Vitamin C is a vital vitamin that’s essential for the proper functioning of the body. Found in dietary supplements and foods, vitamin C aids in numerous biological functions, including the healing of wounds, synthesis of collagen, and maintenance and repair of teeth, bones, and cartilage. Also, vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it’s capable of neutralizing free radicals that damage body cells.[i]
Historically, vitamin C has been used to treat or prevent scurvy and other diseases associated with the deficiency of vitamin C. Nowadays, vitamin C is touted as a great defense against the common cold. Vitamin C is found in vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits.
Vitamin C deficiency is the one known condition that vitamin D treats. According to research from CDC (Centers for disease control and prevention), about 7% of Americans can be said to be vitamin C deficient.[ii] Besides the deficiency, vitamin C is also known to help prevent or treat many diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma, gastritis, cataract, chronic pain, cancer, bronchitis, asthma, and colds.[iii]
Vitamin C plays a major role in preventing and treating the common cold. According to a review of studies that involved 11,306 respondents, vitamin C supplements didn’t do anything to reduce the common cold among respondents. The researchers stated that vitamin C might benefit performance athletes or individuals residing in freezing climates.[iv]
High Blood Pressure
Vitamin C helps in preventing high blood pressure (hypertension). However, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University, vitamin C supplements only produced a small decrease in systolic blood pressure but has a small effect on diastolic blood pressure.[v]
Cancer And Heart Disease
One of the well-known benefits of vitamin C is its ability to fight cancer and prevent heart disease. Although many antioxidants play a role in reducing oxidative stress associated with heart disease, there’s no evidence that vitamin C supplements directly impact the risks.[vi]
Vitamin C Deficiency
People at risk of vitamin C deficiency are smokers, heavy drinkers and overall poor diet. Smokers need an additional 35mg of vitamin C daily to help repair the damage often caused by free radicals formed when an individual smokes. If you are one of the 7% of Americans who are not getting adequate vitamin C, you will notice the following health problems:
Slow Wound Healing
If you get injured, vitamin C levels in your tissue and blood go down. The body needs vitamin C to make collagen, an essential protein that plays a significant role in every phase of repairing your skin.
Bruises, Nosebleeds, And Bleeding Gums
Vitamin C keeps the blood vessels very healthy, and it helps the blood form clots. Also, collagen is vital for healthy gums and teeth. A study found that individuals with gum disease who consumed grapefruit for two weeks realized their gums never bled as much.
Early studies have found the link between high amounts of fat and reduced vitamin C levels. Vitamin C also plays a major role in how well the body burns fat to produce energy.
Wrinkled, Dry Skin
Individuals following a healthy diet with foods rich in vitamin C might have softer, smoother skin. This is because vitamin C is an essential antioxidant that helps protect the skin from free radicals.
Possible Side Effects
Taking high doses of vitamin C might cause some adverse effects, including diarrhea, cramps, stomach, headaches, nausea, and heartburn. Doses more than 2,000 mg are generally considered extreme and might increase risks of kidney stones and severe diarrhea.[vii]
High doses of vitamin C can increase blood sugar levels. Extreme caution should be taken when consuming vitamin C, especially among those with diabetes. In older women with diabetes, vitamin C in amounts more than 300mg every day increases fatality risks from cardiovascular disease.[viii]
Harm To A Newborn
Although vitamin C is safe when taken during pregnancy, high doses could adversely affect the newborn. Technically, between 85mg and 120mg every day is generally considered enough for expectant mothers.
Also, vitamin C isn’t safe if high amounts (400+ mg every day) are taken by mouth for children aged between 1 year to 3 years, 1800mg for those aged between 14 and 18 years, 1200 mg for children aged between 9 and 13 years.
Overall, vitamin C is safe for many people when taken by mouth in the recommended doses. However, in some individuals, vitamin C can cause headaches, stomach cramps, heartburn, vomiting, and nausea—the chance of experiencing such side effects increases if you continue taking high doses of vitamin C.[ix]
Dosage And Preparation
Following is the recommended dietary alliance for vitamin C if taken for health purposes.
- Children 0 – 6 months: 40mg everyday
- Children 7 – 12 months: 50mg every day
- Children 1 – 3 years: 15mg every day
- Children 4 – 8 years: 25mg every day
- Children 9 – 13 years: 45mg every day
- Females 14 – 18 years – 65mg every day
- Females over 19 years – 75mg every day
- Males 14- 18 years: 75 mg every day
- Males over 19 years: 90mg every day
Individuals who smoke ought to take an extra 35 mg every day. Also, those diagnosed with a deficiency in vitamin C should take from 100 mg to 200mg every day. Vitamin C supplements are available as gummies, chewable tablets, capsules, tablets, effervescent tablets, and powders.
Ways to Get Your Vitamin C
Vitamin C is available in natural as well as supplements form. As mentioned earlier, the recommended daily intake is 90 mg and 75 mg for men and women, respectively. Vitamin C is water-soluble and is found in many vegetables and fruits, including spinach, kale, broccoli, bell peppers, kiwi fruit, strawberries, and oranges. We strongly recommend that you get your RDA for vitamin C from foods rather than supplements. This is because foods have more benefits during the intake, while a Vitamin C supplement is just Vitamin C.
Foods Rich in Vitamin C
If your daily diet is rich in vegetables and fruits, you’re likely getting enough vitamin C. However, if you are not sure, it will help to add any of these foods, which are high in vitamin C, to the daily menu.
Vegetable And Herbs
- Chili peppers (green and red) – a red chili pepper has 64.7mg of vitamin C
- Bell peppers – one cup of red bell peppers contains 190 milligrams of vitamin C
- Thyme and parsley – 1 teaspoon of thyme contains 1.3 milligrams of vitamin C.
- Dark green leafy vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, kale, and garden cress.
- Potatoes – one medium-sized potato has 42 milligrams of vitamin C.
- Oranges – 1 cup contains 112 milligrams of vitamin C
- Strawberries – 1 cup of strawberries contains 97 milligrams of vitamin C.
- Limes and lemons – 1 cup contains 19 milligrams of vitamin C
- Papaya – 1 large papaya contains 475 milligrams of vitamin C
- Blackberries – 1 cup of blackberries contains 30 milligrams of vitamin C
- Guava – 1 cup guava fruit contains 125 milligrams of vitamin C
- Kiwi – 1 kiwi contains 72 milligrams of vitamin C
- Cantaloupe – one-cup serving has 58 milligrams
- Orange juice – ¾ cup serving of orange juice contains 90 mg of vitamin C
- Tomato juice – one-cup serving has 66 mg of vitamin C
The rule of the thumb is to try and get your vitamin C from food instead of pills. That said, taking the daily vitamin C supplements would not cause you harm and can boost your recommended daily allowance. If you aren’t getting adequate vitamin C in your daily diet, then you shouldn’t hesitate to get it from supplements, but ensure you stick to the recommended dosages.
However, vitamin C supplements aren’t created equal. To guarantee safety and quality, ensure you take supplements that have been tested and approved by independent approval bodies, like the United States Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab.
What is the main benefit of vitamin C?
What foods are high in vitamin C?
How much vitamin C should you take per day?
What’s the best type of vitamin C?
What is better, vitamin D or C?
How can you increase vitamin C?
1. Winter squash
3. White and sweet potatoes
4. Turnip greens, cabbage, and spinach
5. Red and green peppers
6. Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli
What happens when you do not get adequate vitamin C?
- [i] NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C. Updated December 10, 2019.
- [ii] Schleicher RL, Carroll MD, Ford ES, Lacher DA. Serum vitamin C and the prevalence of vitamin C deficiency in the United States: 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(5):1252-63. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.27016
- [iii] Quinn J, Gerber B, Fouche R, Kenyon K, Blom Z, Muthukanagaraj P. Effect of high-dose vitamin C infusion in a glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase-deficient patient. Case Rep Med. 2017;2017:5202606. doi:10.1155/2017/5202606
- [iv] Douglas RM, Hemilä H, Chalker E, Treacy B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007;(3):CD000980. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub3
- [v] Juraschek SP, Guallar E, Appel LJ, Miller ER. Effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(5):1079-88. doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.027995
- [vi] Sesso HD, Buring JE, Christen WG, et al. Vitamins E and C in the prevention of cardiovascular disease in men: the Physicians’ Health Study II randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2008;300(18):2123-33. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.600
- [vii] NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C. Updated December 10, 2019.
- [viii] NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C. Updated December 10, 2019.
- [ix] NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C. Updated December 10, 2019.