Vitamin C: the essential guide – Telegraph.co.uk

Most of us have heard of vitamin C. We know that our morning orange juice is packed with it, we are aware that sailors got scurvy when they didn’t get enough of it, and many of us dose up on it when we are worried about winter colds. But just how important is it?

The simple answer is that vitamin C is essential for our physical well-being. It acts as an antioxidant nutrient because it contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress caused for example by external aggressions such as pollution, tobacco or UV.

It contributes to the normal function of the immune system and is vital in the formation of collagen, a protein required for the normal structure of many tissues in the body including bones, cartilage, gums, skin, tendons and blood vessels. A multi-tasker, it also increases iron absorption from plant-based foods such as spinach. Vitamin C can also help to reduce tiredness and fatigue. It cannot be stored in the body, so we need to ingest it every day through diet. But how do we know if we get enough?

According to the UK Department of Health, the recommended amount of vitamin C for adults is 40mg a day1 – 50mg for pregnant women. Recommended amounts for children range from 25-35mg, depending on age. These are slightly different to those used for labelling, which on Tropicana packs is 80mg per day. Smokers need more: an extra 35mg per day is suggested to repair the damage caused by nicotine inhalation.

In extreme cases, a deficiency of vitamin C causes scurvy. In the golden age of seafaring, during long voyages, if fruit and vegetables ran out, sailors would have no access to vitamin C and suffer symptoms that included muscle and joint pain, tiredness, red spots, bleeding and swollen gums. Thankfully it is rare these days, especially because fruit and vegetables and their juices are a main source of vitamin C in our diet.

Citrus fruits are known to provide vitamin C, but you’ll also find it in green vegetables such as kale and broccoli, peppers and even ‘skin-on’ potatoes.

Other good sources are rosehip, guava and blackcurrant, followed by kiwi, strawberries, lychee and papaya. Many supplements are available, although the Department of Health recommends a daily limit of 1,000mg. (More can lead to nausea, stomach pain, diarrhoea, bloating or heartburn.)

Vitamin C food heroes

Peppers A portion of red peppers (80g) contains about 101mg of vitamin C. Together with their vitamin A content, which helps maintain eye and skin health, they support the normal function of the immune system.

Brussels sprouts A small portion of about six cooked sprouts contains about 36mg of vitamin C and also vitamin K, which is key to blood clotting, and is a source of fibre, folate (vitamin B9) and potassium.

Orange juice A 150ml glass of Tropicana Orange Juice has the juice of 11⁄2oranges, vitamin B9, potassium, and is 60 per cent of the daily reference intake of vitamin C. One of your five a day, a little glass has big benefits.

1 nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-minerals

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