, organ meat, seafood, and dairy are generally not known as a source of vitamin C but they do contain a sufficient level of vitamin C to prevent vitamin C deficiency and scurvy.

Vitamin C plays many important roles in the functioning of the human body.

Vitamin C is required in the biosynthesis of collagen (an important protein used in making skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels), L-carnitine, and neuropeptides. [2, 3]

Vitamin C aids in the absorption of nonheme iron and is also needed in repairing and maintaining cartilage, bones, and teeth as well as being involved in all stages of wound healing. [4, 5, 6]

    Vitamin C protects the immune system and is widely known as a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals, the build-up of which can lead to premature aging and many other diseases. [7, 8]

    Vitamin C is an ingredient in many topical skin care products and there is some evidence supporting its effectiveness. [9]

    How much vitamin C do you need?

    The Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health currently recommends daily allowances (RDAs) for vitamin C as follows. [10] 

    14–18 years75 mg65 mg80 mg115 mg
    19+ years90 mg75 mg85 mg120 mg
    Smokers+35 mg/day+35 mg/day+35 mg/day+35 mg/day

    The above RDAs for adults are set “based on the vitamin C intake to maintain near-maximal neutrophil concentration with minimal urinary excretion of ascorbate” to provide antioxidant protection. [11]

    According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, depending on the level of vitamin C the body stores, signs of scurvy can appear within one month of a vitamin C intake below 10 mg/day. That means as little as 10 mg of vitamin C a day is sufficient to prevent scurvy. [12]

    Eating just muscle meat alone will give you enough vitamin C to prevent scurvy, but there are other animal-based foods that are relatively high in vitamin C (see in the section below) which will boost vitamin C intake a lot higher than the scurvy threshold.

    We don’t know exactly how much vitamin C people on the carnivore diet would need for optimal health but it is likely that they would need a lot less than those who are on a carb-rich diet.

    This is because vitamin C and glucose are known to compete for absorption. If you don’t eat carbs and processed sugar, you don’t need a lot of vitamin C because your body can absorb much better the little vitamin C that you consume. [13]

    Sources of vitamin C on the carnivore diet

    Below are the vitamin C contents of some animal-sourced foods divided into five food groups: ruminant, pork, poultry, seafood, and dairy.

    Note that different testing samples will give different results but these should give you a good indication of the vitamin C levels in these food groups.

    1. Ruminant

    Ruminant organs are a great source of vitamin C.

    Beef spleen seems to be the best source of vitamin C in this group.

    A 100-gram serving of cooked beef spleen would deliver 50.3 mg of vitamin C equivalent to around 84% of the average recommended daily intake. [14]

    In addition to being high in vitamin C, beef spleen is also very high in protein, iron, B12, copper, selenium, and phosphorous. [15]

    Pancreas, lungs, brains, and kidneys are all very high in vitamin C as well, however, unfortunately, many of those organ meats are usually not available at the butcher and you may have to place a special order to get them.

    Beef muscle has a much lower level of vitamin C compared to beef and lamb organ meat with just around 2 mg per 100-gram serving. [16]

    However, as mentioned above, just consuming muscle meat will give you enough vitamin C to prevent scurvy. Traditional groups subsisting on meat-based diets like the Arctic Inuit did not suffer from scurvy nor does the modern-day carnivore community. [17, 18]

    Per 100 gVitamin C (mg)
    Beef spleen (cooked, braised)               50.3
    Veal thymus               49.2
    Beef spleen               45.5
    Veal spleen               41.0
    Veal lungs               39.0
    Beef lung               38.5
    Beef lung (cooked, braised)               32.7
    Lamb lungs               31.0
    Lamb spleen               23.0
    Beef pancreas (cooked, braised)               20.3
    Lamb brain               16.0
    Veal pancreas               16.0
    Beef pancreas               13.7
    Lamb kidney               11.0
    Beef brain               10.7
    Beef brain (cooked, simmered)               10.5
    Beef kidney                 9.4
    Lamb heart                 5.0
    Lamb liver                 4.0
    Beef tongue                 3.1
    Grass-fed beef                 2.5
    Beef heart                 2.0
    Grain-fed beef                 1.6
    Beef liver                 1.3
    Sources: USDA nutrition data and Descalzo et al (2007)

    It’s interesting that some cooked organs have a higher level of vitamin C than raw organs. This is probably due to the release of the juice during the cooking process that results in a more nutrient-dense food, gram for gram.

    This also shows that, unlike what many people seem to believe (I used to as well), cooking appears to have little impact on the vitamin C content of food, at least in cooked meat. [19, 20]

    2. Pork

    Pork meat and organs are not as high in vitamin C as ruminant meat and organs but, similar to ruminants, pork organs are higher in vitamin C than pork muscle meat.

    Per 100 gVitamin C (mg)
    Pork spleen               28.5
    Pork liver               25.3
    Pork liver (cooked, braised)               23.6
    Pork brain (cooked, braised)               14.0
    Pork brain               13.5
    Pork kidney               13.3
    Pork lung               12.3
    Pork heart                 5.3
    Pork leg                 1.1
    Pork sirloin                 0.9
    Pork shoulder                 0.8
    Ground pork                 0.7
    Pork belly                 0.3
    Sources: USDA nutrition data

    3. Poultry

    As can be seen in the table below, poultry organs are not as high in vitamin C as ruminant organs.

    However, poultry meat (e.g. goose meat, quail meat, wild duck meat, chicken dark meat) has a higher level of vitamin C compared to ruminant muscle meat.

    Per 100 gVitamin C (mg)
    Chicken liver (cooked, simmered)               27.9
    Turkey liver               24.5
    Capon giblet               18.4
    Chicken liver               17.9
    Chicken giblet               16.2
    Chicken giblet               13.1
    Goose meat                 7.2
    Quail meat                 7.2
    Wild duck meat                 6.2
    Chicken dark meat                 4.6
    Chicken heart                 3.2
    Duck meat and skin                 2.8
    Chicken thigh                 2.3
    Lean chicken                 1.2
    Chicken wing                 0.7
    Sources: USDA nutrition data

    4. Seafood

    Some seafood contains a lot more vitamin C than ruminant, pork, and poultry muscle meat.

    For example, fish roe, clam, and crab have 16, 13, and 7 mg per 100-gram serving compared to just around 2mg per same serving of beef.

    Per 100 gVitamin C (mg)
    Clam (canned)               22.1
    Fish roe (cooked)               16.4
    Fish roe               16.0
    Clam               13.0
    Crab (cooked)                 7.6
    Crab                 7.0
    Octopus                 5.0
    Oyster                 4.7
    Atlantic salmon                 3.9
    Trout                 2.9
    Shrimp                 2.2
    Mackerel                 2.0
    Herring                 1.0
    Mackerel                 0.4
    Sources: USDA nutrition data

    5. Dairy

    Dairy has very little vitamin C.

    Raw milk that was expressed from the cow’s udder without any exposure to light has about 2mg per 100 ml of milk. [21]

    Pasteurized milk and reconstituted milk have a lot less vitamin C (0.6mg/100ml) and vitamin C appears to be nonexistent in cheese products. [22, 23]

    Although the vitamin C level is low in cow’s milk, it is sufficient for a developing calf.

    Babies fed pasteurized cow’s milk get about 7mg of vitamin C a day and this extremely small amount is enough to protect them from scurvy. [24]

    There is also very little vitamin C in the breast milk of lactating mothers and breastfed babies are estimated to get from only around 4 to 34 mg daily but this amount is already sufficient to prevent scurvy in babies. [25]

    Per 100 milVitamin C (mg)
    Raw milk                  2.2
    Reconstituted whole milk from powder                 1.3
    Pasteurized milk                  0.6
    Reconstituted evaporated milk                 0.2
    Source: Kon and Watson (1937) and Stewart and Sharp (1946)

    Also, note that dehydroascorbic acid (an oxidized form of ascorbic acid) in milk has been found to have neuroprotective effects thanks to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier which does not exist in ascorbic acid. [26]

    Below are 30 top sources of vitamin C on the carnivore diet based on the data that I have collected.

    RankPer 100gVitamin C (mg)
    1Veal thymus               49.2
    2Beef spleen               45.5
    3Veal spleen               41.0
    4Veal lungs               39.0
    5Beef lungs               38.5
    6Lamb lungs               31.0
    7Pork spleen               28.5
    8Pork liver               25.3
    9Turkey liver               24.5
    10Lamb spleen               23.0
    11Capon giblet               18.4
    12Chicken liver               17.9
    13Chicken giblet               16.2
    14Lamb brain               16.0
    15Veal pancreas               16.0
    16Fish roe               16.0
    17Beef pancreas               13.7
    18Pork brain               13.5
    19Pork kidney               13.3
    20Chicken giblet               13.1
    21Clam               13.0
    22Pork lung           12.3
    23Lamb kidney 11.0
    24Beef brain10.7
    25Beef kidney9.4
    26Goose meat7.2
    27Quail meat7.2
    29Wild duck meat6.2
    30Pork heart5.3

    The best sources of vitamin C on the carnivore diet are ruminant organs, followed by pork and poultry organs. Some seafood like fish roe, clam, and crab is also a good source of vitamin C.

    It goes to show that, if you can, it is beneficial to add some organ meat into your diet on a regular basis. Organ meat is not only a good source of vitamin C but a rich source of many other essential nutrients as well.

    It also emphasizes the well-known fact that ruminant meat, fat, and organs seem to be the best food choice on the carnivore diet.

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    DisclaimerThe information in this post is for reference purposes only and is not intended to constitute or replace professional medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle. Please check out our disclaimer for more detail.