Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient that acts as an antioxidant within the body, which means it helps by protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert food into energy, but also from environmental exposures such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun. The body also needs vitamin C to make collagen, a protein required to help wounds heal. Vitamin C also improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and helps the immune system work properly to protect the body against disease.
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C, and by consuming a variety of these, you will easily be able to fulfill your body’s needs. Most commonly, people turn to citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit, as well as red and green peppers and kiwi. Other good choices include strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, baked potatoes, and tomatoes. Some foods and beverages are fortified with vitamin C, however, it is recommended to obtain your vitamin C from actual food when possible, and not from supplement.
Vitamin C deficiency is rare in Canada, though people who get little or no vitamin C (below about 10 mg per day) for many weeks can develop scurvy, which includes inflammation and bleeding of the gums and poor wound healing. People with certain medical conditions such as severe malabsorption, some types of cancer, and kidney disease requiring hemodialysis may also be deficient in vitamin C.
If deficient, vitamin C is available as a dietary supplement on its own, or in a blend with other nutrients. It is often found as ascorbic acid, but can be found in other forms as well. All multivitamins will contain vitamin C and is a great source to insure that you are meeting all your nutritional requirements that you are not obtaining from your food.