Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin and essential micronutrient. As humans, we cannot produce vitamin C in the body, so it must be obtained from dietary sources, primarily fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin C is known to support cellular functions of the innate and adaptive immune systems, and a deficiency in the vitamin may increase the risk of infections. Vitamin C supplementation is commonly used to prevent and treat upper respiratory infections. Research suggests that with ongoing supplementation of 1 g per day or more, the duration of the common cold may be shortened by 8% in adults and 18% in children, and the severity of symptoms may be significantly reduced.
Individual requirements for vitamin C vary based on factors including age, gender, health status, and environmental exposures. The following table summarizes the daily recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) and adequate intake (AI) of vitamin C. RDAs are the average daily intake that will meet the nutrient requirement of most healthy individuals (over 97%). As an RDA has not been established for infants, the AI is listed for children below one year.
Foods high in vitamin C
Vitamin C is abundant in several fruit and vegetables, including:
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Citrus fruits (e.g., orange, grapefruit)
- Tomatoes and tomato juice
If you’re trying to get more of this vitamin in your diet, it’s important to note that heat may destroy vitamin C. In order to preserve vitamin C, consider consuming your produce raw, microwaved, or steamed, as opposed to broiled, grilled, or roasted.
Vitamin C supplements
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While no serious adverse effects of vitamin C intake have been consistently observed, research suggests that the tolerable upper limit for vitamin C intake is approximately 2 g per day. With intravenous use, adverse effects may include flushing, headaches, nausea, and dizziness. The most commonly reported adverse effect from oral vitamin C supplementation is gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea and abdominal cramps, which may occur at higher doses due to its osmotic effect in the large intestine