Vitamin C may reduce risk of hypertension, either in itself or by marking a healthy diet pattern. We assessed whether plasma ascorbic acid and the a priori diet quality score relate to incident hypertension and whether they explain each other's predictive abilities. Data were from 2884 black and white adults (43% black, mean age 35 years) initially hypertensionfree in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (study year 10, 1995- 1996). Plasma ascorbic acid was assessed at year 10 and the diet quality score at year 7. Eight-hundred-And-forty cases of hypertension were documented between years 10 and 25. After multiple adjustments, each 12-point (1 SD) higher diet quality score at year 7 related to mean 3.7 μmol/L (95% CI 2.9 to 4.6) higher plasma ascorbic acid at year 10. In separate multiple-Adjusted Cox regression models, the hazard ratio of hypertension per 19.6-μmol/L (1 SD) higher ascorbic acid was 0.85 (95% CI 0.79-0.92) and per 12-points higher diet score 0.86 (95% CI 0.79-0.94). These hazard ratios changed little with mutual adjustment of ascorbic acid and diet quality score for each other, or when adjusted for anthropometric variables, diabetes, and systolic blood pressure at year 10. Intake of dietary vitamin C and several food groups high in vitamin C content were inversely related to hypertension, whereas supplemental vitamin C was not. In conclusion, plasma ascorbic acid and the a priori diet quality score independently predict hypertension. This suggests that hypertension risk is reduced by improving overall diet quality and/or vitamin C status. The inverse association seen for dietary but not for supplemental vitamin C suggests that vitamin C status is preferably improved by eating foods rich in vitamin C, in addition to not smoking and other dietary habits that prevent ascorbic acid from depletion.