Vitamin C for kids on a plant-based diet! Answering questions about vitamin C foods for kids and how much vitamin C per day for kids.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that, unlike fat-soluble vitamins which accumulate in our fat cells, most unused vitamin C is excreted from the body. At any given time, the human body contains between 300 mg and 2 grams of vitamin C, with most of it held in cells and tissues, white blood cells, eyes, the brain, and adrenal and pituitary gland.
This also means that vitamin C needs to be consumed on a daily basis. Furthermore, humans can’t make their own vitamin C (while many animals can), so it’s essential to get it through diet – plant-based or not.
Vitamin C is essential for making collagen, the primary protein found in the human body. Collagen is the main component in connective tissues and is critical for wound healing.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, which helps protect our cells from free radical damage that can promote disease. It plays a major role in immune health, which is why we remember our parents always handing us a big glass of orange juice when we got sick.
Lastly, vitamin C helps boost our absorption of iron, which is why we recommend pairing food sources of both at meals and snacks for kids. This is especially helpful for plant-based kids, a nonheme iron from plant sources has a naturally lower bioavailability than the heme iron in animal foods.
How Much Vitamin C Per Day for Kids?
Not getting enough vitamin C can lead to a condition called scurvy, which causes easy bruising and bleeding, and joint and muscle pain. Scurvy is best known as a disease that plagued many sailors in the 1800s – when it was discovered that when citrus fruits were consumed on their voyages, scurvy could be treated and prevented. Today, scurvy is extremely rare in most countries.
Because of its water-soluble nature, vitamin C does not have any known toxicity among healthy individuals when taken in large amounts.
However, excessive vitamin C intake may cause digestive symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, cramps, and nausea – so it’s best to stay within recommended amounts through foods. Plus, there’s no scientific reason to be consuming vitamin C in excess.
There is also some evidence that people who have pre-existing hyperoxaluria, or too much oxalate in their blood, may be prone to developing kidney stones when they consume vitamin C in excess (generally through supplements).
Below are the recommended daily allowances (RDA) of vitamin C for kids:
- 0-6 months, male and female: 40 mg
- 7-12 months, male and female: 50 mg
- 1-3 years, male and female: 15 mg
- 4-8 years, male and female: 25 mg
- 9-13 years, male and female: 45 mg
- 14-18 years, male: 75 mg
- 14-18 years, female: 65 mg
With that being said, most people – including kids – get enough vitamin C from their everyday diet.
Best Vitamin C Foods for Kids
We always recommend getting micronutrients from whole foods first, and vitamin C is abundant in them. Fruits and vegetables are the best places to find it. And while oranges are often the poster child for vitamin C, they’re not the only source!
Some of the best sources of vitamin C include:
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
Note that steaming or cooking fruits and vegetables can actually promote the loss of water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C. While it’s okay to use these preparation methods, we also recommend eating some produce raw to both optimize these nutritional benefits and expose your littles to raw textures (when age appropriate).
If you’re having trouble getting your child to eat (or even try) vitamin C foods, see some of these posts:
- How to Help Your Child Eat More Vegetables
- 5 Ways to Improve Nutrition for Picky Eaters
- 15 Food Play Ideas
- Should You Hide Vegetables in Your Child’s Meals?
Smoothies, popsicles, dips, sauces, and baked goods are also great vehicles for fruits and veggies that may help encourage kids to try them.
Vitamin C Supplements
Should you use vitamin C supplements for kids? It depends.
Most standard children’s multivitamins will contain vitamin C, and often they will meet over 100% of the daily value for kids. In this case, an additional vitamin C supplement would not be necessary.
If your child has no supplemental source of vitamin C, and doesn’t eat many vitamin C-rich foods, considering a vitamin C supplement may be helpful.
Most supplements contain synthetic ascorbic acid, which has a similar bioavailability to the natural vitamin C found in foods.
Vitamin C for kids is easy to find on a plant-based diet! Try adding more of these vitamin C foods for kids to meet their needs.
Chime In: What vitamin C sources do your kids already eat, and what are some new ones you can offer them?
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