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Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

How much you need each day:

  • 40mg for adult women and men

Why you need it:

Vitamin C is essential for the formation of collagen, which constitutes a major part of the connective tissue. This means it’s important for healthy skin, bones, cartilage and teeth and helps to heal wounds. Vitamin C also helps to prevent anaemia by assisting the absorption of iron. This vitamin is also a powerful antioxidant and so can help to protect the body against the harmful effects of cell-damaging free radicals that may increase the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Good food sources:

Fruit and vegetables are the main sources of vitamin C. Good sources include blackcurrants, berries, green leafy vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach and broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, kiwi fruit, citrus fruits and their juices.

Too little:

Vitamin C is water-soluble and cannot be stored in the body, so it’s essential that vitamin C rich foods are consumed on a daily basis. A deficiency can lead to a loss of appetite, muscle cramps, dry skin, split hairs, bleeding gums, bruising, nose bleeds, infections and poor would healing. In severe cases scurvy develops, although this is uncommon in Britain.

Top tip:

Vitamin C is easily destroyed so take care when preparing and cooking vegetables to minimise losses. Keep vegetables in large pieces, prepare them just before they are to be cooked rather than leaving them to stand in water and steam rather than boil them. Cook them for the minimum amount of time too. If you do decide to boil veg, don’t add salt and use the cooking water to make gravies or sauces. Avoid adding bicarbonate of soda to the water too, as it speeds up the rate at which vitamin C is destroyed. Eat veg as soon as possible after cooking to prevent further losses, which occur when they’re kept warm. Finally, frozen veg often have a higher vitamin C content than poor quality 'fresh' produce because they’re prepared shortly after being picked.

How to get enough:

Food Vitamin C Content (mg)
1/2 red pepper 112
200ml glass of orange juice 78
100g fresh strawberries 77
90g boiled broccoli 40
1 kiwi fruit 35
1 tomato 14

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