Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin. Unlike most mammals and other animals, humans do not have the ability to make ascorbic acid and must obtain vitamin C from the diet.
Food Sources of vitamin C
Vitamin C can be found in vegetables and fruits. Citrus fruits are especially high in vitamin C, but leafy greens and many other fruits and vegetables are also excellent sources. Choose fresh foods as your source of vitamin C as heat can destroy this vitamin.
Foods that provide vitamin C include: orange juice, grapefruit juice, kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, grapefruit, baked potato, tomato, spinach
Do you know that one medium orange gives you about 70mg of Vitamin C?
Why you need vitamin C during pregnancy
Both you and your baby need vitamin C daily because it's necessary for the body to make collagen, a structural protein that's also a component of cartilage, tendons, bones, and skin. Based on animal studies, some researchers believe that vitamin C deficiencies in newborn babies can impair mental development. (1)
Other than that, Vitamin C is also essential for healthy skin, tissue repair, wound healing, bone growth and repair. Vitamin C helps your body fight infections, improves your immune system and acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage.
Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron, especially from vegetarian sources. One tip will be to take Vitamin C together with iron supplements during pregnancy.
How much vitamin C do you need?
Pregnant women age 18 and younger: 80 milligrams (mg) per day
Pregnant women age 19 and older: 85 mg per day
Breastfeeding women age 18 and younger: 115 mg per day
Breastfeeding women age 19 and older: 120 mg per day
Nonpregnant women age 18 and younger: 65 mg per day
Nonpregnant women age 19 and older: 75 mg per day (2)
What are the signs of a vitamin C deficiency?
Signs include fatigue, muscle weakness, joint and muscle aches, bleeding gums, and leg rashes. Prolonged deficiency can cause scurvy, a rare but potentially severe illness.
Are there any risks associated with too much vitamin C?
Vitamin C is generally regarded as safe. Side effects are rarely reported, but may include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
For most healthy individuals, the body can only hold and use about 200-250 mg of vitamin C a day, and any excess is lost though urine. At times of illness, during recovery from injury, or under conditions of increased oxidative stress (including smoking), the body can use greater amounts. High doses of vitamin C (greater than 2,000 mg/day) may contribute to the formation of kidney stones, as well as cause severe diarrhea, nausea, and gastritis. (3)
1. Tveden-Nyborg P, Lykkesfeldt J. Does vitamin C deficiency result in impaired
brain development in infants? Redox Rep. 2009;14(1):2-6.
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research