Vitamin C plays a key role in several body systems, but was historically best known for causing scurvy. Fortunately, those days are long gone, but getting vitamin C in your diet is still important and very easy as long as you get plenty of variety.
Why does my body need vitamin C?
Vitamin C is used by a number of enzymes in the body to carry out needed reactions. In particular, vitamin C plays a key role in making collagen, which is then used for structural support throughout the body. It’s also used in proteins needed for making and storing energy in the body and for making certain hormones. Vitamin C has also been found in high amounts in certain immune cells, but it’s unclear exactly what role vitamin C is playing in these cells.
What foods contain vitamin C?
Citrus fruits are best known for their high levels of vitamin C, but many other fruits and vegetables can get you your daily dose, sometimes at even higher levels than citrus. Bell peppers are very high in vitamin C, with the amount increasing as they go from green to red. Other vegetable sources include Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, kale and potatoes. Aside from citrus fruits, kiwis, papayas, strawberries, pineapple, cantaloupe and passion fruit also contain large amounts of vitamin C.
What happens when I don’t get enough vitamin C?
Because collagen synthesis depends on vitamin C, deficiency leads to a breakdown of many of the tissues that use collagen. That includes easy bleeding and bruising as blood vessel walls weaken, joint and skin problems, and poor wound healing. Taken together, these are the main symptoms of scurvy.
Who’s most at risk of deficiency?
Vitamin C deficiency is very rare in the U.S. and most people get more than enough in their daily diet. Deficiency is sometimes seen in malnourished individuals living in poverty who many not have access to fruits or vegetables. Any diet that regularly includes fruits and vegetables should provide enough vitamin C.