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The Importance of Vitamin C

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Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is essential for the body to function properly. It's important for growth and repair of bones, teeth, skin and other tissues. It also helps prevent cell damage and protects you from infections.


Why Do We Need Vitamin C?

Vitamin C has several functions in the body including:

  • Promotes the absorption of iron from plant foods
  • Acts as an antioxidant
  • Keeps your gums healthy
  • Helps to form and repair blood, bones and other tissues

A severe deficiency of vitamin C is extremely uncommon in North America, but a few hundred years ago, it was the main cause of scurvy. Too little vitamin C may result in bleeding gums, poor healing of wounds, loose teeth, joint pain and infections.

Our bodies don't store large amounts of vitamin C. Any extra amount is lost through the urine. Therefore, it's important to eat a diet rich in vitamin C every day.


Vitamin C Food Sources

The best food sources of vitamin C are vegetables and fruit. The amount of vitamin C in a food is affected by the way it is cooked. Vitamin C is lost in cooking water and during long storage times. You can maximize your vitamin C intake by eating fresh fruits and vegetables as soon as possible or preserve vitamin C by cooking food in very little water (i.e. microwaving or steaming).

Most people can get enough vitamin C by eating a healthy diet. The recommended nutritional intake for adults aged 19 and older is 90 mg/day for men, and 75 mg/day for women.

See the table below for the vitamin C content of some common foods.

Vitamine C
Food Group FoodServing sizeVitamin C (mg)
Vegetables and Fruit
Yellow pepper, raw 125 mL (½ cup)144
Guava 1 fruit126
Red pepper, raw 125 mL (½ cup)101
Papaya½ fruit93
Kiwifruit 1 large84
Orange1 medium70
Broccoli, cooked125 mL (½ cup)54
Orange juice125 mL (½ cup)53
Brussels sprouts, cooked125 mL (4 sprouts)52
Strawberries125 mL (½ cup)52
Grapefruit½ fruit46
Cabbage, red, raw250 mL (1 cup)42
Pineapple125 ml (½ cup)42
Snow peas, cooked125 ml (½ cup)41
Mango½ fruit38
Clementine1 fruit36
Cantaloupe125 mL (½ cup)31
Cauliflower, cooked125 mL (½ cup)29
Kale, cooked125 mL (½ cup)28
Bok choy, cooked125 mL (½ cup)23
Sweet potato, with skin, cooked1 medium22
Potato, with skin, cooked 1 medium22
Raspberries125 mL (½ cup)17
Tomato, raw1 medium17
Honeydew125 mL (½ cup)16
Cranberry juice125 mL (½ cup)12
Grain ProductsThis food group contains very little of this nutrient
Milk and Alternatives This food group contains very little of this nutrient
Meat and Alternatives
Chestnuts (Japanese, Chinese)60 mL (¼ cup)24
Liver (pork, chicken, turkey) , cooked75 g (2.5 oz)19
Clams, cooked75 g (2.5 oz)17

The information in this resource is for general information purposes only and is not intended to replace informed medical advice. Consume foods according to any dietary guidelines you have been provided from a health care professional. Metro Ontario Pharmacies Limited assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of the information.


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