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Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. It is needed for normal growth and development.
Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water. Leftover amounts of the vitamin leave the body through the urine. That means you need an ongoing supply of such vitamins in your diet.
Ascorbic acid; Dehydroascorbic acid
Vitamin C is needed for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. It is used to:
Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants. Antioxidants are nutrients that block some of the damage caused by free radicals.
The body is not able to make vitamin C on its own, and it does not store vitamin C. It is therefore important to include plenty of vitamin C-containing foods in your daily diet.
For many years, vitamin C has been a popular remedy for the common cold.
All fruits and vegetables contain some amount of vitamin C.
Fruits with the highest sources of vitamin C include:
Vegetables with the highest sources of vitamin C include:
Some cereals and other foods and beverages are fortified with vitamin C. Fortified means a vitamin or mineral has been added to the food. Check the product labels to see how much vitamin C is in the product.
Cooking vitamin C-rich foods or storing them for a long period of time can reduce the vitamin C content. Microwaving and steaming vitamin C-rich foods may reduce cooking losses. The best food sources of vitamin C are uncooked or raw fruits and vegetables. Exposure to light can also reduce vitamin C content. Choose orange juice that is sold in a carton instead of a clear bottle.
Serious side effects from too much vitamin C are very rare, because the body cannot store the vitamin. However, amounts greater than 2,000 mg/day are not recommended. Doses this high can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea. Large doses of vitamin C supplementation are not recommended during pregnancy. They can lead to vitamin C deficiency in the baby after delivery.
Too little vitamin C can lead to signs and symptoms of deficiency, including:
A severe form of vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy. This mainly affects older, malnourished adults.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamins reflects how much of each vitamin most people should get each day. The RDA for vitamins may be used as goals for each person.
How much of each vitamin you need depends on your age and gender. Other factors, such as pregnancy and illnesses, are also important.
The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins, including vitamin C, is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods.
Dietary Reference Intakes for vitamin C:
*Adequate Intake (AI)
Smokers or those who are around secondhand smoke at any age should increase their daily amount of vitamin C an additional 35 mg per day.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and those who smoke need higher amounts of vitamin C. Ask your health care provider what amount is best for you.
Hemila H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013: 31;1:CD000980. PMID: 23440782 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23440782.
Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press. Washington, DC, 2000. PMID 25077263 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25077263.
Mason JB. Vitamins, trace minerals, and other micronutrients. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 225.
Salwen MJ. Vitamins and trace elements. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 26.
Reviewed By: Emily Wax, RD, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.