During the summer and early fall, we see a ton of fruits and vegetables come into season. Many of those are packed with vitamin C! Vitamin C is an important dietary vitamin because our bodies cannot make it on their own. This means we must get vitamin C from food. Vitamin C has always been known for its protective qualities around our immune system, but is also good for our heart health, increasing the amount of iron we absorb and helping heal wounds. 

Dominica Nichols, PhD, RD, LDN, registered dietitian-nutritionist in the Down Syndrome Program at Mass General for Children (MGfC) and Massachusetts Hospital, and Hannah Rivard, our 2020 nutrition intern, share the importance of vitamin C.

Where can I get vitamin C?

During the summer and early fall, you can find plenty of great vitamin C sources right out of the garden, including tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, citrus fruits, broccoli and more. Starting a summer garden could be a fun family project and brings all these vitamin C-rich foods right into your backyard. If you do not have space for a garden, check out a local farmers market as another fresh option.

Why can’t I just drink juice?

While juice is one source that may be a favorite, it is high in sugar. Drinking juice is not the best way to meet your body’s needs for vitamin C. Vegetables, fresh fruits and frozen fruits have more vitamin C than many store-bought juices. If your loved one with Down syndrome prefers a drink, try blending fresh fruit into a homemade smoothie instead.

How much vitamin C should I be getting?

The amount of vitamin C you need depends on your age. The National Institute of Health offers a chart that tells you how much vitamin C you should be getting, starting from birth all the way into adulthood. If you are wondering whether a vitamin C supplement would help you or a loved one with Down syndrome, talk with your registered dietitian (RD) or health care provider for advice on what is best. High amounts of vitamin C from supplements can lead to kidney stones.

How can I help my body take in as much vitamin C as possible?

Vitamin C-rich foods help our bodies absorb iron from whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and vegetables. To help your body absorb as much vitamin C as possible, try combinations like an orange with a fortified breakfast cereal, or strawberries with cashews or cashew butter. When a food is fortified, it means nutrients, such as iron or calcium, have been added to it.