Focus on… Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is arguably one of the most popular vitamin supplements, with many people taking it to help fight colds.

But while there is no real evidence that vitamin C can stop you catching a cold – though, to be fair, it may slightly reduce the amount of time you’re down with a cold virus – it is necessary for several functions in the body.

What does it do?   Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that’s classed as an antioxidant. This means it helps to combat the damage caused by substances in the body called free radicals. In other words, it protects your cells, keeping them healthy.

Vitamin C has other important functions too. Your body needs it to produce collagen, a substance that provides support and structure for tissues and organs while also helping wounds to heal. It also helps your body absorb iron, which is why some iron supplements come with added vitamin C.

Where do you get it?    There’s lots of vitamin C in fruit and vegetables, some of which include:

  • Citrus fruit and juice
  • Peppers (red and green)
  • Chillies
  • Strawberries
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Watercress
  • Brussels sprouts

* Blackcurrants

  • Spring greens
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Red cabbage
  • Dried fruit

How much do you need?    According to the NHS, the current daily guideline for vitamin C intake is 40mg. If you have a healthy balanced diet, you should easily be able to get this much from the food you eat every day.

Do you need a supplement?   Vitamin C deficiency is rare in this country, and most people who eat healthily don’t need a supplement. But if you don’t eat a wide variety of food for any reason, it may be a good idea to take extra vitamin C in supplement form. If you smoke or you’re regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, ask your pharmacist whether or not you should be taking a vitamin C supplement, as smoking is thought to increase your body’s exposure to free radicals.

However, if you do want to take a vitamin C supplement, most experts agree it won’t do you any harm – though taking more than 1,000mg a day could cause problems such as stomach pain, diarrhoea and flatulence.

If you’re not sure you need a vitamin C supplement, talk to your local pharmacist who can recommend a suitable product if necessary. Always follow the dosage instructions on the label. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.