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Vitamin C in pregnancy

Vitamin C in pregnancy Fresh beginning

SUMMARY

Vitamin C is needed to make collagen, one of the fibres that builds your baby’s body. So it’s no surprise that your need increases during pregnancy. Fortunately, it’s easy to get an adequate supply from a diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables. Learn which foods are the best sources and why eating these alongside iron-rich foods can have additional benefits.

Vitamin C helps to support:
Normal development of tissues and organs

C is for collagen

One of the main proteins needed for your baby’s normal growth throughout pregnancy is collagen. This vital part of connective tissue helps to give your baby’s body its structure, and supports their developing organs.

Vitamin C has other important benefits for your baby's development. A healthy supply during pregnancy helps their tissues and organs grow and develop normally, providing a strong start for all future physical development. It also keeps cells healthy and helps wounds to heal.

Otherwise known as ascorbic acid, this essential nutrient is found in many fruit and vegetables. Red peppers, oranges and broccoli are particularly good sources. With powerful antioxidant properties, it has long been considered a helpful defence against the common cold.

“Vitamin C supports the immune system by keeping cells healthy and helping wounds to heal.”

50mcg

Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) of vitamin C each day

23.2mg=

raw spinach

raw spinach

24mg=

cooked tomatoes

tomato

Vitamin C can improve your iron absorption

A significant benefit of vitamin C for pregnant women is its influence on non-haem iron absorption. An adequate intake of iron is essential to support your increased blood volume and reduce the risk of iron-deficiency anaemia, a condition that can affect your own health and your baby’s development1.

By aiding non haem-iron absorption from plant sources, vitamin C also plays a role in building up your baby’s iron stores, which will support their learning and growth for the first 6 months of life2.

“Vitamin C helps the body absorb non-haem iron, the type found in plant sources such as spinach and chickpeas.”

Eating good sources of vitamin C with plant sources of iron during pregnancy can increase your daily intake considerably3. To get the most out of your diet, include fruit and iron sources within the same meal, whether it’s adding chopped fruit to a salad or having a whole fruit for dessert3.

 It’s not just oranges that are a great source of vitamin C, spinach and red peppers are also an excellent source.

Getting your daily dose of vitamin C in pregnancy

The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI – the amount considered to be enough to meet most people’s needs) of vitamin C during pregnancy is 50mg per day, which is 25% more than you would normally need4. This increases even further when breastfeeding, to a recommended 70mg per day.

As a water-soluble vitamin, it dissolves in water and isn’t stored by the body, which means a daily intake during pregnancy is essential. Fortunately, you can get all the vitamin C you need to support you and your baby by eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables5.

This table shows the vitamin C content of various good sources6:

Steam and grill for a higher vitamin C intake

As with other water-soluble vitamins, the way you prepare and cook foods can affect the vitamin C content7.

Boiling can destroy some of the vitamin C. To retain as much nutrient quality as possible, steam or grill your vegetables7. You can also eat them raw in salads or dip raw vegetable sticks into iron-rich hummus for a nutritious snack.

Gram for gram, which of these foods contains more vitamin C?

peppers
oranges

Next Steps

Add the following vitamin C-rich foods to your pregnancy shopping list:

  • Red peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Oranges
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries

View references

Hide references

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1. NHS UK. Iron-deficiency anaemia – complications [Online]. 2014. Available at: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Anaemia-iron-deficiency-/Pages/Complications.aspx [Accessed June 2014]

2. Rumbold A, Crowther CA. Vitamin C supplementation in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2, 2005.

3. Royal Surrey County Hospital (NHS). Check your iron intake pdf [Online]. 2012. Available at: www.royalsurrey.nhs.uk/Patients/Information-Leaflets/DownloadPDF?DocID=1233%2c1139%2c5%2c1%2cDocuments&MediaID=d863305d-d3d2-409b-abbb-841da008bcf2&Filename=PIN543_Check_your_iron_intake_w.pdf [Accessed June 2014]

4. Dietary reference values for food energy and nutrients for the United Kingdom. Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy. Report on Health and Social Subjects 41, 1991.

5. Department of Health. Nutrient analysis of fruit and vegetables [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/167942/Nutrient_analysis_of_fruit_and_vegetables_-_Summary_Report.pdf [Accessed June 2014]

6. Gov.UK. Nutrient Analysis of Fruit and Vegetables [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/nutrient-analysis-of-fruit-and-vegetables [Accessed August 2014]

7. NHS UK. Vitamins and minerals [Online]. 2012. Available at: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/vitamins-minerals.aspx [Accessed June 2014]

Last reviewed: 18th August 2014
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