Vitamin C – The basics

  • Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin
  • It is also known as ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid
  • Vitamin C has a low toxicity to humans.
  • Humans do not have the ability to make vitamin C and therefore must obtain it through food or supplements.
  • It helps with tissue repair, enzyme production and supports a healthy immune system
  • It can also function as an antioxidant

What does Vitamin C do?

Vitamin C is used in the synthesis of collagen. Collagen is a protein and makes up around 25% of all the protein in the body. Collagen is a structural protein, in essence, it provides the structural support. Collagen can be found in tissues such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage and the skin. Collagen can also be hard, as such it is also found in bone, invertebrate discs and in teeth. A deficiency of vitamin C will heavily compromise the production of collagen.

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. An antioxidant is a molecule that can inhibit the oxidation of other molecules. Our bodies out subjected to various types of stress throughout the day and through chemical processes produce something called free radicals. Free radicals are dangerous because they are highly reactive. In order to deal with free radicals, the body has a complex system of antioxidants that continuously deal with free radicals.

Vitamin C and the common cold – Vitamin C is frequently talked about when the common cold is mentioned. Studies related to the effect of vitamin C helping to prevent the common cold have been inconclusive. In general, it is not believed that a high or greater than recommended dose helps prevent the common cold however some studies have shown that regular use could shorten the duration of the cold.

Vitamin C Overdose – How much is too much Vitamin C?

Vitamin C has a low toxicity. As with most minerals, it is difficult to overdose on vitamins or minerals if you are consuming them through actual food. Care must be taken when consuming supplements. The vast majority of problems occur through supplementation abuse.  For the average healthy person, the symptoms of excessive consumption could be nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and other gastrointestinal problems.

  • The upper tolerable levels for both men and woman above the age of 19 is set at 2,000 mg per day.

To give you some perspective the average orange weighs between 100-140 grams and contains between 50 and 70 mg of vitamin C. This means that to reach the upper tolerable level you would need to consume around 28 oranges per day.

Vitamin C deficiency – What is the minimum you need?

The recommended daily allowance for men and women over the age of 19 is 90 mg and 75 mg respectively. An interesting point to note is that the recommended daily allowance advice varies depending on the location of the national agency giving the advice. For example, the RDA in India is 40 mg, the world health organization recommends 45 mg, in Europe, the RDA is 80 mg and Japan recommends 100 mg. Smokers are advised to consume an extra 35 mg of vitamin C per day.

Vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy. The primary symptoms of scurvy are general tiredness, loss of strength and sore arms and legs. This can then lead to gum disease, decreased amount of red blood cells and bleeding. Because Vitamin C plays a big part in the synthesis of collagen which is essential for tissue repair, a lack of vitamin C, therefore, will result in slow or poor wound healing which often leads to death by infection.

Foods high in Vitamin C

1. Blackcurrants  160 mg per 100 grams

Blackcurrants - High In Vitamin C

2. Red Bell Pepper – 127 mg per 100 grams

High in Vitamin C Pepper

3. Kale – 93 mg per 100 grams


4. Kiwifruit – 93 mg per 100 grams

Kiwifruit - Vitamin C

5. Broccoli – 89 mg per 100 grams

Broccoli - High in Vitamin C

6. Strawberries – 59 mg per 100 grams

Strawberries - High in Vitamin C

7. Pineapple – 48 mg per 100 grams

Pineapple - High in Vitamin C

8. Orange – 45 mg per 100 grams

Oranges - High in Vitamin C

9. Mango – 36 mg per 100 grams

Mango - Vitamin C

10. Spinach – 28 mg per 100 grams


Smoothies with high amounts of vitamin C

These three smoothies all have high amounts of vitamin C

1. The Plant-Based Protein Smoothie – 159 mg of Vitamin C

The Plant Based Protein Smoothie

The Plant-Based Protein Smoothie was designed, as you can guess by the name, to be a 100% plant-sourced protein smoothie. In addition to having 22.5 grams of protein it has 159 mg of vitamin C

2. The Kango – 147 mg of Vitamin C

The Kango smoothie with kiwifruit, mango, yogurt and ice cream.

Thanks to its kiwifruit and mango, this delicious dessert smoothie has 147 mg of vitamin C. Because the recipe uses fat-free ice cream and low-fat Greek yogurt the amount of saturated fat is quite low.

3. The Fresh Start Smoothie – 136 mg of Vitamin C

The Fresh Start Smoothie with pineapple, orange, almond, milk and yogurt

With oranges, pineapple, almonds, yogurt, and milk this smoothie isn’t just a perfect start to the day but also helps you get a serving of 136 mg of vitamin C.