Vitamin C
(Ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which has interested many scientists.

A deficiency in this vitamin leads to scurvy, a serious disorder that was common amount sailors or other people who went without fresh fruits and vegetables for a long time.

Vitamin C has been shown to prevent many illnesses, from everyday ailments such as the common cold to devastating diseases such as cancer.

Everybody knows that when we feel a cold coming or just during the winter month it is nice to boost or system with lemon juice or kiwis. Those fruits are rich in vitamin C and help our immune system to fight off foreign invaders. Vitamin C strengthens and protects the immune system by stimulating the activity of antibodies and immune system cells.
Thereby, vitamin C fights not only viruses but also tumor cells. It may be a great help in the treatment of cancers.

Vitamin C seems to inhibit the secretion of the prostaglandins that are responsible for the inflammatory and pain response.

This vitamin is required for the building and maintenance of collagen, a protein that holds the body's cells in place. Collagen is indispensable for bones, teeth and healing of wounds.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It works along with vitamin E and the enzyme glutathione peroxidase to stop free radical chain reactions. These are atoms or molecules with an unpaired electron, which have negative effects when they damage proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. The body has antioxidant defense mechanisms that keep them in balance but our actual environment (infections, smoking, sunlight, stress...) increases the formation of free radicals in our body and induces premature aging, cancer...

Vitamin C may raises blood levels of HDL cholesterol thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. It also assists the nervous system by converting certain amino acids into neurotransmitters.

For vegetarians this vitamin is particularly interesting since it increases the iron absorption.

Heavy smokers, alcohol consumers and women who use oral contraceptive need extra vitamin C.

Ref: Recommended dietary allowances for the french population: CNRS-CNERMA


mg of vitamin C per day



Children 1-3 years


Children 4-6 years


Children 7-9 years


Children 10-12 years


Children 13-15 years


Teenager 16-19




Pregnant women


Nursing women




Deficiency symptoms
Inflamed gums
Frequent unexplained bruising
Slow healing of cuts and burns
Intense fatigue
Brittle bones

A severe vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy that is characterized by capillary fragility resulting in bruising and hemorrhaging, inflammation of the gums, loosening of the teeth, anemia and general debility that can lead to death.

Good vegetarian sources
Fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C. A diet rich on these provide more than recommended intakes in this vitamin.

Vegetables provide approximately 10 to 20 mg of vitamin C per 100 g with some exceptions. Cabbages and greens are even richer.
Eaten raw, cabbages provide 50 to 100 mg of vitamin C per 100 g.

Where greens are concerned the brighter or the darker the pigment green is the greater the content in vitamin C. For example green peppers provide 120 mg of vitamin C per 100 g.

Some fruits are excellent sources such as lemon, kiwi, orange, grapefruits, tangerines, limes, papaya, melons, strawberries, currants...
With two kiwis you already have met your recommended intakes in vitamin C

Heat and air destroy this vitamin. Moreover it can leash into cooking water during cooking. It is better to cook vitamin C in small amount of water for a short time.

Realized by Laurence LIVERNAIS-SAETTEL, Dietitian.
© Copyright L. Livernais-Saettel 2002
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