Vitamin C is the most common vitamin to be found in natural foods. It contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system, reducing fatigue and protecting our cells against oxidative stress*.
Fresh citrus fruits have a high concentration of vitamin C, but it is important to bear in mind that, of all vitamins, vitamin C is one of the most unstable. It oxidizes easily and is rapidly destroyed when coming into contact with metals, air and light. Therefore, citrus fruit juice must be consumed freshly squeezed to enjoy the benefits of its vitamin C content.
The nutritional qualities of citrus fruits were already known in the eighteenth century. At that time, many foods could not be stored on merchant ships owing to the excessive length of these voyages. So, the ships used to take great quantities of lemons and oranges on board to help prevent scurvy – a widespread disease at that time – caused by a lack of vitamin C.
It was only in the early twentieth century that vitamin C was chemically identified.
Since mammals are unable to synthesize ascorbic acid, they need to ensure an intake of this vitamin with their diet.
* EU Commission Regulation No 432/2012 of 16 May 2012 establishing a list of permitted health claims made on foods, other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children's development and health.