Vitamin C is probably the best known of the vitamins, with most people aware that it is an essential compound for healthy that is found in citrus fruits. Vitamin C is necessary for the synthesis of collagen, which is the main component of connective tissue and the most abundant protein found in the body. Vitamin C strengthens blood vessels and helps to repair red blood cells, bones, and tissues when they are damaged. It minimises bruising, helps gums to stay healthy and boosts the immune system. It is also vital in the absorption of iron from iron-rich foods, so eating a food or drinking a juice containing vitamin C at the same time as eating an iron-rich food will maximise the uptake of iron into the body.
Good sources of vitamin C
The best sources of vitamin C are brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. The amount of vitamin will vary depending on the size of the fruit or vegetable. Below is a list of some of the best sources and the levels of the vitamin in a typical serving:
- Guava (1/2cup): 160 mg
- Papaya: (1/2cup): 100 mg
- Orange juice (1 cup): 100 mg
- Red bell peppers (1/2cup): 100 mg
- Kiwi: (1/2cup): 80 mg
- Medium orange: 60 mg
- Broccoli: (1/2cup): 60 mg
- 4 medium strawberries: 28 mg
- mango: (1/2cup): 22 mg
- Tomato: (1/2cup): 10 mg
- Potato (cooked without skin – 1/2cup): 3 mg
Vitamin C deficiency
As vitamin C is available in so many foods, it is very rare for toddlers to develop a deficiency. Many years ago, sailors were prone to developing vitamin C deficiency by being away at sea for long periods and not having access to fresh fruit. This could result in a disease called scurvy, which initially presented itself with symptoms of fatigue and lethargy. This would be followed by the formation of spots on the skin and bleeding from the mucous membranes and gums. As the illness progressed, wounds would develop, that wouldn’t heal, teeth would fall out and there would ultimately be fever, jaundice and death. The disease was remedied when citrus fruit, such as limes, started to be carried on board ships for the crew.
The recommended daily amount of vitamin C for ages 1 to 3 years is 15mg. Your toddler doesn’t have to receive get the recommended amount for each day – you can instead average out the amount over a few days or a week.
Can your child get too much vitamin C?
Vitamin C is water soluble, meaning that it isn’t stored in the body and any excess is flushed out in urine. However, very large doses can still cause nausea, diarrhoea, inflammation of the stomach lining and kidney stones. The upper intake level for vitamin C for children aged 1 to 3 years is 650mg. Some chewable adult vitamin C supplements contain up to 500mg and these are often treated as a form of ‘health candy’ by health conscious adults. These supplements should not be given to toddlers in this fashion.