Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is one of the most important nutrients for your body. As a health-promoting and cancer-fighting antioxidant, it plays the roll of protector, preventing damage to your cells from free radicals (things like chemicals, oxygen and fats). Vitamin C also protects your skin and gums from everyday wear-and-tear and helps to stave off cardiovascular disease. In addition, it is invaluable for preventing joint diseases, cataracts, osteoporosis and the development of scar tissue.
In the most severe cases, a vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, a disease characterized by bleeding gums and skin discoloration. While the disease is relatively rare in the US, other symptoms, like wounds that heal poorly, are more common. A weak immune system and an increased susceptibility to colds and chest infections are other signs you might need more of this important nutrient. (Click for cold-combating foods high in vitamin C.)
However, before you start megadosing, keep in mind that it's not known whether too much vitamin C can actually do harm to your body. Though recent research suggests that your kidneys will excrete excess vitamin C in your urine, experts say adults 19 years or older should limit their daily intake to 2,000 milligrams. Anything more could lead to diarrhea, stomach pain or higher levels of acid in your urine.
Even though vitamin C is one of the most readily absorbed nutrients by the body, there are some people who should keep a close eye on their daily intake.
American adults: Most adults don't meet their daily dose simply because they don't eat enough fruits or vegetables. (Check out the SheKnows.com Dieting and Nutrition Channelfor the health benefits of fruits and vegetables as well as ways to get more in your diet.)
Smokers: Smokers might need 30 percent more vitamin C than non-smokers because of the high levels of carcinogens in their bodies from cigarettes. Same goes for anyone frequently exposed to secondhand smoke. (Here are 10 more reasons to quit smoking.)
Alcoholics: Recent studies show drinking large quantities of alcohol will cut a person's vitamin C absorption power in half. (Worried you might be drinking too much? Check these signs that you are – or are not – an alcoholic.)
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C varies greatly by gender and age.
0-6 months: 40 mg per day
7-12 months: 50 mg per day
1-3 years: 15 mg per day
4-8 years: 25 mg per day
Males (ages 9-13): 45 mg per day
Males (ages 14-18): 75 mg per day
Males (ages 19 and older): 90 mg per day
Females (ages 9-13): 45 mg per day
Females (ages 14-18): 65 mg per day
Females (ages 19 and older): 75 mg
Pregnant females (ages 19 and older): 85 mg
Lactating females (ages 19 and older): 120 mg
Getting more vitamin C in your diet is delicious and easy. Here are some excellent food sources:
Papaya, 1 fruit = 187.87 mg
Bell peppers, red, raw, 1 cup = 174.8 mg
Broccoli, steamed, 1 cup = 123.40 mg
Brussels sprouts, boiled, 1 cup = 96.72 mg
Strawberries, 1 cup = 81.65 mg
Oranges, 1 fruit = 69.69 mg
Even though fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C, the following tips can help you optimize your intake.
1. Search for ripened foods.Unripened fruits or vegetables can contain as little as half the vitamin C as ripened ones.
2. Raw is best.Cooking fruits or vegetables for 10 to 20 minutes can cut their total vitamin C content in half. Your best option is to reach for raw veggies or fruits.
3. Store at room temperature.Vitamin C is very sensitive to temperature. About 25 percent of the vitamin C can be lost during the freezing-thawing process. A wooden bowl in your kitchen is the optimal place to store any vitamin C-rich food.
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