Often viewed as the MVP of the supplement world, vitamin C is an essential nutrient that plays a number of important roles in your bod.
We’ve narrowed down basically everything vitamin C has to offer and how taking a supplement may help boost your health even more.
Ascorbic acid, AKA vitamin C, is a water-soluble nutrient. This means that, unlike fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K, large amounts of vitamin C aren’t stored in the body. You actually pee out any extra.
You also can’t make vitamin C on your own and need a steady supply of vitamin C-rich foods to get your daily quota.
A 2013 research review showed that your body needs vitamin C to perform a variety of functions like:
- making neurotransmitters
- regulating cholesterol levels in your blood
- protecting cells against oxidative damage
- controlling inflammation
- absorbing iron
- producing collagen
- immune system defense
Vitamin C is found in a variety of plant and animal foods. If you eat a balanced diet, it’s possible to meet your vitamin C needs through diet alone. But many people take vitamin C supplements for an added boost.
How much vitamin C do you need?
According to the National Institutes of Health, adult men need around 90 milligrams of vitamin C per day while adult women need 75 milligrams per day.
Pregnant and breastfeeding people need more vitamin C to support their bodies. So, most prenatal vitamins contain vitamin C. The recommended vitamin C intake increases to 85 milligrams and 120 milligrams during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Because vitamin C is super important for your bod, getting enough of this nutrient is crucial.
Here are some major benefits to having optimal vitamin C levels, and how getting extra vitamin C through supplements may benefit your health even more.
Vitamin C is super important for your immune system and research shows that taking extra vitamin C through supplements may help boost immune health.
For example, a research review found that vitamin C supplements may help improve the number and function of certain white blood cells that are essential parts of immune system defense.
Although taking vitamin C supplements won’t protect you from getting a cold, a 2013 research review showed that taking vitamin C may help reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms. Still, more studies are needed to know for sure.
Having optimal vitamin C levels helps keep your heart healthy.
Plus, eating plenty of vitamin C-rich fruits and veggies is a delicious way to keep your ticker in tip top shape.
Vitamin C helps your body absorb non-heme iron, which is the iron found in plant foods.
Iron is a mineral that’s needed for red blood cell production. Both supplemental and dietary sources of vitamin C can help enhance the availability and absorption of iron.
Vitamin C and iron: A perfect pair
Try squeezing a bit of lemon on your spinach or taking your iron supplement with lemon water or orange juice.
Skin health and wound healing
Your skin is packed with vitamin C. A research review showed that this nutrient is needed for the production of collagen.
Because vitamin C is so important for skin health, supplemental vitamin C is often recommended to speed wound healing in clinical settings.
Studies show that having higher blood levels of vitamin C may help reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
Plus, countless studies have shown that eating plenty of vitamin C-rich fruits and veggies is an excellent way to slash your diabetes risk.
Additionally, one study showed that people with prediabetes and diabetes tend to have low blood levels of vitamin C, making supplementation a smart choice. More studies are needed to prove this.
Although some studies suggest that supplemental vitamin C may have a positive effect on survival, quality of life, and health in certain people with cancer, it’s not that simple.
A research review with 19 studies concluded that there’s not enough quality evidence to suggest that vitamin C supplements benefit all people with cancer.
Sepsis and trauma
IV vitamin C is sometimes used in cases of trauma and severe infections like sepsis.
Some studies show that high-dose IV vitamin C may be helpful in treating infections, decreasing mortality, reducing inflammation, and preventing cellular damage in people who are extremely ill. More studies are needed to know for sure.
Although plants are the main source of vitamin C in most people’s diets, some animal foods contain vitamin C as well. Animal foods like organ meats, clams, and fish roe all contain vitamin C.
According to the National Institutes of Health, here are some foods loaded with vitamin C and their daily value (DV) percentages of the vitamin.
|1 cup sweet red pepper||194% DV vitamin C|
|1 guava||140% DV vitamin C|
|1 cup cooked broccoli||114% DV vitamin C|
|1 medium orange||78% DV vitamin C|
|¾ cup grapefruit juice||78% DV vitamin C|
|1 medium kiwi||71% DV vitamin C|
|½ cup sliced strawberries||54% DV vitamin C|
|½ cup cooked Brussels sprouts||53% DV vitamin C|
|1 medium baked sweet potato||32% DV vitamin C|
|½ cup cantaloupe||32% DV vitamin C|
Many other fruits and veggies are packed with vitamin C, so make sure to taste the rainbow (fruits and veggies… not Skittles) daily.
Your body contains around 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C. Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency typically occur when levels fall below 350 milligrams.
Even though you can get enough vitamin C from your diet, deficiency is pretty common. Those more at risk of developing a vitamin C deficiency include people who are:
- 65 years and older
- following restrictive diets
- not eating enough fruits and veggies
- experiencing alcohol dependency
- living with inflammatory bowel disease
- experiencing eating disorders
Although a lot of peeps fall short when it comes to getting the recommended amount of vitamin C in their diets. But severe vitamin C deficiency is super rare.
A severe deficiency in vitamin C leads to scurvy (yes, the pirate disease). This condition includes symptoms such as fatigue, anemia, pain, easy bruising, bleeding gums, poor wound healing, and mood changes.
If you have a vitamin C deficiency and your diet just isn’t cutting it, you may need to supplement with vitamin C to boost your intake.
One research review showed that unlike many nutritional supplements, vitamin C is extremely safe, even when taken at high doses. But it’s recommended that peeps with frequent kidney stones and iron overload disorders avoid supplementing with vitamin C.
For everyone else, the Upper Limit (UL) for vitamin C is set at 2,000 milligrams per day for adults. This is because higher doses may cause digestive issues like diarrhea, nausea, and cramps. Not fun.
Most vitamin C supplements provide 500 or 1,000 milligrams per serving and contain vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, which is a highly bioavailable form of vitamin C.
According to the National Institutes of Health, synthetic vitamin C has the same bioavailability as vitamin C found naturally in foods.
For those with vitamin C deficiency, supplemental doses between 500 to 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C per day are often used to increase levels. People with severe deficiency may need high-dose IV vitamin C, but this is determined by a medical professional.
Taking vitamin C supplements is safe and can help boost your vitamin C levels, but don’t forget to eat plenty of vitamin C-rich fruits and veggies. Eating these foods is the best way to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin C, as well as many other important nutrients, on the reg.