A bunch of vitamin c

The Function of Vitamin C

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is found in many fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits such as oranges. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water, and leftover amounts will leave the body through the urine. This means that you need an ongoing supply of vitamin C in your diet to prevent becoming deficient. Being severely deficient in vitamin C can lead to a rare condition called scurvy, which is characterized by severe symptoms and can also lead to death.

Vitamin C is necessary for normal growth and development. More specifically, vitamin C is needed for the following functions.

Growing and Repairing of Tissues

In order for the tissues in your body to grow and repair properly, vitamin C is needed. Its uses include:

  • Forming important proteins that are used to create skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels

  • Repairing and maintaining cartilage, bones, and teeth

  • Aiding in the absorption of iron

  • Healing wounds and forming scar tissue

Stimulating the Immune System

Vitamin C is very important for defense against infections such as the common cold. Though vitamin C may not reduce your risk of getting the common cold, people who take vitamin C supplements regularly will usually have shorter colds and milder symptoms. Additionally, vitamin C acts as an inhibitor of histamine, which is a compound that is released during allergic reactions.

Providing Antioxidants

Antioxidants are nutrients that block damage caused by free radicals, which are made when your body breaks down food or when you are exposed to radiation or tobacco smoke. Vitamin C acts as one of the many different types of antioxidants. The benefits of antioxidants include:

  • Slowing the aging process

  • Reducing your risk for cancer, heart disease, and other conditions such as arthritis

  • Neutralizing pollutants and toxins

Other Functions

Vitamin C is beneficial to your body for many other reasons as well. These include:

  • Improving the health of teeth and gums by preventing hemorrhaging and bleeding

  • Improving the metabolism of bile acids, which decreases your chance of high blood cholesterol and gallstones

  • Playing a significant role in the synthesis of important peptide hormones, neurotransmitters, and carnitine

  • Helping your eyes to deal with oxidative stress

  • Delaying the progression of advanced age-related macular degeneration and vision loss

Food Sources for Vitamin C

The best way to make sure your vitamin C levels are where they should be is to eat a diet that is rich with the nutrient. The best foods for vitamin C include:

  • Cantaloupe

  • Citrus fruits and juices 

  • Mango

  • Pineapple

  • Watermelon

  • Kiwi

  • Papaya

  • Berries (such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries)

  • Broccoli

  • Cauliflower

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Winter squash

  • Sweet and white potatoes

  • Leafy greens (such as spinach and turnip greens)

  • Tomatoes

  • Green and red peppers

  • Fortified foods (such as cereal or other foods with added vitamin C)

Since your body is unable to store vitamin C, it is very rare to consume too much vitamin C. However, consuming more than 2,000 milligrams per day is not recommended, since it can lead to upset stomach and diarrhea.

Last Updated: December 07, 2015