Vitamin C – Benefits, Sources, Deficiency Symptoms and Side Effects

vitamin c

Vitamin C may be the most familiar of all of the nutrients. Although most adults would be hard pressed to name a good food source of biotin or riboflavin, most everyone can name citrus fruits as good sources of vitamin C. It is also a commonly used nutritional supplement.

According to the University of Maryland, evidence suggests that many Americans are deficient in this crucial vitamin. Vitamin C is one of the most recognized vitamins and has been for years. However today, with the most popular selling supplements being fish oil, multi vitamins, and vitamin D many people are forgetting good ole’ vitamin C.

This is a major health mistake. Vitamin C is needed for a variety of vital body functions.



  • Promotes Healthy Skin and Collagen Formation

A major study that involved over 4,000 women aged 40-74 found that higher vitamin C intakes can lower the likelihood of a wrinkled appearance, dryness of the skin, and can  help to naturally slow aging. Vitamin C is used to form an important protein used to make skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. It helps to heal your wound and it form scar tissue.

There is even some evidence that using vitamin C skin cream can decrease the amount and duration of skin redness following cosmetic skin procedures like wrinkle or scar removal. Maintaining healthy skin through a diet high in antioxidants is one important way to prevent skin cancer.


  • Improves Mineral Absorption

For your body to receive the nutrients it needs to function properly, your digestive system must first take these nutrients from the food that you eat, or the supplements that you take, and then absorb them into your bloodstream.

Then your cells absorb these vitamins and nutrients and they help your body to in turn reduce inflammation and the development of disease. Taking vitamin C along with iron can increase how much iron the body absorbs in adults and children.

  • Lowers Risk of Gout

Vitamin C is associated with lowering the risk of gout, which is Gout is a painful, arthritis type condition mainly afflicting the big toe. The big toe becomes stiff, inflamed and painful as a result of excess uric acid leading to crystals formed in joints.

In a long-term study of males over the age of 40, who took between 1,000 and 1,499 mg of vitamin C per day, their risk of gout was reduced by 31%. Participants who took over 1,500 mg of vitamin C per day have almost half the risk of getting gout. This is compared to those who did not take supplements.

  • Fights Free Radical Damage

Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants that can protect against damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals, as well as toxic chemicals and pollutants like cigarette smoke.

Free radicals can build up in the body and contribute to the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. Free radicals are made when your body breaks down food or when you are exposed to smoke, tobacco, or radiation.

  • Fights off Colds and Flu

It has long been understood that vitamin C benefits your immune system and plays a large role in your body’s ability to fight off colds and viruses. You can take 1000 mg of Vitamin C to fight off an oncoming cold and 4000 mg per day to get rid of a cold that is already in your system.

There is also good evidence that taking vitamin C for colds and flu can reduce the risk of developing further complications, like pneumonia and lung infections.

  • Improves Stressed Immune System

A recent analysis showed that vitamin C is beneficial to individuals whose immune system has been weakened due to stress. Considering that stress has become a common condition in our society, a sufficient intake of vitamin C can serve as an ideal tool for one’s overall health.

  • Helps Cancer Treatment

A high dose of vitamin C can enhance the cancer-fighting effect of drugs used in chemotherapy. Vitamin C has also been found to target only the cells that are in need of these nutriments, unlike other drugs that can harm normal cells as well. Researchers believe that vitamin C can be a safe and cost-effective cancer remedy and treatment for ovarian and lung cancer as well.

  • Lowers Risk of Stroke

One study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people with the highest concentrations of vitamin C in their blood had a 42% lower stroke risk than those with the lowest concentrations. Because people who eat fruits and veggies have higher blood levels of vitamin C, strive to increase the amount of fruits and veggies that you consume in one day.

  • Improves Physical Performance

Eating more vitamin C as part of your diet might improve your physical performance and muscle strength; this is especially true in older people. Taking vitamin C supplements can improve your oxygen intake during exercises and some studies have shown that it can reduce your blood pressure.

Using vitamin C before heavy physical exercise, such as a marathon, might prevent upper respiratory infections that sometimes follow exercise of this kind. Vitamin C can also improve the function of your lungs and airways.

It has been found that vitamin C doses of 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day may reduce the production of histamines, which contributes to inflammation in asthmatic people, and can therefore help to improve asthma symptoms.


Deficiency Symptoms

  • Easy bruising
  • Swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Slow wound healing
  • Gingivitis(inflammation of the gums)
  • Dry and splitting hair
  • Dry red spots on the skin
  • Rough, dry, scaly skin
  • Nosebleeds
  • Weakened immune system
  • Digestive disorders like leaky gut and autoimmune disease
  • Possible weight gain because of slowed metabolism
  • Swollen and painful joints

Health problems related to this vitamin deficiency can get much worse over time, and may lead to some serious health issues. Long Term Problems from Low Levels of Vitamin C include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Stroke
  • Certain cancers
  • Atherosclerosis



Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Good sources include:

  • oranges and orange juice
  • red and green peppers
  • strawberries
  • blackcurrants
  • broccoli
  • brussels sprouts
  • potatoes


World’s Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of vitamin C

Food Serving
Cals Amount
Papaya 1 medium 118.7 168.08 224 34.0
Bell Peppers 1 cup 28.5 117.48 157 98.9
Broccoli 1 cup 54.6 101.24 135 44.5
Brussels Sprouts 1 cup 56.2 96.72 129 41.3
Strawberries 1 cup 46.1 84.67 113 44.1
Pineapple 1 cup 82.5 78.87 105 22.9
Oranges 1 medium 61.6 69.69 93 27.2
Kiwifruit 1 2 inches 42.1 63.96 85 36.5
Cantaloupe 1 cup 54.4 58.72 78 25.9
Cauliflower 1 cup 28.5 54.93 73 46.2
Kale 1 cup 36.4 53.30 71 35.1
Cabbage 1 cup 43.5 51.60 69 28.5
Bok Choy 1 cup 20.4 44.20 59 52.0
Grapefruit 0.50 medium 41.0 44.03 59 25.8
Parsley 0.50 cup 10.9 40.43 54 88.7
Turnip Greens 1 cup 28.8 39.46 53 32.9
Beet Greens 1 cup 38.9 35.86 48 22.1
Mustard Greens 1 cup 36.4 35.42 47 23.4
Collard Greens 1 cup 62.7 34.58 46 13.2
Raspberries 1 cup 64.0 32.23 43 12.1
Swiss Chard 1 cup 35.0 31.50 42 21.6
Tomatoes 1 cup 32.4 24.66 33 18.3
Lemons and Limes 0.25 cup 13.4 23.61 31 42.2
Spinach 1 cup 41.4 17.64 24 10.2
Asparagus 1 cup 39.6 13.86 18 8.4
Sea Vegetables 1 TBS 10.8 12.16 16 26.9
Fennel 1 cup 27.0 10.44 14 9.3
Thyme 2 TBS 4.8 7.68 10 38.0
Sweet Potato 1 cup 180.0 39.20 52 5.2
Winter Squash 1 cup 75.8 19.68 26 6.2
Green Peas 1 cup 115.7 19.56 26 4.1
Blueberries 1 cup 84.4 14.36 19 4.1
Cranberries 1 cup 46.0 13.30 18 6.9
Watermelon 1 cup 45.6 12.31 16 6.5
Green Beans 1 cup 43.8 12.13 16 6.7
Summer Squash 1 cup 36.0 9.90 13 6.6
Carrots 1 cup 50.0 7.20 10 3.5
Plum 1 2-1/8 inches 30.4 6.27 8 5.0
Garlic 6 cloves 26.8 5.62 7 5.0
Basil 0.50 cup 4.9 3.82 5 18.8
Dill 0.50 cup 1.9 3.78 5 47.5
Romaine Lettuce 2 cups 16.0 3.76 5 5.6
Potatoes 1 cup 160.9 16.61 22 2.5
Avocado 1 cup 240.0 15.00 20 1.5
Onions 1 cup 92.4 10.92 15 2.8
Banana 1 medium 105.0 10.27 14 2.3
Apple 1 medium 94.6 8.37 11 2.1
Pear 1 medium 101.5 7.65 10 1.8
Beets 1 cup 74.8 6.12 8 2.0
Leeks 1 cup 32.2 4.37 6 3.3
Apricot 1 whole 16.8 3.50 5 5.0
Celery 1 cup 16.2 3.13 4 4.6
Cucumber 1 cup 15.6 2.91 4 4.5
Peppermint 2 TBS 5.3 2.42 3 10.9
Cilantro 0.50 cup 1.8 2.16 3 28.2


How much vitamin C do I need?

Adults need 40mg of vitamin C a day.

Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body, so you need it in your diet every day.

You should be able to get all the vitamin C you need from your daily diet.


Side Effects

Vitamin C is not stored in the body (excess amounts are excreted), so overdose is not a concern. Your body will get rid of excess vitamin C in your urine, it’s actually very smart about what it needs and doesn’t need. It is still important not to exceed the safe upper limit of 2,000 milligrams a day to avoid stomach upset and diarrhea. A recent study found a link between taking vitamin C supplements and kidney stones.

The study found that men who take C vitamin supplements are twice as likely to develop kidney stones as men who don’t take any dietary supplements. These results do not apply to men who get their vitamin C from eating fruits and vegetables, and women were not studied.

Taking large amounts (more than 1,000mg per day) of vitamin C can cause:

  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea
  • flatulence

These symptoms should disappear once you stop taking vitamin C supplements.



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