Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Citrus fruits are a common source of vitamin C.

Citrus fruits are a common source of vitamin C.
beginning of content

Vitamin C

3-minute read

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is essential to your health. You get it each day from what you eat and drink.

What does vitamin C do?

Vitamin C is important for:

  • keeping your skin, bones and connective tissue healthy
  • helping wounds heal
  • helping prevent infections
  • helping you absorb iron from your food

Sources of vitamin C

Vitamin C is found in many different fruits and vegetables, including:

  • blackcurrants
  • citrus fruits – oranges, limes and lemons
  • berries
  • kiwifruit
  • tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • sprouts
  • red, yellow and green capsicum

Cutting and heating foods changes vitamin C and makes it less effective. So it helps to eat fruits and vegetables raw, or lightly cooked, and don’t cut them too long before eating them.

You should be able to get all the vitamin C you need from your diet.

Vitamin C deficiency

Vitamin C deficiency may lead to a skin condition called scurvy. Scurvy was common centuries ago, but is now rare because fresh food is nearly always available.

Vitamin C deficiency diagnosis

If your doctor suspects you have a vitamin C deficiency because of your diet or symptoms, which would be very rare in a healthy person, they may ask you to have a blood test to check your vitamin C levels.

Who is at risk of vitamin C deficiency

Vitamin C deficiency is rare, but people at a higher risk include those who:

Do I need vitamin C supplements?

Lots of people take vitamin supplements, but there is no good evidence that they help unless you have a deficiency. Australia’s best guide to how to eat healthily – the Australian Dietary Guidelines – doesn’t recommend them. There is no good evidence vitamin C supplements help prevent or treat colds.

Vitamin supplements are expensive. They are best taken only on a doctor’s advice.

Most people get the vitamins they need from a healthy diet, which has a wide variety of foods, including:

  • plenty of vegetables, of different types and colours, and legumes/beans
  • fruit
  • grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain, and/or high cereal fibre varieties such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
  • lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
  • milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat

Vitamin C deficiency treatment

Health experts usually recommend that you get vitamin C from your diet, but in some cases your doctor may suggest you take vitamin C supplements. Vitamin C supplements can cause abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

Last reviewed: February 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Scurvy - Better Health Channel

Scurvy is uncommon in Australia but anyone whose diet is inadequate in vitamin C is at risk.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Scurvy returns to Australia due to poor diet - myDr.com.au

Scurvy, a disease caused by lack of vitamin C, has resurfaced in Australia in a diabetes clinic in Western Sydney. Symptoms of scurvy include swollen bleeding gums, joint pain and wounds that don't heal.

Read more on myDr website

Kids' Health - Topics - Water soluble vitamins

This topic is about vitamin C and the B group vitamins - the water soluble vitamins. You can find out about the fat soluble vitamins - A, D, E and K in the topic 'More about vitamins'.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold | Cochrane

The common cold is a major cause of visits to a doctor in high-income countries and of absenteeism from work and school. There are over 200 viruses which can cause the common cold symptoms including runny nose, congestion, sneezing, sore throat, cough, and sometimes headache, fever and red eyes. Symptoms vary from person to person and cold to cold. Since the common cold is usually caused by one of the respiratory viruses, antibiotics are useless and therefore other potential treatment options are of substantial public health interest.

Read more on Cochrane (Australasian Centre) website

Breastfeeding your toddler | Australian Breastfeeding Association

The nutritional benefits of breastfeeding in the first year of life are well-documented and they do not cease after 12 months.Breastfeeding your toddler can provide 29% of his daily energy needs, 43% of protein requirements, 75% of vitamin A requirements and 60% of vitamin C. Read about breastfeeding toddlers.

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Vitamins and nutrition in pregnancy

Information on pregnancy vitamins and minerals including iron, folate, iodine, zinc, vitamin D and C, supplements, plus links to trusted resources.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Gingivitis (gum disease) information | myVMC

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum (gingival tissues). It may be caused by poor oral hygiene, irritation, infection or medication use.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Iron intake for vegetarians - myDr.com.au

Iron deficiency can be a nutritional problem for vegetarians, especially women. Find out about iron in food and how to enhance your iron absorption.

Read more on myDr website

Vitamins and minerals: What's needed during pregnancy | myVMC

To avoid poor nutrition, pregnant women must consume a range micronutrients, to maintain specific body functions. Micronutrient supplements may be necessary for women who are unable to meet their demands for particular micronutrients from their diet.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (connective tissue disorders) | myVMC

Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) are a group of genetic connective tissue disorders. Abnormal collagen production affects the skin, ligaments and tendons.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo