Vitamin C has positive effects on bones, blood vessels, the immune system, cholesterol, mood, energy levels and our stress response, and plays a major role in preventing tissue damage. We cannot store vitamin C so you need a source of it in your diet every day.
Overt vitamin C deficiency occurs below intakes of 10mg daily, causing classical scurvy which presents with bleeding and bruising, hair and tooth loss, swollen painful joints and fatigue. The recommended intake of vitamin C in Britain is 60mg daily which is enough to prevent scurvy. However, as an anti-oxidant, vitamin C protects us against tissue damage and is one of our major defences against toxins and pollution, so 60mg may not be high enough to help prevent degenerative diseases like heart disease and cancer in our modern world. 200mg daily is likely to be more effective in this respect and can easily be obtained from a good diet.
How can I make sure I get enough?
The best sources of vitamin C are blackcurrants, kiwi fruit, cauliflower, broccoli, oranges, strawberries, grapefruit, spinach, pineapple and tomato. Indeed, blackcurrants have 200mg per 100g portion, providing you with almost all of your daily need. However, current methods of forced growing and the practice of picking fruit before it is ripe are likely to reduce the levels of vitamin C available, so choose your source of fruit and vegetables wisely.
Vitamin C begins to decline from the moment the food is picked and is easily destroyed by heat, air, and lost when cooked in water. Where possible buy organic, local produce which has not travelled 1000s of miles, and buy it every few days to reduce storage time. Fruit and vegetables should be stored in air-tight containers in the fridge. Eat fruit fresh. Lightly steam rather than boil vegetables and recover the water to make gravy or sauces. Cooking larger pieces of vegetables also helps to preserve vitamin C.
Remember we only absorb about 70%-90% of the available vitamin C in our food so consider that when planning meals.
Your question has been answered by GP and natural health practitioner, Dr Carole Kelly, who graduated in Naturopathy from CNM.