The Value of Vitamin C

As parents, most of us know that vitamin C is important to help ward off colds and infections, but there are so many more reasons to make sure we are getting plenty of this vitamin. For Mums and kids, the reasons extend from breastfeeding to nosebleeds, and could all be helped with a ‘kiwifruit-a-day’.

Vitamin C is an important antioxidant vitamin. It works with the immune system to help protect our bodies, as well as helping heal wounds and fractures. Vitamin C is also necessary for building healthy connective tissue, bones and teeth, and it helps our bodies to better absorb the iron from the foods that we eat.

antioxidants vs free radicals

Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, protect our bodies against the damaging effects of free radicals. Everyone produces free radicals in the process of creating energy; however, they may be over-produced by exposure to stress, cigarettes, pollution, sunlight, radiation and illness. This can cause cell damage, which may lead to cancer and other illnesses, and is thought to be how the ageing process takes place. The antioxidants we eat help to neutralise the free radicals in our body. So a diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables and other plant foods will be naturally high in the antioxidant vitamins.

where do we find it?

Vitamin C is found mainly in fruit and vegetables. The amount of vitamin C found in food varies dramatically. In general, an unripe food is lower in vitamin C than a ripe one, but provided that the food is ripe, the vitamin C content is higher when the food is younger at the time of harvest.

Vitamin C is easily lost in storage, processing, preparation and cooking. About 25% of the vitamin C in vegetables can be lost simply by blanching (boiling or steaming the food for a few minutes). This same degree of loss occurs in the freezing and unthawing of vegetables and fruits. Heat can reduce the vitamin C content of ingredients by up to 70% and vitamin C can also be leached into water during cooking. When fruits and vegetables are canned and then reheated, only a third of the original vitamin C content may be left. Eating vitamin C-rich foods in their fresh, raw form is the best way to maximise vitamin C intake. For example, fresh peas contain approximately 24mg vitamin C per 100g; canned garden peas only 1mg.

how much do we need?

In terms of daily vitamin C requirements, infants up to 12-months need 25mg to 30mg/day, while children up to 18-years-old need 35 to 40mg/day. Adults have slightly higher requirements, at 45mg/day throughout their lives. Pregnant women require 60mg/day, while breastfeeding women need 85mg/day.

when do we need extra Vitamin C?

Extra vitamin C may be needed at certain times, for example, when the body is fighting an infection, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and for certain people such as smokers, heavy drinkers and people working in heavily polluted atmospheres. With regular intake, the absorption rate of vitamin C varies between 70 to 95%. However, the degree of absorption decreases as intake increases. Being water-soluble, vitamin C is easily excreted from the body when not needed.

what if we don’t get enough?

Low levels of vitamin C are associated both with high blood pressure and increased risk of heart attack. Catching colds and other infections easily can be a telltale sign of vitamin C deficiency. A deficiency in vitamin C also results in poor wound healing, bleeding gums, nosebleeds, respiratory infection and other lung-related conditions, and in the long term can result in scurvy, although this is rarely seen today.

Vitamin C is the most popular and most widely taken dietary supplement, however a vitamin C intake in excess of 1000mg/day is not recommended. An excess of vitamin C can have a laxative effect and cause diarrhea and gastric upset.

Some of the foods that are good sources vitamin C include:

  • Red, yellow and green peppers
  • Chilli peppers
  • Spring greens
  • Parsley
  • Kiwifruit
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackcurrants
  • Papaya
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Red cabbage
  • Oranges
  • Broccoli
  • Mangoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Nectarines
  • Salad

Kiwifruit are packed with vitamin C and are also a good source of vitamin E, potassium, folate and fibre. With its bright-green flesh speckled with tiny black seeds, kiwifruit add colour and a tropical touch to any fruit-based dessert and can be eaten raw; peeled and then sliced, or cut in half with the flesh scooped out.

This delicious roulade makes a great dessert. Be sure to peel and slice the kiwifruit used for the garnish at the last minute. Depending on the season and availability, you may also use blueberries, strawberries, blackcurrants or a mix, all of which will taste delicious and ensure a good intake of vitamin C.

kiwifruit roulade

Serves 8


  • Kiwifruit cream
  • 5 kiwifruit
  • 100g natural yoghurt
  • 80g white sugar
  • 100ml fresh cream
  • Sponge
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g white sugar
  • 70g flour
  • 30g butter

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF) fan bake. Grease a 35 × 27cm (14 × 11 inch) biscuit tray.

To make the kiwifruit cream, peel 4 of the kiwifruit and place in the bowl of a food processor with the natural yoghurt and sugar. Process into a smooth purée, then transfer to a bowl. Whip the fresh cream into soft peaks and fold into the kiwifruit mixture. Chill for 30 minutes.

To make the sponge, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until creamy. Mix in the sifted flour and melted butter. Beat the egg whites into soft peaks and fold into the batter. Pour this mixture onto the prepared tray.

Bake for 10 minutes or until springy to the touch. Remove from the tray and place on a damp tea towel.

Spread half of the kiwifruit filling over the sponge, leaving 2cm (1 inch) clear on all sides. Roll up from the short end and chill.

Transfer to a serving plate and cut 1cm (½ inch) off both ends. Spread the remaining kiwifruit filling over the top of the sponge and garnish with slices of the remaining kiwifruit.

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