Vitamin C. We hear a lot about it. But what is Vitamin C and why is it so important? In this post, we’re going to dive into everything you need to know about Vitamin C, including how much you need, where to get it, and the symptoms of a deficiency.

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also commonly referred to as ascorbic acid, is a water soluble vitamin that is crucial to your overall health.

It is an absolutely essential nutrient and it is one that the body cannot produce on its own. In other words, all of your vitamin C intake has to come from your diet or from supplements.

Vitamin C is critical to  several key functions in the body, including:

  • Helping white blood cells to function properly, thus contributing to better immune systems
  • Acting as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals
  • Helping the body absorb iron from plant based foods
  • Supporting the production of collagen, which is a protein that helps skin and other tissues to stay healthy
  • Supporting the healing process of wounds, cuts and other injuries

So this is a vitamin that is essential.

How much vitamin C do we need?

The recommended daily intake of Vitamin C is hugely dependent upon a number of factors including your age, gender, certain lifestyle factors and health status.

The table below shows the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C based on age and gender:

Age GroupRDI for Vitamin C (mg/day)
Infants (0-6 months)40
Infants (6-12 months)50
Children (1-3 years)15
Children (4-8 years)25
Children (9-13 years)45
Teenagers (14-18 years)65-75
Adults (19+ years)75-90
Pregnant women85
Breastfeeding women120

It’s important to note that smokers typically require more Vitamin C than non-smokers, as smoking can deplete the body’s Vitamin C stores.

Which foods are rich in vitamin C?

Vitamin C can be found in a huge range of different foods, with fruits and vegetables being the best sources.

Some of the foods that are high in Vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and lemons
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Cantaloupe
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers

It’s definitely worth noting that cooking can destroy some of the Vitamin C in foods, so it’s best to eat them raw or lightly cooked.

Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency

Vitamin C deficiency is rare in developed countries. That’s the good news! But it can happen in people who have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables or who have medical conditions that affect their ability to absorb nutrients. Some of the symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Swollen and bleeding gums
  • Slow wound healing
  • Dry and scaly skin
  • Frequent infections

Severe Vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition that can cause fatigue, joint pain, and bleeding.

Should you take Vitamin C supplements?

While it’s always best to get your nutrients from whole foods, Vitamin C supplements can be helpful for some people. For example, people who have difficulty absorbing nutrients due to medical conditions like Crohn’s disease or who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet may benefit from Vitamin C supplements.

If you have children who are picky eaters and you struggle to get them to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, you may find vitamin C supplements useful in this case.

On the whole, you should find it relatively simple to ensure you get your recommended daily intake of vitamin C. But supplements are widely and very cost effectively available.

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