Vitamin C is one of the essential nutrients needed to maintain a healthy immune system, so it’s important to ensure that you’re including enough sources of vitamin C in your diet. But as well as supporting our immune system, vitamin C plays other roles in ensuring we stay healthy.
According to dietician Helen Bond, vitamin C has a key role to play in making collagen (a component of our blood vessels, bones, cartilage, gums, skin and teeth), so it’s vital for helping with wound healing.
“It is also needed for our nervous system, helping to support and strengthen our immune system, and as an antioxidant, it helps mop up cell damaging free radicals,” she adds.
A lack of vitamin C can result in scurvy, “a condition that is practically unheard of these days”, according to Bond .She adds that it is very rare to suffer from a deficiency of vitamin C in the U.S. and most age groups can get enough from their daily diets. The daily RDA (opens in new tab) (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of vitamin C for adults is 90mg for men and 75mg for women.
What about vitamin C supplements? Bond warns that large amounts of vitamin C – that’s over 1000mg/1g a day – can cause side-effects such as stomach pains, diarrhea and flatulence, but you’re more likely to get this much through taking supplements.
“Symptoms usually disappear once you stop taking the supplements,” she says. “You should be able to get all the vitamin C you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. Therefore, if you do take vitamin C supplements, do not take too much as this could be harmful.”
She also says that there is “very little evidence that vitamin C supplements prevent colds or speed up recovery” and to that end, “it’s even more important to focus your attention on enjoying a balanced and varied diet, including lots of vitamin C-rich foods”.
1. Oranges (and other citrus fruits)
These brightly coloured fruits are renowned for their vitamin C content. In fact, one orange contains a staggering 87mg (opens in new tab) of vitamin C — over 100% of the daily recommended amount for women.
Oranges also contain flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. These help protect the body from the damage caused by free radicals in the body. Free radicals can be produced in the body thanks to external factors such as pollution, chemicals and UV light.