At some point in your life, someone has probably suggested you take vitamin C to fend off a cold, or prevent you from getting one in the first place.

But what is this miracle vitamin thats protects us from all these germs?

Vitamin C (sometimes called L-ascorbic acid) is one of many water-soluble vitamins that our bodies need to stay healthy. It can be found abundantly throughout our diet, and developing a deficiency is quite rare. 

Did you know that most animals can synthesize their own vitamin C? Humans are one of the few that cannot. This means we need to get it from our diet.

Role of Vitamin C in the Body 

Like many other vitamins, vitamin C plays many different roles in the body. All working towards keeping us healthy.

Vitamin C is used in the synthesis of many compounds, including some amino acids, neurotransmitters (including dopamine) and proteins (such as collagen, an essential component of wound healing).

Additionally, it is a powerful antioxidant (like vitamin E) that helps protect our bodies against damage from free radicals in our environment. Not only does vitamin C act as an antioxidant, but it also helps regenerate other antioxidants as well.

The vitamin also assists in the absorption of iron from plant-based meals and supports our immune system.

How Much Vitamin C Do I Need?

Health Canada recommends healthy adults should consume between 75 to 90 milligrams each day. Additionally, Health Canada provides a range of recommended vitamin C intakes for individuals under the age of 18Health Canada also encourages smokers to consume an additional 35 milligrams daily. You can find a complete list of recommended intakes on Health Canada’s website. 

Am I At Risk of Deficiency?

Vitamin C deficiency is are in Canada and the United States. However, consuming inadequate amounts for as little as month can lead to the development of clinical conditions, such as scurvy. Signs and symptoms of scurvy include,

    • Spoon-shaped fingernails
    • Slow wound healing
    • Bleeding gums or loss of teeth
    • Iron-deficiency anemia

Where Can I Find Vitamin C?

This immune-supporting vitamin can be found in many foods. Especially in fruits and vegetables. Some top sources include,

    • Broccoli
    • Kiwi
    • Strawberries
    • Guava
    • Papaya
    • Grapefruit
    • Oranges
    • Potatoes
Bowl of yogurt and granola topped with kiwi. A sliced kiwi and a bottle of milk are next to the bowl. Image from Unsplash.


Vitamin C supplements are very popular. Especially during flu seasons when people feel something coming on.

Supplements can be found in any pharmacy, in a wide range of forms. You can find everything from tablets and chewables to dissolvable tablets and capsules, as well as in most multi-vitamins.

Similar to many other dietitians, I prefer to take a food-first approach to micronutrients. This simply means that I prefer that we get our nutrients from food first and then supplement with specific micronutrients as needed to prevent deficiency.

Interactions with Medications

Vitamin C does interact with a few medications, such as statins which are prescribed to help control cholesterol levels.

It’s best to discuss supplementation with your doctor and dietitian before taking supplements to make sure no adverse reactions occur.

Take Away

Vitamin C is another important micronutrient that plays key roles in keeping us healthy. It can be found in many fruits and vegetables, but cannot be stored in the body and requires frequent consumption. Without adequate intakes, people can symptoms of deficiency. Prolonged deficiency can lead to the development of scurvy (the sailor’s disease).

Want to know more about other vitamins and minerals? Check out the Micronutrient Mondays blog series.

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