Vitamin C is considered an essential vitamin; we must consume Vitamin C in food or from a trusted Vitamin C supplement to meet our needs for health. It is water-soluble meaning our body excretes what is not needed and we must consume it on a regular basis because it is not stored in our bodies like fat-soluble vitamins. There are natural Vitamin C sources and its benefits far beyond what many people think of as only an immunity booster.
The recommended daily amount of Vitamin C is 75mg for healthy women, 85-120mg for pregnant and breastfeeding women and 90mg for healthy men.
Smokers are advised to have 35mg higher intake of daily vitamin C than non-smokers.
With any vitamin or mineral, just because a little is good, more does not necessarily mean better. When using Vitamin C supplements you must be careful not to over do it. The upper intake limit for Vitamin C for all groups is 2,000mg per day. Although there are not many health risks associated with high intake, some studies have been linked to higher rates of kidney stones, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps and other gastrointestinal problems.
Most people are not at risk of Vitamin C deficiency but they may not realize the benefits that come with increasing the amount of Vitamin C in their diet through food and supplements.
Natural Sources of Vitamin C
Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables and is especially high in citrus fruits and fruit juice.
1 medium papaya - 95mg
Red bell peppers- 1/2 cup - 95mg
Orange juice, 3/4 cup - 93mg
1 medium orange - 70mg
Grapefruit juice 3/4 cup - 70mg
1 medium Kiwifruit - 64mg
Broccoli, raw, 1/2 cup - 40mg
Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, helping to limit the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are harmful molecules that, when they accumulate in the body are linked to many chronic diseases like heart disease and certain cancers. Antioxidants play a role in boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation and decreasing risk of chronic disease.
Increased intake of Vitamin C can help fight heart disease by lowering blood pressure and helping to increase levels of HDL “good" cholesterol and lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. Although studies have shown Vitamin C supplementation can help to lower blood pressure and help with cholesterol levels it should not be used as treatment alone, but it can help.
Consuming Vitamin C helps to prevent iron deficiencies by improving non-heme iron absorption. Non-heme iron is the form of iron that is harder for the body to absorb. It is found in plant-based foods. People eating a diet low in animal proteins, especially low in red meats do not absorb as much iron from iron rich foods like leafy greens and lentils. Pairing Vitamin C with these foods is helpful to increase the absorption of iron.
Vitamin C is required in the body to make collagen. Collagen is a protein responsible for providing structure and support in connective tissue, muscles and the skin, providing elasticity and bone and joint support. It is because of the role Vitamin C plays in collagen production that it helps support wound healing and skin elasticity (helps with anti-aging!). This is why you might see Vitamin C advertised in anti-aging creams.
Vitamin C supplements
Taking a Vitamin C supplement is generally considered very safe in doses under 2,000mg per day. It can help to increase consumption in people who are not eating a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables. In addition, if you have gastrointestinal conditions that interfere with the absorption of it or if you have certain types of cancer it can be beneficial to take supplemental Vitamin C as it will increase its availability in the body.
Please be cautious in taking a Vitamin C supplement if you have kidney disease, or if you are undergoing chemotherapy. Although taking a Vitamin C supplement is generally safe it is always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you are taking medications or if you have specific health conditions.
The Bottom Line
Overall, Vitamin C supplements are a great option to boost intake if you struggle to get enough from natural sources in your diet. Taking a Vitamin C supplement is generally seen as safe and posses little risk to healthy individuals.
Whether you are getting natural Vitamin C sources from food or getting from supplements, its benefits include; anti-oxidant effects, reducing heart disease by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improving iron absorption thus decreasing iron deficiency anemia, boosting immunity and helping with wound healing and skin elasticity.