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What you need to know about vitamin C



What do locally grown potatoes, citrus fruits from the south and tropical mangos have in common? If you said vitamin C you’d be correct! Vegetables and fruit are rich sources of vitamin C. Read on to get the scoop on vitamin C.

What can vitamin C do for me?

Vitamin C has a very busy job! It has many important functions in the body. Vitamin C helps to:

  • Absorb the iron from plant foods (such as grains and vegetables).
  • Keep your gums healthy.
  • Protect you from bruising and helps to heal cuts and wounds.
  • Produce the tissue that holds muscles and bones together.
  • Form and repair blood, bones and other tissues.
  • Possibly reduce the risk of some cancers and may prevent the signs of aging because it is an antioxidant.

Daily Vitamin C needs

Age

Vitamin C mg/day

1-3 years

15

4-8 years

25

9-13 years

45

14-18 years

Males

Females

75

65

19 years and older

Males

Females

90

75

Pregnancy <18 years

80

Pregnancy >19 years

85

Lactation <18 years

115

Lactation >19 years

120

Smokers

Add 35 mg to your usual daily needs

Getting the vitamin C you need for the day is easy! Have a glass of orange juice at breakfast, some sliced red pepper with dip for an afternoon snack, and a cup of strawberries for dessert. Following Canada’s Food Guide will help you meet your daily vitamin C needs.

Our bodies do not store extra vitamin C. Whatever we don’t need or use, will be removed in our urine. This means that everyday we need to eat foods that are rich in vitamin C to make sure we get what our bodies need to stay healthy.

Too little vitamin C may result in skin bruising, bleeding gums, poor healing of wounds, loose teeth, tender joints and infections.

Good sources of vitamin C

The best sources of vitamin C are vegetables and fruit. Other food groups do not contain much vitamin C.

Food

Portion

Vitamin C (mg)

Red bell pepper, raw

1 whole

312

Green bell pepper, raw

1 whole

146

Strawberries, raw

1 cup/250 mL

95

Kiwi

1 medium

75

Grapefruit juice

1cup/250 mL

70

Orange

1 medium

70

Broccoli, raw

½ cup/125 mL

61

Mango, sliced

1 cup/250 mL

45

Tomato, raw

1 medium

16

Potatoes, cooked

1 medium

15

Romaine lettuce, raw

1 cup/250 mL

14

Tip: When reading a food label for vitamin C, an excellent source (or very high in) will have more than 30 mg of the vitamin per serving.A very good source (or high in) will have at least 18 mg of vitamin C per serving.

Myth #1: Taking vitamin C will help prevent a cold

The start of winter also means the beginning of cold and flu season. Many people believe that taking vitamin C supplements can help prevent a cold. Research on vitamin C has not shown that it helps to prevent colds. In fact, taking too much vitamin C can actually make you feel worse. The best that can be said is that vitamin C (like other nutrients) is part of the package that can help keep you feeling good. 

The best way to prevent a cold or flu is to wash your hands often and limit contact with people who are sick. 

For more information:

Get the facts on the immune system FAQs

Myth #2: Organic foods are higher in vitamin C

Some people believe that one of the benefits of eating organic foods is that they are higher in nutrients than non-organic foods. But research studies on Vitamin C have not been able to prove this without a doubt. While we know that the way a food is grown probably does affect how much vitamin C it has, there is still more research needed.

What we do know is that the amount of vitamin C in a food is affected by the way it is cooked. Vitamin C is lost in cooking water and during long storage times. You can preserve vitamin C by cooking the food in very little water (like steaming or microwaving) and by eating fresh vegetables and fruit as soon as possible.

Should I take a vitamin C supplement?

For most healthy people, there is no need to take a vitamin C supplement.   Following Canada’s Food Guide and eating the recommended number of vegetables and fruit means you should be able meet your vitamin C needs. Consuming very high amounts of vitamin C (such as in supplements) can cause diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps and other health problems. 

If you are concerned, speak to your doctor or call EatRight Ontario at 1-877-510-5102 and ask a Registered Dietitian about your vitamin C needs. 

Meal Ideas

  • For breakfast, top your cereal or yogurt with sliced strawberries.
  • For an afternoon pick-me-up try raw green bell peppers and broccoli with dip.
  • Pack some canned mandarin oranges for your lunch.
  • Add dark green vegetables like broccoli and kale to soups, salads, omelets and pasta.
  • Spice up salads with apple slices or grapefruit segments.
  • For the kids, freeze cranberry or orange juice in ice cube trays with Popsicle sticks for a homemade frozen treat.

Tip: Sprinkle lemon juice on cut up veggies and fruit, like potatoes, avocados and apples. The vitamin C will keep them from turning brown.

Give these recipes a try:

Mango Chicken Wraps

Chicken and Corn Chowder

Broccoli Soup, Dietitians of Canada

Last Update – April 18, 2017

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.