A fresh start
The importance of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is needed to make collagen, one of the fibres that
|Vitamin C helps to support:
Normal development of tissues and organs
The benefits of vitamin C
Not only does it boost your immune system and reduce your risk of suffering from iron-defficiency anaemia in pregnancy, Vitamin C is key to your baby's physical development too.
- aids in the production of collagen, which supports normal growth, bone strength and wound healing1
- supports your baby's immune system,2
- helps your baby to absorb iron and build up stores for later use.2
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 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.
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.
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?
Oranges – surprisingly, they only contain 52mg of vitamin C per 100g, around half as much as peppers.
Peppers – amazingly, they contain over twice as much vitamin C as oranges – around 126mg per 100g.
Add the following vitamin C-rich foods to your pregnancy shopping list:
- Red peppers
1. Maggini S et al. Essential Role of Vitamin C and Zinc in Child Immunity and Health. J Int Med Res 2010; 38: 386 - 414
2. NHS. Vitamins for children [Online] 2015 Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/vitamins-for-children.aspx [Accessed October 2017].
3. NHS UK. Iron-deficiency anaemia – complications [Online]. 2014. Available at: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Anaemia-iron-deficiency-/Pages/Complications.aspx [Accessed June 2014]
4. Rumbold A, Crowther CA. Vitamin C supplementation in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2, 2005.
5. 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]
6. 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.
7. 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]
8. 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]
9. 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
Questions about feeding and nutrition?
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