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Vitamin C benefits - What does it do?

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To stay healthy, we need to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. This is because fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients that our bodies can’t make on their own, including vitamin C.

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is an essential nutrient that helps keep our skin, bones and teeth healthy.

We can’t make vitamin C in our bodies, so we need to make sure that it’s part of our daily diet. The good news is that it’s found in lots of different fruits and vegetables. You can also consume vitamin C in the form of supplements – this is a good option if you have a restricted diet that makes it hard for you to get enough Vitamin C.

Just bear in mind that you shouldn’t take supplements as a substitute for a varied, balanced diet or a healthy lifestyle.

What does vitamin C do?

Vitamin C helps to make a substance called collagen. Our bodies use collagen to maintain and repair the skin, bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels and teeth. It’s also essential for helping wounds to heal and support our immune systems.

When we don’t get enough vitamin C through our food, our bodies aren’t able to produce enough collagen. This can lead to a condition called scurvy and vitamin C deficiency.

What are the benefits of vitamin C?

Getting plenty of vitamin C will maintain your energy levels, help wounds heal more quickly, and keep your teeth and gums in good condition. It’s also good for your skin and hair.

What foods contain vitamin C?

As we’ve mentioned vitamin C is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, which is why it’s important to get your 5-a-day.

Vitamin C rich foods include:

  • Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit
  • Blackcurrants, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries
  • Melon
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts
  • Green and red peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes

Cooking fruits or vegetables usually reduces the vitamin C content by around one third. You might find it easier to get your daily dose of vitamin C by eating fresh fruit, or vegetables that don’t need to be cooked. If you’re trying to get your daily dose from a green vegetable that needs cooking, try steaming rather than boiling.

Vitamin C can also be found in some fortified breakfast cereals as well as animal products, including fresh milk, fish, liver and kidney. Eating a healthy and balanced diet should mean you get all the vitamin C you need.

How much vitamin C do I need each day?

Adults between 19 and 64 should get 40mg of vitamin C a day. To give you an idea of how much this is, you should be able to get all the vitamin C you need by eating one small orange or 100g of strawberries.

If you can’t get enough through your diet and have particularly, low levels of you vitamin C you can take a supplement like Nu U Vitamin C or LloydsPharmacy Vitamin C – just make sure you don’t take more than 1,000mg each day.

Do pregnant women need to take a vitamin C supplement?

The NHS don’t recommend that you take a vitamin C supplement while pregnant. Instead make sure to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This should be enough for you to get your recommended allowance of vitamin C.

What are the side effects of too much vitamin C?

It’s not easy to “overdose” on vitamin C through your diet alone. However, you might end up taking too much if you take vitamin C supplements every day.

Taking more than 1,000mg of vitamin C each day can cause an upset stomach. You might also experience:

  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Flatulence

Make sure to always read the label when taking supplements and to check dosages. Speak to a pharmacist if you’re unsure of what’s right for you.

What is a vitamin C deficiency?

A vitamin C deficiency happens when you don’t get enough vitamin C in your diet. If this goes on for longer than three months, it’s considered a severe deficiency – also known as scurvy. Scurvy doesn’t usually lead to serious long term complications, but it can cause unpleasant symptoms, including tiredness, bleeding gums, sore joints, and skin that bruises easily.

To find out more read our article on vitamin C deficiency.

References

www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-c/
https://patient.info/healthy-living/vitamin-c-deficiency-leaflet
www.nhs.uk/conditions/scurvy/
www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326249
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/vitamins-minerals-supplements-pregnant/