Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for normal growth and development.
Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water. Leftover amounts of the vitamin leave the body through the urine. That means you need a continuous supply of such vitamins in your diet.
Vitamin C is needed for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. It is used to:
Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants. Antioxidants are nutrients that block some of the damage caused by free radicals.
The body is not able to make vitamin C on its own, and it does not store vitamin C. It is therefore important to include plenty of vitamin C-containing foods in your daily diet.
For many years, vitamin C has been a popular remedy for the common cold.
All fruits and vegetables contain some amount of vitamin C.
Fruits with the highest sources of vitamin C include:
Vegetables with the highest sources of vitamin C include:
Some cereals and other foods and beverages are fortified with vitamin C. Fortified means a vitamin or mineral has been added to the food. Check the product labels to see how much vitamin C is in the product.
Cooking vitamin C-rich foods or storing them for a long period of time can reduce the vitamin C content. Microwaving and steaming vitamin C-rich foods may reduce cooking losses. The best food sources of vitamin C are uncooked or raw fruits and vegetables.
Serious side effects from too much vitamin C are very rare, because the body cannot store the vitamin. However, amounts greater than 2,000 mg/day are not recommended because such high doses can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea.
Too little vitamin C can lead to signs and symptoms of deficiency, including:
A severe form of vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy, which mainly affects older, malnourished adults.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamins reflects how much of each vitamin most people should get each day. The RDA for vitamins may be used as goals for each person.
How much of each vitamin you need depends on your age and gender. Other factors, such as pregnancy and illnesses, are also important.
The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins, including vitamin C, is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods.
Dietary Reference Intakes for vitamin C:
*Adequate Intake (AI)
Smokers or those who are around secondhand smoke at any age should increase their daily amount of vitamin C an additional 35 mg per day.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and those who smoke need higher amounts of vitamin C. Ask your doctor what amount is best for you.
Ascorbic acid; Dehydroascorbic acid
Escott-Stump S, ed. Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008.
Sarubin Fragaakis A, Thomson C. The Health Professional's Guide to Popular Dietary Supplements. 3rd ed. Chicago, Il: American Dietetic Association; 2007.
Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2000.
Douglas RM, Hemila H, Chalker E, Treacy B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev; 2007(3):CD000980.
Updated by: Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, Nutritionist, University of Washington Medical Center Diabetes Care Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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