Six Ways Vitamin C Benefits Your Body
Updated: Jul 6, 2021
Vitamin C – Benefits, Food Sources and Supplementation
With summer coming to an end, kids back at school and the cold and flu season just ahead, I thought it would be a great time to talk about the importance of Vitamin C in our diets. Many people think about stocking up on the supplements this time of year to help with their cold and flu symptoms, but why shouldn’t we be mindful of our Vitamin C intake all year round? Here is some food for thought as to why Vitamin C should be a consistent priority in our daily diet.
Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is critical for many bodily functions. Unlike many animals, the human body is not able to synthesize this nutrient for itself, so we must rely on dietary sources to achieve healthy levels and prevent deficiency. Here are a few of the many ways our bodies utilize vitamin C:
· Production and repair of Collagen – Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. Collagen is what makes up our connective tissues such as tendons, bones, cartilage, skin and the cornea of the eye. Vitamin C is needed for the production of collagen.
· Iron absorption – It is a well-known fact that vitamin C assists in the absorption of iron which can be extremely important to individuals with an iron deficiency.
· Adrenal gland function – Found in the highest concentrations in adrenal tissue, vitamin C is key in assisting in the production of hormones like dopamine and serotonin. During periods of high stress of any kind, your body excretes vitamin through the urinary system.
· Tissue regeneration – Vitamin C is critical in wound repair, tissue regeneration, healthy gum tissue and the prevention of easy bruising.
· Immune function – Vitamin C strengthens white blood cell activity, increases interferon levels, antibody levels and responses, and secretions of hormones of the thymus gland.
· Potent antioxidant – Vitamin C protects the body from free radical damage (cell damage). It has been shown in studies to improve sperm quality in cigarette smokers, and it increases other antioxidant levels like glutathione (GSH) which aids in proper liver detoxification. (Phase 2 Detoxification) Studies have also shown vitamin C to be protective against cancer, especially in combination with vitamin E, beta-carotene, and glutathione.
· Heart attacks and strokes – Vitamin C has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes. Vitamin C helps to strengthen the collagen structures of arteries, lowering total cholesterol and blood pressure, while raising HDL levels and preventing platelet aggregation.
Food Sources of Vitamin C
My philosophy is food first. Nutrients in their natural food form are complex, and contain other nutrients, bioflavonoids, and vitamins that work synergistically together to accomplish the needed functions in our bodies. One thing of note about Vitamin C is that it is a somewhat delicate nutrient that is easily destroyed by light, heat and oxidation. For that reason, it is best to eat foods that are high in vitamin C when they are fresh, raw or lightly cooked. It only takes about 3 hours for a food to lose close to half of its vitamin C content once sliced or exposed to oxidation. That said, having half the vitamin C content in its natural form is better than none, and far more bioavailable than a synthetic vitamin C isolate. The chart below shows some foods high in Vitamin C based on 3.5 ounce serving.
Supplementation with Vitamin C
There are times when the use of a supplement is desired or deemed necessary. Supplementation when appropriate is best achieved by taking a form of vitamin C that is easy for your body to utilize.
Whole Food Based Supplements - Whole food-based supplements are pills where the vitamin is derived from whole food extracts and concentrates. This type of supplement is easily recognizable to the body because it is food. The challenge of whole food-based vitamins is that you may need to take a greater number of pills to achieve the same number of milligrams as you would from a synthetic vitamin.
Liposomal Vitamin C - Vitamin C that is encapsulated in liposomes has been shown in some studies to be superior in bioavailability to vitamin C that is not. What researchers believe is that the delivery of vitamin C through these phospholipid fluids goes straight to the liver and into tissues faster as it circumvents the digestive system.
Vitamin C – Ascorbic Acid - This is the synthetic form of vitamin C. It is recommended to use a form that contains bioflavonoids in amounts equal to or greater than the vitamin C content to increase the bioavailability.
Benefits: we need vitamin C help produce collagen and keep our skin looking youthful and our joints, tendons and bones strong. Vitamin C will help with iron absorption and with production of feel good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. It enhances immune function, reduces risk of heart attack and stroke and is a powerful antioxidant that helps repair cell damage, supports liver detoxification and much more.
Sources: Food provides the best source of vitamin C available. Vitamin C can be found in significant amounts in fruits like acerola, guava, persimmons and strawberries. Peppers, kale, parsley and collard greens also have loads of vitamin C. Eating these foods fresh, raw or lightly steamed retains more of the nutrient, which dissipates quickly once picked, sliced or cooked.
Supplementation: Vitamin C supplementation is generally very safe for most people. As it works synergistically with other important nutrients such as Vitamin E, selenium, and beta-carotene, it is often more effective taken in combination. While vitamin C increases iron absorption, it decreases copper absorption and has been known to interfere with the blood test for Vitamin C.
Murray, M.,(2001), Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, Three Rivers Press, p. 59-79, Vitamin C
Bauman, E., Friedland, J, (2015) Therapeutic Nutrition – Part 1, Bauman College Press
Medeiros, D., Wild, R. (2015) Advanced Human Nutrition, Jones & Bartlett Learning, p. 293-299.