From helping in the formation of tissues to boosting our immune health, vitamin C is a nutrient our bodies need in abundance. It plays an important role in the healing of wounds, the management of asthma, and even the treatment of lead toxicity. And it can boost your mood, detox the body and strengthen the overall immune system. As the vitamin is water-soluble, it’s absolutely imperative that we get enough. In this article we’ll go over the numerous health benefits which vitamin C has to offer, the best natural sources of the vitamin, and how to choose the best vitamin C supplement for you.
What Happens When the Body Lacks Enough Vitamin C?
A vitamin C deficiency manifests itself in a number of ways. The most common symptoms of deficiency include general body fatigue, bleeding gums, muscle and joint aches, weakness around the joints and rashes on the legs . In severe cases, one may even experience scurvy, suffering from such symptoms as swelling, anemia, gum ulceration and the loss of teeth , .
Of course, just because you aren’t experiencing any of these symptoms doesn’t mean that you probably couldn’t use a little more vitamin C! Luckily, as we’ll go into further below, many of the best natural sources of vitamin C happen to be some of the most delicious foods on the planet.
The Main Health Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamin C’s key benefits can be categorized as preventative, curative, or enhancive in respect to the various ways our bodies benefit from it.
A regular intake of sufficient amounts of vitamin C can enhance our overall health significantly. It can improve:
Mood – When consumed, vitamin C triggers the production of norepinephrine which, in addition to its mood enhancive properties, is vital to the brain’s proper functioning .
Asthma – Vitamin C is said to “absorb” symptoms of asthma by improving how the body reacts to pollutants that may trigger an asthmatic attack.
Immunity – Vitamin C is known to consolidate the body’s immune system, thereby making it less prone to getting infections. It achieves this by stimulating the white blood cells , .
Vitamin C helps in the prevention of:
Heart disease – Taking enough vitamin C can help lower the blood pressure of people suffering from HBP, thereby reducing the risk of developing hypertension or a number of other dangerous cardiovascular problems. It also eradicates free radicals which have been linked to various cardiovascular diseases, including atherosclerosis .
Scurvy – Historically, this vitamin C deficiency mostly affected sailors who often spent long periods of time away from the land without sufficient sources of vitamin C on board. Although significantly less common these days, scurvy still affects people who are malnourished, allergic to foods rich in vitamin C, alcoholics, and people whose diets do not consist of enough leafy vegetables and fruits. Symptoms of this deficiency disease may include diarrhea, fever, hemorrhaging, loss of appetite, and unhealthy weight loss , .
Other than its preventative benefits, vitamin C is also known to be useful in the treatment of:
Open wounds – Vitamin C’s antioxidant qualities make it essential in the production of collagen at a cellular level and consequently in the repair of damaged muscle and connective tissue. It therefore shortens the time it takes for our bodies to recover from open wounds .
Flu (common cold) – Pathogens such as the influenza virus can be fought off using food sources rich in vitamin C .
Vasodilation – Vitamin C has been touted to be just as beneficial to heart health as walking. It treats vasodilation, a condition characterized by the dilation of blood vessels which leads to low blood pressure, and keeps the vascular network relaxed to avoid any constrictions .
Lead toxicity – Research has shown that low levels of vitamin C in the body can directly be linked to high lead levels in the blood. The intake of lead, a highly toxic metal, into our bodies can be prevented by vitamin C at a cellular level .
Cataracts – The formation of cataracts in the eyes of the elderly has been linked to a significant vitamin C deficiency. Taking supplements that contain ascorbic acid can help correct this disorder.
Diabetes – Vitamin C supplements can be used in the treatment of diabetes. Ascorbic acid assists insulin to process sugars better, making it a viable cure for diabetes, according to studies .
Vitamin C also aids in the absorption of other beneficial nutrients and compounds. Here are just a few examples:
Green tea – Vitamin C triggers the increased absorption of catechins (the antioxidants found in green tea) by up to five times!
Echinacea – Vitamin C combined with the immune-boosting herb echinacea can reduce the odds of catching a cold by up to 86 percent.
Iron – Vitamin C can also increase the absorption rate of iron (of which 80% of the world is deficient) by up to five times.
How Much You Need
The recommended amounts of vitamin C to be consumed on a daily basis vary based on age, sex, and health status of an individual:
- Healthy people should consume at least 90mg of vitamin C (75mg for women) on a daily basis. This is the recommended lower limit of vitamin C consumption. 200mg is often enough for keeping the common cold at bay .
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women should consume at least 120mg daily.
- Cigarette smokers should consume not less than 125mg (105mg for women) daily.
- For the treatment of scurvy, 100-250mg of vitamin C should be administered orally for at least four days.
- To experience the antioxidant effects of the vitamin, one can consume 200-1,000mg daily for as long as it takes to get the desired results.
- In cancer prevention and treatment, the recommended dosage is between 120mg and 2,000mg taken orally in the form of supplements for up to 8 years.
A word of caution: Consuming more than 2,000mg of vitamin C on a daily basis may lead to side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and gastric distress . Supplementation may also cause an adverse reaction when taken together with anticoagulant medications.
As we’ll go over below, getting vitamin C through natural sources is always best. That’s the way intended by nature, and vitamin C in fruits and vegetables come combined with other vital nutrients and compounds in the perfect and balanced package. Supplementation, however, is recommended if you don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables or need to take a very specific amount of the nutrient.
The Best Natural Sources of Vitamin C
Vitamin C can be found in many different plant-based foods. Here are just a few examples of where you can find it:
- Oranges – One large orange contains an average of 82mg of vitamin C.
- Red peppers – Half a cup of chopped red peppers has even more of the vitamin than the average orange fruit does: 95mg.
- Guava – One average-sized guava fruit has about 125mg of vitamin C.
- Kale – A cup of this green leafy vegetable will provide you with about 80mg.
- Kiwi Fruit – A relatively small piece of kiwi fruit will give you 64mg of the nutrient.
- Green peppers – Half a cup of chopped green peppers contains 60mg.
- Broccoli – Consuming half a cup of cooked broccoli gives your body about 51mg of vitamin C.
- Brussels sprouts – On the other hand, eating half a cup of these green vegetables provides you with about 48mg , .
Other excellent sources are lemons, grapefruit and strawberries, just to name a few.
Choosing The Best Vitamin C Supplement For You
Vitamin C vs Ascorbic Acid
Before trying to determine what the “best” vitamin C supplement for you might be, it’s important to note that vitamin C in supplement form is not even real vitamin C. Instead, it’s a compound known as ascorbic acid. And contrary to popular belief, vitamin C and ascorbic acid are not entirely one and the same thing.
As extracting ascorbic acid from organic sources can be costly, most ascorbic acid products are entirely created by scientists in a lab. This is done by combining hydrochloric acid and corn syrup, which is often sourced from GMO corn. (11)
Furthermore, isolated or synthesized ascorbic acid is simply not as effective as it is when found organically as part of a larger whole. On top of that, long-term consumption of ascorbic acid has been shown to cause health issues like arterial plaque buildup or the appearance of gallstones. (12)
There are vitamin C supplements on the market which are not ascorbic acid and which are labelled as “natural.” However, the fruits (often cherries) used to make these formulas undergo much processing and are also exposed to oxidation. As a result, they’re not going to be great vitamin C sources, as the vitamin should ideally be derived from fresh, ripe fruit that you cut open just before consuming. (13)
With all that taken into consideration, you might as well take the ascorbic acid variety of vitamin C supplements when you simply have no other option.
(As a side note, it’s not just supplements that contain ascorbic acid, but seemingly “natural” food products as well. Juice, apple sauce or other products might contain added ascorbic acid in addition to their natural amount of vitamin C. The food companies do this to artificially boost that product’s “vitamin C” content in an attempt to dupe consumers.)
A Quick Vitamin C (or Ascorbic Acid) Supplement Checklist
When supplementing with vitamin C, you generally want to look out for what are known as liposomal supplements. Liposomal vitamin C supplements are touted as superior because they have better absorption rates.
The technology allows the antioxidants to travel directly to the target areas, which is especially beneficial for those using vitamin C to fight off disease. And supposedly, they also come with less of the GI distress side-effects commonly associated with high amounts of regular vitamin C supplements.
*Note: these supplements may also be branded as “lypo-spheric”
You should also make sure that the ascorbic acid is non-GMO. As mentioned above, much of the corn syrup used to create ascorbic acid comes from GMO corn. If the label doesn’t explicitly mention ‘non-GMO,’ it’s probably GMO.
And lastly, you generally want to look out for supplements that are soy free. This is because of all the hormone-disrupting compounds associated with soy. If the supplement is sourced in the US, the soy is also likely GMO. (14)
Now let’s check out a few vitamin C supplements which meet these requirements:
Vitamin C Capsules
- Here is a liposomal vitamin C formula developed by Dr. Mercola. It ticks all the boxes in the checklist, and it’s relatively affordable compared with similar products.
- Here is another highly reviewed product by Core Med Science that is also liposomal, GMO and soy free.
- This product may not be liposomal, but it is at least GMO free as well as soy free. You might be more likely to find this brand, Doctor’s Best, in your average supermarket.
Vitamin C Powder
The advantage of vitamin C powder over other forms is that it has a longer shelf life and can easily be mixed with whatever beverage you’re drinking. Furthermore, with vitamin C powder, you’re able to take as much or as little as you need. This is in contrast with other forms, which always have a predetermined minimum dosage.
If you live in a colder or seasonal climate and have difficulty getting access to vitamin C-rich fruits in the winter, vitamin C powder could be a great alternative. As mentioned above, vitamin C greatly enhances the efficacy of green tea and a variety of herbs, so you could try adding the powder to a warm herbal tea on a cold night.
- This vitamin C powder by LipoNaturals has all the qualities you want to look out for when shopping for ascorbic acid. It also markets itself as “Chinese ingredient free.” While perhaps an unfair generalization of such a large country, there have been numerous problems with Chinese-sourced supplements in the past.
- This product by LivOn appears to be more of a gooey formula than a powder. However, you still get the freedom of being able to add it to any beverage you like as with powder. It is liposomal (lypo-spheric) and 100% non-GMO.
Vitamin C IV’s?
Yes, some people even take vitamin C intravenously. However, this is only really necessary in extreme cases. People suffering from deficiency-related diseases or recovering addicts, for example, may benefit from this method. Take a look at this article to learn more.
It’s no wonder why a food’s high vitamin C content is often the first thing people mention when talking about its nutritional content. As shown by the facts listed above, vitamin C is an extremely important nutrient that’s very difficult to get too much of. On top of that, it works well with so many other nutrients and even compounds from medicinal herbs. So grab an orange or squeeze some lemon juice, and relax thinking about all the good you’ve just done your body!