Vitamin C is a powerful vitamin but, has a controversial history. On one side, science is clear that our body needs it, but the dosage, form and frequency are all up for debate.
Many of us turn to vitamin C (ascorbic acid) when the common cold is approaching to help fight off the illness. With inadequate vitamin C, our blood vessels and membranes of cells deteriorate and our immune system declines.
But, before we start downing vitamin C pre-made packets (which probably contain artificial sweeteners and colors), it is important to first be knowledgeable on which types are most effective and how to safely consume the product.
Let’s start with the basics…
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and is necessary for many body functions such as wound healing, iron absorption, collagen formation, and maintenance of teeth, bones, and cartilage. It is needed for growth, repair of all body tissues and development.
Humans are not capable of internally producing vitamin C so, we must get it through the foods we consume. Vitamin C is present in many vegetables like bell peppers, kale, broccoli and in citrus fruits like strawberries, kiwi, and guava. Having a low level deficiency is common, but a severe deficiency will lead to scurvy.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which helps protect cellular health, reduces effects of aging, and boosts the immune system. In other words, vitamin C protects the body from free radical damages.
How Much Vitamin C Do We Need?
This is the part that gets a little contradicting. The answer is that it depends on who you ask and when. Like many aspects of health, the answer is likely that it depends and that it differs from every individual.
The National Institutes of Health recommends that:
ADULT MALES SHOULD GET AT LEAST 90 MG OF VITAMIN C DAILY, WHILE WOMEN SHOULD AIM FOR 75 MG.
For both men and women, 2,000 mg is the upper limit of what’s considered “safe” vitamin C intake.
It is important to speak to your doctor to see if you’re low in vitamin C and work with them to increase your levels.
The Benefits of Vitamin C
Listed below are the main and up to date medical research on benefits of vitamin C.
Boosts the Immune System
This is the most well-known benefit of vitamin C. There’s a possible exception to the recommended intake rule, and it may not come as a surprise. Most of us start taking vitamin C as part as our cold and sickness protocol.
A scientific trial studied a group of students suffering from cold and flu symptoms. The test group was given 1,000 mg of vitamin C every hour for six hours. After that, they were given 1,000 mg three times daily. This test group reported an 85% reduction in cold and flu symptoms in comparison to the group that received no vitamin C.
So, if you feel a cold or flu coming on, you may want to temporarily boost your daily dose of vitamin C. Talk to your doctor to figure out what’s right for you.
A Recommendation: Start each day with lemon water. 1 lemon squeezed into your water will yield about 30 mg. of vitamin C. Take bigger doses of vitamin C before and during times of illness and stress. But save that lemon peel if you need to cure those Monday blues.
Fights Oxidative Damage
You are probably already aware that oxidative damage and free radicals are negative effects in the body.
Since vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, it may reduce risk of disease because of the ability to decrease free radicals and oxidative stress.
Specifically, research have found vitamin C especially effective for decreasing lung damage. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) guidelines recommend higher dosages of vitamin C intake for smokers. Vitamin C can also be used with some cancer treatments to help lessen oxidative damage.
When other parts of the body show signs of vitamin C deficiency, the brain maintains most of the levels. The brain can sometimes show 100 times more concentration as the rest of the body. Listed below are some important ways how vitamin C helps the brain.
- Supports signal paths and neurotransmitters
- Protects against neural damage
- Supports formation of myelin
- Promotes healthy development of neurons
- Supports mental balance
- May help avoid Alzheimer’s Disease according to recent studies
Produces Collagen in Our Connective Tissue and Improves Skin
Vitamin C is vital for the production of collagen in connective tissue and can improve skin health. Vitamin C is widely used in beauty products because it encourages collagen synthesis.
Studies show that vitamin C may slow the natural aging process by protecting and improving the body’s collagen. Some cream treatments with vitamin C are clinically shown to reduce the appearance of lines, sun spots, and wrinkles. You can also try hydrolyzed collagen to improve your hair, skin, and nail growth.
Boosts Mental Balance and Libido
Studies have linked severe deficiency of vitamin C to emotionally instability and anxiety in individuals. One study showed that with an adequate consumption of vitamin C, led to a 35% decline of mood disturbances and an incline of oxytocin hormone. Another study found an increase in libido from 3,000 mg. a day supplementation.
Vitamin C is also necessary for healthy cortisol levels. It is found in high concentrations of the adrenal glands and can become rapidly lessen in times of stress.
Another reason to begin your day with lemon water!
Supports Heart Health
Some studies show that diets with high vitamin C levels seem to reduce the chance of heart disease and stroke. Since vitamin C is rich in many fruits and vegetables, it’s only logical that it’s also great for the heart.
Vitamin C may also increase your HDL cholesterol and reduce small particle LDL. New research reveals vitamin C being able to reduce arterial plaque and strengthen blood vessels.
Forms of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is located in a variety of foods, and whenever possible, this is the best way for consumption. Your diet must come first before thinking of supplements. You can’t out supplement a bad diet. Even if supplements are needed, you must work on your healthy eating first.
Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables. Foods that are high in vitamin C are guavas, bell peppers, kiwi fruit, strawberries, papayas, oranges, broccoli, kale, acerola cherries, cauliflower, and others.
- Cooked broccoli: 54 mg per ½ cup
- Cooked bok choy: 23 mg per ½ cup
- Raw red cabbage: 42 mg per cup
- Cooked brussels sprouts: 38-52 mg per 4 sprouts
- Cooked kale: 28 mg per ½ cup
- Cooked or raw cauliflower: 27-29 mg per ½ cup
- Cooked asparagus: 22 mg per 6 spears
- Sweet potatoes: 22 mg per potato
- Avocado: 52 mg per avocado
- Strawberries (in season): 52 mg per ½ cup
The most studied type of vitamin C is ascorbic acid powder. It’s also relatively inexpensive. You can use it for your colds and for one-time skin applications like face mask. Since the powder loses its effectiveness when mixed into a liquid, it’s better to add it for a one-time use instead of pre-mixing into batches.
Cautions and Risks
Vitamin C is considered safe in doses up to 2,000 mg/day. Larger doses could potentially lead to problems such. One side effect is diarrhea and is the most common. Extremely high doses can lead to kidney disease and kidney stones.
Chewable vitamin C gummies can lead to teeth erosion. Pregnant women should also take precautions about how much vitamin C they consume, if high dosage, it may lead to problems for the baby. Vitamin C may also interfere with other drugs.
It’s always best to speak to your doctor if you have any questions about how much vitamin C you should be taking.