When you were young and got a cold, likely the first two things your mother likely gave you was a fruit-flavored vitamin C gummy chew and a bowl of chicken soup. While the chicken soup is nothing more than comfort food from a nutrition standpoint, vitamin C has long been heralded as nature’s own cough medicine.
It’s much more than that though…
Vitamin C is necessary for keeping our immune system functioning properly, keeping the pathways of communication open between our brain and the rest of the body, and ridding our body of oxidative free radicals which accelerate aging in every cell of the body and also lead to blocked arteries.
Vitamin C is integral to our health and happiness…
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that cannot be stored like fat soluble vitamins(1), which actually accumulate in the body and can be held in reserve indefinitely.
Vitamin C is needed for scavenging free radicals in the blood and other bodily fluids, in the creation of neurotransmitters, reducing inflammation, keeping our heart and circulatory system free of blockages, and in the creation of collagen which makes up a large portion of most of the tissues in our body.
Deficiency is often a real problem in countries who don’t have access to many of the fruits and vegetables that contain it naturally. Developed nations aren’t exempt from vitamin C deficiencies either though. In fact, anywhere from 25 – 33% of North Americans can be at least marginally deficient at any given time.
Humans and primates are the only creatures on the planet who can’t synthesize this vitamin from glucose when levels are low. Meaning if you aren’t eating foods that contain it or taking a quality supplement, you’re deficient and putting yourself at serious risk for the long term complications that result from inadequate intake.
If you’re a starving college student, smoker, elderly person, or someone who doesn’t eat fruits and vegetables, there’s a really good chance you’re not getting enough.
Heart Health and Vitamin C
Vitamin C is best known as nature’s nemesis to the common cold and flu. However, this antioxidant’s impact on heart health is most compelling.(15)
There’s a wealth of publications out there that continue to offer their skepticism on vitamin C’s ability to prevent heart disease and lower dangerous high blood pressure symptoms. However, it’s hard to argue with all the evidence to support its heart-health-boosting benefits.(16)
Arteriosclerosis is a hardening of the arteries caused by the accumulation of damaged monocytes, oxidized LDL cholesterol and other fatty substances. In the early stages of the disease, monocytes (white blood) cells begin to adhere to the endothelial cells in the walls of the arteries, creating a “foundation” of sorts for oxidized cholesterol and other fatty substances to stick to.
One British study showed that healthy adults with low levels of vitamin C had up to 30% more monocyte adhesion than was considered normal. After daily supplementation with 250 mg of vitamin C for six weeks there was a 37% reduction of this deadly early marker for heart disease in the participants (2).
Preventing the arteries from hardening also prevents high blood pressure. When the arteries accumulate too much plaque, they become increasingly less flexible, resulting in hypertension which has far reaching effects not just on the circulatory system, but also other organs like the kidneys, nervous system, and eyes.
There’s a pretty well-documented link between high blood pressure and vitamin C deficiency. Though there are many underlying factors involved with this problem, vitamin C deficiency has been linked with three common markers that people with high blood pressure often share: high body-mass-index (BMI), high body fat levels, and large waist circumference.
Simply increasing vitamin C intake can cause a dramatic improvement in both systolic and diastolic readings, as was proved in a landmark study performed by British researchers back in 2000:
In 2000, British researchers reported a six-month, double-blind study of vitamin C 500 mg/day versus placebo in 40 men and women, aged 60-80 years. The study was a “crossover” design in which subjects took the assigned pills for three months, stopped them for one week, and then reversed their assignments for another three months; this is a particularly strong study design because it helps to eliminate individual differences. The results were impressive—daytime systolic blood pressure dropped by an average of 2 mm Hg, with the greatest drop seen in subjects who had the highest initial pressures. Women in the study also had a modest increase in their beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. The authors concluded that these effects might “contribute to the reported association between higher vitamin C intake and lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
This study showed even larger drops in blood pressure when a vitamin C supplement was given. The study showed mean systolic readings dropping by 45 mm HG and diastolic numbers dropping by 2.8 mm HG. The doses given were beyond those currently recommended by the NIH: 500 mg, 1000 mg, and 2000 mg. It was concluded there was no difference between the results achieved and the dose given, meaning 500 mg was all that was really needed to see improvements.
Other than congenital defects, all heart disease results from uncontrolled inflammation. What you eat and other risk factors like smoking, drug use and alcohol abuse all contribute to uncontrolled inflammation in the blood stream, leading to the hardening of the arteries and weakening of the heart. Even excessive exercise causes inflammation.
Increased vitamin C intake, along with other anti-inflammatory nutrients like omega-3’s helps to “cool” inflammation, particularly if you’re suffering from diseases that lead to chronic inflammation (and heart disease) in the body such as diabetes and immune system disorders (4).
*Note about vitamin C and iron absorbtion: Vitamin C is needed to absorb iron. It takes one molecule of iron to create the center of every red blood cell in the body. Without oxygen, the heart and every other organ and cell in the body would die.
Vitamin C and its Many Other Benefits
Immune System Booster
Vitamin C is one of the most important antioxidants used in the body. Antioxidants help to rid the body of free radicals, which cause oxidation in our blood, organs, eyes tissue and skin. The oxidative process in the body is ongoing; it never ceases. Under stress and illness, blood plasma and white blood cells become deficient in vitamin C leading to wide-spread immune dysfunction including lower antimicrobial and natural killer cell function, lymphocyte proliferation, chemotaxis, and delayed-type hypersensitivity.
Studies have shown that administering 1000 mg of vitamin C and 30 mg of zinc help to calm the symptoms of and shorten the duration of the common cold, respiratory tract infection, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria (5).
Vitamin C is essential to the proper functioning of our brain and its many hormonal feedback mechanisms, called neurotransmitters. This vitamin is crucial in the creation of all our neurotransmitters that carry the signals from our brain to various parts of the body in order to move our limbs or to feel a pain response (ie., when you burn yourself or sprain an ankle).
One such neurotransmitter that’s essential to mental health is called serotonin, which is best known as the “happy hormone.” Having balanced levels of this hormone helps us to get to sleep, wake up on time and refreshed, and is critical to proper immune, endocrine and nervous system function.(11)
Several studies have shown the impact of vitamin C deficiency on the eyes. The National Eye Institute is a group that frequently studies the factors that lead to vision loss. In 2001, after several exhaustive studies were performed, they came up with a high dose formulation of vitamin’s C (550 mg) and E (400 iu), beta-carotene (15 mg), and the mineral’s zinc (80 mg) and copper (2 mg).
The formulation is known as “AREDS” and is used extensively in the treatment of age-related macular degeneration. The NEI also recommends this high dose formulation for preventing the degeneration of the eyes in the first place. Neither vitamin C, nor the AREDS formulation have proved effective at preventing or treating cataracts however, which is a disease caused by over exposing the eyes to the sun’s intense rays (6).
Cancer occurs when cells oxidize or become inflamed, then mutate causing uncontrollable cell growth and DNA errors in our genetic makeup. As an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, there’s no disputing the fact that taking adequate or large doses of vitamin C can actually help prevent cancer in the first place.
This benefit is a touchy subject among experts who work in the area of prevention and treatment of various cancers. To date, there have been no conclusive studies that show definitively that vitamin C can cure cancer. Doctor David Gorski does a very detailed analysis of most of the junk science claims out there relating to vitamin C’s cancer curing effects in this blog post.
Studies have demonstrated that vitamin C has a significant impact on the speed at which our wounds heal. Taking 8 to 50 times the RDA (500 – 3000 mg) can help heal exterior wounds faster, along with certain kinds of ulcers and bolster post-surgical recovery time (7).
The speedy healing benefits offered by vitamin C relate to its ability to stave off infection and also because it’s a key component in the formation of collagen: a fibrous protein used to form our stomach lining, blood vessels, cornea, muscle, ligaments, and bones.
Vitamin C is essential for breaking down histamines and prostaglandins in the body. Both of which cause the bronchial tubes to constrict in asthmatics during or after exercising. Certain studies have shown up to a 52% reduction in exercise and stress-induced asthma attacks when a vitamin C supplement was given to those afflicted with the condition – and even further, controlled studies have proved that adequate vitamin C intake can cut the duration of attacks in half when they do happen (8).
Skin and Bone Health
Vitamin C is required to produce collagen, a protein that plays a critical role in the structure of our bodies. Collagen is the framework for our skin and our bones and without it, we would simply fall apart.(12)
How Much Vitamin C Do You Need?
The following recommendations in the chart below are the current guidelines set by the National Institute of Health. In general. Infants require more of this vitamin than other young age groups due to their under-developed immune systems. Vitamin C needs drop off after a child reaches toddler age (1 – 3 years) then gradually rise up again as we reach maturity and/or become sick or pregnant.
Studies have shown that the safe upper limit for adults over 18 years of age is around 2,000 mg. However, 500 mg is currently the safe lower limit. No conclusive studies have determined a safe upper limit for children at this time (9). Taking more than 500 mg per day may cause an upset stomach in some people.
|Group||Adequate Intakes||Tolerable Upper Limit|
|Infants (< 1 year)||40 mg||N/A|
|Toddlers (> 1 year)||15 mg||N/A|
|Children 4 – 8 years||25 mg||N/A|
|Children 9 – 13 years||45 mg||N/A|
|Children 14 – 18 years||75 mg (males) / 65 mg (females)||N/A|
|Adults (>18 years)||90 mg (men) / 75 mg (women)||500 mg|
|Pregnant Women||85 mg||500 mg|
|Lactating Women||120 mg||500 mg|
*It’s recommended that adult smokers try to consume at least 250 mg per day because of the increased free radical damage that occurs in the body when they light up, and the resulting increased need for antioxidants (10).
Possible Interactions With Medications
If you’re currently on any medications, it’s really important to do your research and talk to your doctor before taking a vitamin C supplement. Certain medications can accumulate in the body when excessive amounts of vitamin C are present in the body. Other medications are well known for dropping vitamin C levels, making supplementation imperative for good health.(13)
• NSAIDs: NSAIDs reduce the amount of vitamin C in the body. However, if you take in too much vitamin C, the body has a hard time metabolizing NSAIDs! Meaning they accumulate in the body and tax the liver. This double-edged sword isn’t a concern for people who only consume NSAIDs occasionally but a definite thing to ask your doc about if you do. This includes Aspirin, Advil, Aleve and any other non-steroidal pain reliever.
• Chemotherapy Drugs: Vitamin C, in large doses beyond the RDA inhibits the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs. Ask your Oncologist before supplementing with vitamin C.
• Nitrates: Nitrates taken for people with heart disease and nitrate-based erection medications are inhibited by excess vitamin C intake because it causes the body to develop a tolerance to them much faster.
• Birth Control: Whether you’re taking the pill or a shot, too much vitamin C can cause estrogen levels to rise in the body, contraindicating the medication. Have your vitamin C levels checked by your doctor and ask them if supplementation is a good idea.
• Barbiturates: Barbiturates like Seconal, Luminal and Nembutal all are known for interfering with the absorption of vitamin C in the body.
• Antibiotics: Particularly Tetracycline-based antibiotics, can interfere with vitamin C and the bodily processes it’s involved with.
• Aluminum-Containing Antacids: Vitamin C can cause the body to absorb more aluminum. Aluminum toxicity has been linked to several conditions including certain cancers, liver and kidney problems, and impeded brain function.(14)
25 Foods With Naturally Occurring Vitamin C
1. Guavas: A cup of chopped guavas (approximately two fruits) offers over 600% the daily value of vitamin C at 377 mg. That same one cup serving is loaded with 9 g of dietary fiber, and 20% of our daily needs for vitamin A, folate, potassium and copper.
2. Red Pepper: Red peppers are loaded with vitamin C. One cup chopped weighs in with a whopping 190 mg! A cup of red peppers also gives you over 2 g of fiber and a healthy dose of A, B and K vitamins.
3. Cauliflower: A small head of cauliflower from the supermarket or garden offers 127.7 mg dose of vitamin C. This veg also offers up 5 grams of colon-cleansing fiber and 5 grams of protein.
4. Kiwi: Two fruits of Kiwi contains 137 mg of vitamin C, along with significant amounts of heart-friendly potassium.
5. Green Pepper: Green peppers go well with almost any suppertime dish. They taste great and a full cup chopped will give you a dose of up to 120 mg of vitamin C. That same cup will also give you 2.5 g of dietary fiber and smaller amounts of vitamin’s A and B6.
6. Chili Peppers: A full cup of diced chilis offers 116 mg of vitamin C. This spicy veg also contains a compound called capsaicin which helps to relieve the aches and pains from joints and muscles when eaten or the juice is applied topically to the affected area.
7. Orange juice: Everyone’s heard that orange juice is a great dietary source of vitamin C, offering 106 mg per 8 ounce glass of California orange juice. Be careful though, that same glass has over 25 grams of sugar too! If you prefer to eat your orange instead of drinking it, a single medium orange will still give you 70 mg with much less sugar.
8. Papaya: A cup of chopped papaya contains one and a half our vitamin C needs, with 86.5 mg. That same serving also contains 2.5 g of healthful dietary fiber.
9. Broccoli: A cup of chopped, uncooked broccoli has 81 mg of vitamin C. That same serving also comes with 2.4 g of dietary fiber and 116% of our daily vitamin K needs which helps in healing throughout the body.
10. Kale: A cup of chopped kale contains 80 mg of vitamin C. It also contains many other health-boosting nutrients including 200% of our daily needs for vitamin A and over 7 times the daily requirements for vitamin K.
11. Strawberry: Strawberries are frequently referred to as a superfruit because of the folates and phytosterols they contain. Though sweet, their relatively low in sugar as well. One cup of halved strawberries delivers over 89 mg of vitamin C.
12. Pineapple: One cup of pineapple chunks delivers a vitamin C slam dunk at 78.9 mg. Pineapples also come with plenty bromelain in them, which is an enzyme believed (though not proved) to help with a variety of ailments including the pain and inflammation from osteoarthritis.
13. Brussel Sprouts: A bitter veg that most parents dread trying to get their kids to eat. However, a cupful a day will definitely help keep the doctor away, delivering 74.8 mg of vitamin C, over 3 g of fiber and nearly 200% of our daily vitamin K needs.
14. Grapefruit: A half of a medium grapefruit (4” in diameter) contains 70 mg of vitamin C. Though how many people can eat just half? That same serving comes with 28% of our daily vitamin A needs too and unlike other citrus fruits, grapefruit is fairly low in sugar.
15. Cantaloupe: A cup of this chopped yummy, low carbohydrate melon delivers 59 mg of health-boosting vitamin C to your body. It also has 120% our daily needs for vitamin A and 14% D.V. for potassium.
16. Avocado: An entire avocado contains 53 mg of vitamin C. It also offers a whopping 10g of fiber, 20% D.V. of vitamin B6, 26% vitamin K, 20% folate, and 10% our daily needs for magnesium. This versatile superfruit is fast becoming a nutritious dinner-time favorite everywhere.
17. Lemon: Squeeze a whole lemon into a cup of cold or warm water every morning and you’ve just given yourself around 50% of the vitamin C you’ll need for the day. One lemon comes with 50 mg of this vitamin, with just over 3 grams of sugar per serving.
18. Red Cabbage: Like brussel sprouts, cabbage isn’t the first on many people’s list of favorite foods. However, red cabbage is less bitter than its greener and smaller cousin, and one cup chopped has near the daily value for most adults and more than the daily value for children at 50 mg.
19. Mango: A cup of chopped mango fruit contains 46 mg of vitamin C and a 25% the daily requirements for vitamin A, which is needed for optimal immune system and eye health.
20. Tomato Juice: While a cup of tomato juice doesn’t offer near the vitamin C content that the other sources on this list do, it is a respectable amount at 45 mg. It also offers 20% the D.V. for vitamin A, and respectable levels of potassium, B6, and folate.
21. Peas: A cup of your favorite green peas have 38 mg of vitamin C in them. You’ll get the most from peas if they’re eaten still in the pod.
22. Bok Choy: Just a half cup of shredded boy choy has 23 mg of vitamin C, which represents approximately 20% D.V. of the vitamin for most people. It also has around 30% the daily value of vitamin A, and 5% of our daily potassium needs.
23. Potato: A medium baked potato offers up 17 mg (28% D.V.) It also contains plenty of B-vitamins, fiber, and potassium for energy and a healthy heart. Don’t peel off the skin, as most of the nutrition is found there.
24. Watermelon: One cup of diced watermelon will deliver 12 mg (12% D.V.) Like so many other foods that are naturally high in vitamin C, watermelons also have plenty of vitamin A to offer, with 17% of our daily needs coming in the same serving size. Watermelons also contain citrulline which helps to relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
25. Asparagus: 6 spears of asparagus delivers 22 mg of vitamin C. That same serving also offers close to 3 grams of fiber and a respectable dose of vitamin A and iron.
Our Top Recommended Vitamin C Supplements
Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C – 30 Packets
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This is truly one of the most effective ways to get your daily dose of vitamin C. Each box comes with 30 packets that deliver 1000 mg of highly bioavailable vitamin C to your body. What makes Lypo-Spheric so much better than the competition is their use of “Lypospheric Encapsulation Technology” that uses “Smart Lyposomal Nano-Spheres” to time-release the vitamin for maximum absorbtion. Some doctors believe lyposomal delivery is the only truly effective way to get your vitamins from a supplement (learn more).
The label might seem like they’re trying to draw you in with fancy terminology, but proof exists that this type of delivery system offers 5 – 10 times more absorbtion than vitamins that do not. This is why its near double the price you’ll pay for capsules, but the value is in how much more efficient it is. This type of vitamin delivery system is currently only bested by the intravenous injections you would get at your doctor’s office. Well worth the few bucks extra you’ll spend.
Emergen-C Super Orange, 1000 mg of Vitamin C
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Emergen-C has long been one of the top suppliers of vitamin supplements worldwide. This handy drink mix comes with 1000 mg of vitamin C per packet, with each box containing a 1000 mg dose. While they don’t use fancy “Lyposomal Nano-Spheres”, this is still a high quality product, offering well above and beyond the RDA for all age groups and sexes, so you can be sure you’ll still absorb enough “C” to keep your good health in decent check.
This is more than just a vitamin C supplement though. Emergen-C also delivers 500% the daily value for B6, over 400% daily value for B12, and a healthy dose of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, zinc and manganese. Choose from Pink Lemonade, Strawberry-Kiwi, Tangerine, Super Orange, or buy the variety pack to get a mix of a few different flavors.
NOW Foods Vitamin C-1000 Sustained Release with Rose Hips
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Not only does Now Foods make some of the most affordable supplements out there, they also make really high quality products! The formulation used in these 1000 mg sustained release tablets slows digestion to allow your body to absorb more of the vitamin.
They’ve also added 25 mg of rose hip powder to each tablet. Rose hips have shown to be a cure-all of sorts for stomach upset, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, all over body pain and may even improve immune function (learn more). These pills are allergen free and no artificial additives have been added.
Nature’s Way Vitamin C 1000 with Rose Hips
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Nature’s Way is the king of the discount supplement market. They take pride in giving their customers the best possible quality, for the lowest possible price. Like the NOW Foods’ product, Nature’s Way has included 25 mg of rose hip powder to their formulation, and there are no allergy-provoking ingredients like gluten, yeast, dairy, or shellfish.
This 250 count bottle of 1000 mg vitamin C tablets will almost get you by for a full year and the price per dose goes down significantly if you take advantage of one of their bulk deals. This one is definitely the best option for budget-minded type who aren’t looking for delayed release or buffered vitamin C products.
BulkSupplements Pure Ascorbic Acid
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If you’re really looking to save some cash on your vitamin C supplementation, you simply cannot go wrong buying your “C” in bulk from BulkSupplements. They’ve been around for years and have a great reputation for bringing you the best quality no-frills vitamin, mineral, protein and nootropic supplements.
There’s nothing extra in the bag – no gluten, no soy, no dairy or fillers of any kind. A standard quarter-teaspoon measuring spoon offers 1000 mg of vitamin C, however you can adjust your spoon size to accommodate smaller doses, which is another bonus of using a bulk powder product like this.
Special Recommendation for the Ladies (or Men – we won’t tell!)
OZ Naturals – THE BEST Vitamin C Serum For Your Face
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You can’t go wrong with any of the vitamin C products mentioned above when it comes to internal supplementation. But vitamin C is also great for neutralizing free radicals on the surface of the skin. This OZ Naturals formulation is a great, non-invasive way to rejuvenate the skin on your face; boosting collagen levels and reducing fine lines, wrinkles and crow’s feet.
The serum contains vitamin’s C and E, hyaluronic and ferulic acids, and a special amino acid formulation that’s proven to stop and/or reverse the signs of aging on your face and around the eyes. This serum is great for using on the back of your hands too!
Whether you choose to play it safe and add some extra vitamin C to your current diet or not, we hope you’ll leave here understanding that its one nutrient that almost everyone can benefit from getting more of. This goes double for the malnourished, smokers, drug users (prescription and illegal), those who drink alcohol often, the elderly, athletes and anyone who spends a lot of time working or living in toxic environments where free-radical-causing chemicals thrive.
If you’re not getting enough on a day to day basis, you’re aging faster, your arteries are accumulating plaque more quickly… your body is literally falling apart from the inside out!
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