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Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C is not stored in the body and is destroyed when food is stored so it is important to eat fresh fruit and vegetables

Glass of orange juice and segments of oranges on a table
Fresh oranges are a good source of vitamin C

RDA is 60 mg.

We cannot store vitamin C in our bodies, so we have to get it continuously from our diet. It dissolves in water so it is washed out of food easily, and is broken down when food is cooked. It is also destroyed when fresh food is stored for a time.

Fast foods and junk food have little or no vitamin C.

Where do you get vitamin C?

It is found in fresh fruits such as oranges, blackcurrants, kiwi fruit and strawberries, as well as in fresh vegetables like peppers, tomatoes and Brussels sprouts.


Vitamin C is necessary for a healthy immune system, to fight colds, infections and illness generally. It is useful in protecting us from strokes and cataracts, and helps the healing process of wounds and after surgery.

It is a powerful antioxidant. This protects you from the damage caused by free radicals. All the things we do and are exposed to throughout life - moving, breathing, pollution, exercising and so on - produce free radicals. They cause damage to cells and if not controlled are thought to be responsible for many diseases and ageing generally.

Too much vitamin C

High doses over long periods may cause diarrhoea. But this goes away when the dose is reduced.

Too little vitamin C

Deficiency causes scurvy - bleeding gums, painful joints and scaly skin.

A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables should give you the necessary vitamin C.

Vitamin C supplements

Supplements are safe in most circumstances. Chewable tablets can cause tooth decay: wash them down with water. Ester-C is gentler on the stomach, but costs a lot more.

Do not take vitamin C if you have kidney problems or after intestinal surgery.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.