Why You Need Vitamin C And What Are The Best Sources?

Organic Facts

Why is vitamin C important? First of all, it has the ability to strengthen the immune system, bones, blood vessels, and cells. In fact, just one cup of cubed papaya flesh provides your body with enough vitamin C for the day.


The Importance of Vitamin C

Albert Szent-Györgyi is a Hungarian biochemist. He discovered vitamin C in the 1930s. He came upon this hundreds of years after more than two million sailors died from a chilling disease that could have easily been avoided had there been a bigger supply fruits and veggies on the ship they road. The so-called diseased was scurvy. Back then, they didn’t know that this was brought about by a deficiency in ascorbic acid, or vitamin C. This was a statement made by the American Chemical Society. Most produce that nature gives have vitamin C in amounts large enough to avoid extreme deficiencies.

So, why do we need vitamin C? Marisa Moore, RDN, based in Atlanta, says that this plays a crucial part in helping maintain tissues, keeping bones healthy, and protecting cells and blood vessels from harm and injury. “Vitamin C is a nutrient we need for so many processes in the body,” she said. “And it’s one of those essential vitamins we can’t make in our bodies.”

Vitamin C is rich in potent antioxidant properties. It helps regenerate cells, support the immune system, as well as assist the body absorb iron. This was according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements. Other confirmed benefits of vitamin C are reducing the risk of heart disease and memory conditions such as dementia, and helping fight the body against eye diseases like macular degeneration.

Your body may break down if it doesn’t receive vitamin C. Years back, vitamin C deficiency was more common, says the Science History Institute. Their gums would bleed and their teeth would fall out. If nothing is done about it, this could even lead to death from internal hemorrhaging. Once health experts realized that citrus fruits played a vital part in preventing scurvy, the ships that brought sailors around were stocked with limes. In fact, a little bit of trivia – this is how the term “limey” came about because this was used to refer to sailors.

If you’re still worried about suffering from these diseases, you need not fret. The chances of getting scurvy today are extremely low. In fact, developed nations don’t think about this because vitamin C is present in many of your daily diet. More importantly, there is a wide availability of supplements and multivitamins that have vitamin C.  Moore’s recommendation is to get nutrients from whole foods.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have anything to do with the regulation of dietary supplements. The agency, in fact, has noted that these are different from drugs in that they aren’t “intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases.”

As for the studies made on vitamin C supplements, these are limited. The research made hasn’t found  that any one supplement is better than other forms, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. If you already have your vitamin source from food, these supplements may or may not be beneficial. The excess will likely simply be excreted out the body in the form of urine.

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin C

Overdosing on vitamin C through just food is extremely difficult. In fact, it’s almost impossible, but you may  experience some side effects if you go overboard on supplements. The NIH recommends that adults should not exceed 2,000 milligrams (mg) each day. On the flipside, it’s also just as difficult to suffer from vitamin C deficiency. That is, unless you have little access to fruits and vegetables. Moore stated that at the very minimum, the body needs 10 mg of vitamin C daily. However, the recommended daily allowance may depend on age, gender, life stage, and lifestyle choices  Habits such as smoking may require you to take more.

According to research published by the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board, among those 19 and or older in age, the RDA is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. Regular smokers need an extra dose of 35 mg per day. As for expectant mothers, they need 85 mg, and lactating mothers need 120 mg.

The Office of Dietary Supplements lists certain groups of those who are at a higher risk of vitamin C deficiency. A study published in July 2020 in the journal Nutrients, has exhibited how smokers have lower vitamin C levels. That’s why they that extra boost in their diet. As for infants who take evaporated or boiled milk, both of which are low in vitamin C levels, they may not get enough of what their bodies need. Then, there are medical conditions that bring about malabsorption and certain chronic diseases may reduce your body’s capability of absorbing vitamin C, thus increasing the amount needed by the body. This was according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders.=

Michael Wald, MD, ND, PhD, a registered dietitian in Chappaqua, New York, and the host of the podcast Ask the Blood Detective, says the RDA states the minimal amount needed by the body to stave off vitamin C deficiency. However, this isn’t representative of the ideal vitamin C value you need to achieve full health.

Foods Rich in Vitamin C

Because, per the NIH, the FDA doesn’t state a requirement for food labels to list the vitamin C that naturally is present in foods. They only need to divulge the amount of vitamin C that was added. As a result, it may be challenging to be aware which packaged foods make good sources. On the other hand, there is a myriad of whole foods available such as fruits and vegetables that are packed with vitamin C. Some foods such as red bell peppers are able to give you more than 100 percent of the DV of the vitamin with just one or two servings, as USDA data demonstrates.

“People should always begin with a diet high in fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. Wald. He also added, “Age, genetics, absorption, disease, exercise, stress, sleep, alcohol, and various other lifestyle factors all play a role in the amount of vitamin C one needs.”

You should also be aware of the fact that cooking plays a large impact on the nutrient content of foods. Vitamin C is sensitive to heat and is water soluble. This means that the longer you cook something packed with vitamin C, the more it loses the nutrient. This was elaborated in an article published in April 2018 in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology. The authors of the published study went even as far as to say that microwaving food with vitamin C led is much better at retention than boiling it. What’s best, though, is when you eat high-vitamin C food in its raw form.

Vegetables High in Vitamin C Content

Below is a list of foods recommended by the NIH. These contain high levels of vitamin C. They also have flavonoids and bioflavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants found in fruits and veggies. These work well when mixed with vitamin C. The following vegetables on the list are great sources, according to USDA data.

  • Bell peppers – a cup of chopped red bell peppers contains 191 mg of vitamin C.
  • Red and green chili peppers – 1 red chili pepper contains 64.8 mg of vitamin C.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables – veggies such as garden cress, kale, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli are most recommended. In fact, 1 cup of chopped broccoli contains 81.2 mg of vitamin C.
  • Potatoes – a  medium-size potato contains 17.7 mg of vitamin C.


Fruits High in Vitamin C

Citrus fruits and fruit juices are most known for their high in vitamin C content. There are also more items on the list. In fact, there are better sources such as the following, according to USDA data.

  • Guava – This is a tropical pink-fleshed fruit and one delivers 125 mg of vitamin C.
  • Strawberries – berries, as a group, are filled with antioxidants and a cup of it already contains 97.6 mg of vitamin C.
  • Papaya – this is another tropical fruit that only requires a cup because it can already provide your body with 88.3 mg of C.
  • Oranges – These are most associated with vitamin C, and a whole navel orange provides an impressive 82.7 mg of vitamin C.
  • Kiwi – while this is small, it’s powerful because just one kiwi contains  64 mg of vitamin C.
  • Blackberries – a cup of this contains 30 mg of vitamin C.
  • Lemons and limes – as stated previously, sailors were given lime. A lemon cones with 34.4 mg of C, while the smaller lime has 19.5 mg of vitamin C. While eating these fruits whole is not quite common, the juice already contains much of the required dose.


What Science Says of Vitamin C for Certain Health Conditions Issues

It’s already known by experts and everyday folks that vitamin C is a vital compound much needed for the body’s ideal health. Below is a list of afflictions and conditions wherein vitamin C is needed to help improve or prevent it. However, it also must be noted that not every claim is supported by science.

  • Neurodegenerative diseases – Included here are Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Authors of a review published in July 2017 in the journal Nutrients intensively read on literature on vitamin C and neurodegenerative diseases. They saw hopeful results for the treatment of neurological diseases in animal studies. As for the human studies, the findings are both limited and lacking in proof.
  • Various types of cancers – while the National Cancer Institute notes that intravenously administered high-dose vitamin C can help improve the quality of life for those suffering from this disease, vitamin C as a form cancer treatment hasn’t been backed by the FDA. A study published in the July 2018 International Journal of Cancer surveyed a total of 182,000 women over 24 years of age. They saw that breast cancer risk for those who had more than 5.5 servings of fruits and veggies daily was lower by as much as 11 percent. While there is a link between eating lots of fruit and veggies and having a reduced risk of cancer, there’s no direct proof to vitamin C being a part of the treatment just yet.
  • Eye issues such as cataracts and macular degeneration – it is known that the eye has a high metabolic rate. This, in turn, brings about the production of harmful free radicals that are believed to damage cells. Right now, there is a theory that states how vitamin C is such an effective antioxidant. This can protect the body’s molecules and may play a role in fighting off free radicals that brings about eye diseases. But a review in the October 2020 issue of Nutrients found no link between cataracts and vitamin C intake.
  • Psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety – there have been some smaller scale studies that have been made to provide a link between vitamin C and its beneficial effects on mood and related disorders. Several studies referenced in a November 2020 review in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry elaborated on the lower rates of depression and anxiety among both human and animal participants that have been provided with higher doses of vitamin C. Vitamin C also aids in the maintenance of  organs such as the brain. The study noted how there are “biological justifications for a positive effect of vitamin C on mood,” but again, further research should be made to provide further proof on vitamin C can help. With the lack of evidence right now, it’s still best to consult the doctor about mental health issues.
  • The common cold – vitamin C is often prescribed when you’re under the weather. When you’re struck with the flu, Moore says gulping down a bunch of vitamin C supplements probably won’t help prevent anything. “Vitamin C might help to decrease the duration of a cold, but taking it preventively — the research doesn’t necessarily support that,” she says. A 2017 study by the Department of Public Health and University of Helsinki saw how those who regularly take vitamin C even before getting sick didn’t suffer a less number of times, but their healing process was much quicker.

Moore also stated how there is strong evidence that vitamin C helps absorb more iron that come from food, especially nonheme iron from meat-free food sources. When you mix vitamin C-rich foods with iron-rich foods, this works better. An example would be to mix spinach with orange segments, or black beans with salsa. This is especially vital for those who are vegan, vegetarian, or for those who have anemia. This is also important for women of childbearing age, as Moore stated.


A Bonus Potential Benefit of Vitamin C? Younger, Healthier Skin

While there needs to be further backing, many have become staunch supporters of vitamin C because they believe that this helps keep you look youthful and keep you vital. Per an October 9, 2020 article in Scientific Reportsvitamin C is a stimulant in the production of collagen, which is a protein that aids in skin firmness. Diets rich in vitamin C also come with a myriad of other benefits for the skin. Some noted in the study are the reduction in the formation of scars, prevention of wrinkles, and maintenance of the skin’s overall health.

Vitamin C creams and serums have already been made available and the review study found that topical applications were able to produce better results when it comes to collagen formation. While further research is required, the outcome has been very hopeful.