If you spend any time watching TV or reading magazines, you’ve likely seen advertisements featuring super sources of Vitamin C. It’s in everything from breakfast cereals to sports drinks to skin serums. Vitamin C is a powerhouse ingredient! The challenge is knowing which sources of Vitamin C are legit and which ones you should quit.
This article explains what Vitamin C is, what it does, and which foods and supplements are the best sources.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient that your body needs to grow, develop and function properly. It’s widely celebrated for its antioxidant and healing properties.
Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, which are dissolved in fats and stored in your body, Vitamin C is water-soluble. That means it dissolves in water and is readily absorbed into tissues for immediate use. Any excess is quickly excreted in urine. The fact that your body doesn’t store Vitamin C means you need to replenish it regularly through food or supplements.
Other names for Vitamin C include L-ascorbic acid, ascorbic acid, and L-ascorbate.
How Does Vitamin C Help Keep You Healthy?
Vitamin C’s rockstar qualities make it one of the most studied and sought-after vitamins. Why? Because it plays a major role in the development and functioning of several bodily structures and processes.
For example, Vitamin C enables your body to efficiently use carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It helps your wounds heal. It reduces inflammation. It helps your brain and nervous system function. It even reduces the effects of aging. And that’s not all. Read on to learn more about the virtues of Vitamin C:
As an antioxidant, Vitamin C fights misbehaving molecules known as free radicals, which are waste substances produced by cells. As their name implies, free radicals have the potential to get unruly and cause all sorts of problems.
If left unchecked, free radicals target your body’s fatty tissue, DNA and proteins in a molecular mutiny known as oxidative stress, which leads to disease and accelerates aging.
It’s important to note that free radicals are not inherently bad. When functioning properly, free radicals help your body fight off pathogens. You actually need them to live. And you need antioxidants, including Vitamin C, to keep them under control.
Certain lifestyle factors can accelerate the production of free radicals, including:
- toxic chemicals (pesticides, air pollution)
- smoke (tobacco products, e-cigarette flavorings)
- exhaustive exercise
- fried foods
- ultraviolet (UV) radiation
- chronic inflammation
It’s impossible to completely avoid free radical exposure and oxidative stress, because there are too many internal and external factors that increase their production. Antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, help give your body the balance it needs to fight free radicals and function properly.
Your immune system is made up of various organs, cells and proteins that defend you against bacteria, viruses and other potentially harmful substances.
As long as your immune system is working properly, you don’t even notice it. You may even take it for granted. Unless it stops working. Then you get sick.
Instead of ignoring your immune system, be intentional about boosting it!
- Vitamin C is one of the biggest immune boosters that you can get by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Sometimes it’s challenging to reap the benefits of Vitamin C through food alone. Thankfully, supplementation can help. Vitamin C supplements can be found in an oral form, such as in a powder or a fast-acting liposomal form. Our office also offers vitamin injections and IV nutrition therapies for quick, effective Vitamin C delivery.
Vitamin C helps form collagen, the protein that gives structure and stability to much of your body. Think of it as the “glue” that holds everything together. Collagen is one of the major building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It’s also found in many other body parts, including blood vessels, corneas and teeth. Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body.
Iron is an essential mineral that helps you maintain healthy blood. It comes in two forms: heme (from animal flesh) and nonheme (from plant foods).
Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia caused by the inefficient absorption of nonheme iron, which forms the bulk of iron in most people’s diets. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption and stores it in a form that’s more easily absorbed by your body.
Who Needs Vitamin C?
Everyone needs Vitamin C. It’s not optional. While a deficiency of Vitamin C is rare, most Americans fail to get adequate levels of this super antioxidant in their diet.
Signs You’re Deficient in Vitamin C
- Bleeding gums
- Tooth loss
- Skin rashes
- Muscle weakness
- Poor wound healing
What Are Good Sources of Vitamin C?
Besides oranges, it’s rare to see the commercial spotlight on Vitamin C-rich whole foods, such as strawberries, thyme and chili peppers. Instead, many packaged food marketers want you to believe that getting your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin C is as easy as waking up to a bowlful of Fruit Loops.
To the average consumer, a fruit-flavored breakfast cereal may seem like a reasonable source of essential vitamins. If Toucan Sam says it’s good, it must be. Right?
Wrong. The package claims on many manufactured foods are not objective. They’re designed to sell more products under the guise of nutrition and health.
The fact that you’re reading this blog means you’re probably not an average consumer. You’re smarter. You seek knowledge, so you can make better choices. Plus, you know it’s important to read a nutrition facts label to understand what you’re buying.
Food Sources of Vitamin C
It’s true, the “C” in Vitamin C does not stand for coffee or chocolate. But that shouldn’t make this mighty micronutrient any less exciting to you!
Did you know all fruits and vegetables contain some amount of Vitamin C? Consider the following sources of Vitamin C to give you the nutrient rush you need to slay the day.
You may be surprised to learn that cooking affects the nutrient content of your food. For example, boiling significantly reduces Vitamin C content, so you’re better off steaming that broccoli.
It’s worth your time to learn more about different cooking methods.
Other Good Sources of Vitamin C
It’s difficult to know how much Vitamin C is getting where it should be in your body. The amount you need depends on your age, and different factors affect absorption. Your doctor can help you consider ways to fill in any nutritional gaps with:
Should Everyone Take Vitamin C Supplements?
The short answer to the above question is: It’s personal. While piling your plate with vitamin-C-rich foods is a practical first step toward reaping your RDA, there are times when you may require extra support in the form of supplements. There are also times when high supplementation should be avoided.
If you, or someone you know, wants to learn more about nutrition and vitamin deficiencies, we’re here to help. Schoenwalder Health & Wellness providers are experts in integrative and functional medicine. As your collaborative care team, we’ll work with you to identify and correct the root cause of your health problem. Contact us for an appointment.