Updated 11 September 2013

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is probably the best-known vitamin. It is most often associated with citrus fruit and is known for its ability to boost the immune system.

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is probably the best-known vitamin. It is most often associated with citrus fruit and is known for its ability to boost the immune system, increasing the body's resistance to infections like cold and flu in winter.

But what many people don't know is that vitamin C is an antioxidant that performs a variety of roles in the body. It helps to promote healthy gums and teeth, aids in mineral absorption, and helps heal wounds.

This vitamin is also a water-soluble vitamin that is expressed quantitatively as milligrams.

What does it do for you?

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that reacts with free radicals. Through this mechanism, the vitamin protects the body from the onslaught of cancer and other diseases of lifestyle.

The vitamin plays an important role in the formation of connective tissue, cartilage, bone matrix, tooth dentin, skin and tendons - making it one of the corner stones of the wound healing process.

Vitamin C is best known for its mechanism of increasing the body's resistance to infection. It also helps to keep the mucous membranes intact.

Which foods have vitamin C?

Papaya, guava, berries, green peppers, rose hips, broccoli, strawberries, kiwi fruit, citrus fruit such as oranges, lemons and naartjies, cabbage and cauliflower.

How much vitamin C do you need?

The current RDA is 90mg for male adults and 75mg for female adults, but some nutritionists say that 1000mg of vitamin C a day can be taken safely over the long term. The tolerable upper intake limit (UL) is 2000mg per day.

How much is too much?

Taking more than 5 000mg (5g) or more may cause diarrhoea and may be harmful to the liver. People who suffer from kidney stones should also avoid large doses.

Signs of vitamin C deficiency

You’re likely to suffer from vitamin C deficiency if you smoke, are exposed to pollution, drink caffeine in any form, are under stress, are recovering from illness or surgery, take aspirin regularly or are over the age of 55.

If you bruise easily, are susceptible to infections and colds, lack energy, have gums that bleed easily and have nosebleeds regularly, it’s likely that you need more vitamin C.

Research on vitamin C

Vitamin C supplements have been shown to reduce the risk of developing cataracts later in life.

Research also shows that vitamin C may help prevent heart disease and cancer.

People who eat a diet rich in this vitamin may also be at lower risk of suffering strokes, and smokers who do so may benefit the most, research shows.

Quiz: Do I need a vitamin C supplement?


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