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Worried about getting a chilly or the flu? For many people, the knee-jerk motion is to take a giant dose of every day vitamin C. For a few years, C has been the vitamin with the most important advertising price range (thanks partly to the citrus business). Now, within the period of COVID-19, with many people attempting to determine how one can eat to finest assist our immune techniques, let’s separate truth from hypothesis. Can vitamin C actually assist to stop colds, flus, and different viral infections? How does vitamin C work within the immune system, and is it value contemplating taking a every day vitamin C complement? And in that case, which of them are finest?

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also called L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin and a strong antioxidant. Unlike fat-soluble nutritional vitamins like A and E, water-soluble nutritional vitamins aren’t saved within the physique. Whatever you don’t use as we speak is excreted via urine, so irrespective of how a lot you’re taking as we speak, you’ll want to get extra tomorrow and on daily basis after that.

While most animals can synthesize their very own vitamin C, people can not. Other exceptions embrace apes and different primates, guinea pigs, fruit-eating bats, bugs, fish, sure reptiles, and a few chook species. Since we will’t make it, and it’s important for our well being, we should eat meals that incorporates vitamin C. This, plus the truth that vitamin C is the least steady vitamin, is why it’s an important nutrient to eat (or complement).

Benefits of Vitamin C

little girl using oranges as glasses

Vitamin C has an a variety of benefits and makes use of in human well being.


As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C reduces oxidative stress in your physique. Extensive analysis exhibits that diets wealthy in every day vitamin C are related to a decrease threat of many persistent ailments, resembling coronary heart illness, sure cancers, eye ailments, and neurodegenerative situations that have an effect on cognitive well being. Vitamin C also can regenerate different antioxidants, resembling vitamin E, by decreasing free radicals fashioned when vitamin E scavenges oxygen radicals.

White Blood Cells

Vitamin C may assist to advertise the manufacturing and safety of white blood cells, which assist your physique battle off infections. This is perhaps particularly related to COVID-19 as a result of many contaminated sufferers have a low white blood cell rely once they contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Skin Health

Vitamin C is a part of your exterior protection system as nicely, because it performs a major function within the well being and integrity of your pores and skin. This is as a result of every day vitamin C is required to provide collagen, essentially the most plentiful protein in your physique’s connective tissue. It helps strengthen your pores and skin’s boundaries, which is necessary to battle the unfold of COVID-19 and different viruses in addition to shield your pores and skin with all the hand-washing you’re doing. (You are washing your palms lots, proper?)

Iron Absorption

Vitamin C boosts iron absorption, which might help stop iron deficiency. For occasion, consuming a mixture of tomatoes and lentils, or tomatoes and beans, on the identical time, can improve how a lot iron you take up. A examine revealed within the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that including 100 mg of vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) to meals boosted iron absorption by 67%.

Chronic Disease Prevention

Studies have discovered vitamin C to play a job in stopping coronary heart illness, primarily by managing blood strain. It’s additionally protecting towards oxidative stress within the mind, particularly in the case of ailments like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Your eyes can profit from every day vitamin C too, which can even assist sluggish age-related ailments like cataracts. It may assist enhance fertility in males, primarily by bettering sperm high quality.

How Much Daily Vitamin C Do You Need?

vitamin c rich foods

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C varies between 15 mg-120 mg per day. Pregnant and lactating ladies, and the aged, ought to purpose for the higher finish of that vary. The common grownup requires 75-90 mg of every day vitamin C, which you’ll be able to simply get hold of from a wholesome, plant-centered food plan. For reference, one giant orange incorporates roughly 100 mg of vitamin C. Truth in promoting from the Florida Department of Citrus!

When you eat vitamin C in reasonable quantities (say, 30-180 mg per day), your physique absorbs round 70-90% of it. When you begin taking greater than 1,000 mg per day (almost inconceivable to do with out supplementation), absorption charges lower to lower than 50%. Leftover vitamin C passes out of your physique in urine.

What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Vitamin C?

Not getting sufficient every day vitamin C has well-established destructive well being results. The major consequence of vitamin C deficiency is scurvy, a illness wherein individuals expertise fatigue, pores and skin rash, open and unhealing sores, bleeding gums, and bruising. If untreated, it may result in loss of life.

The Discovery of Scurvy

The discovery of vitamin C and scurvy occurred on the identical time, within the 1920s, when vitamin C deficiency was a critical and pretty widespread situation. Sailors on lengthy sea voyages who subsisted on fish, dried meats, and exhausting tack (a primary biscuit or cracker), with no entry to contemporary or preserved produce, steadily skilled signs of scurvy, a illness characterised by the breakdown of connective tissues.

Historians estimate that between the primary voyage of Columbus and the rise of the steam engine within the mid-19th century, over two million sailors perished from the illness. Shipping corporations and governments assumed that half of the sailors would die from scurvy on any given voyage.

After experimenting with ineffective and sometimes harmful therapies like vinegar, “elixir of vitriol” (a very alarming cocktail of sulfuric acid and alcohol), and numerous potent laxatives, seamen lastly found an answer within the mid-1700s. When a badly broken British naval fleet made their method to Juan Fernández Island (off the coast of what’s now Chile) with only a few hundred males left alive out of the unique 1200, they (seemingly) miraculously reversed their scurvy as soon as they started consuming the meals available on the island: oats, clover, radishes, sorrel, and different vegetable meals wealthy in vitamin C.

While greens had been impractical to sail with, citrus fruits might be taken on board and saved and distributed to sailors to maintain them wholesome. Once the sailors acquired contemporary vegetables and fruit, scurvy might be reversed and prevented. Navies and delivery corporations started taking oranges, lemons, and limes on these voyages to deal with and forestall the sailors’ illness. The tie is so sturdy that “ascorbic” within the chemical title for vitamin C really means “anti-scurvy.”

Scurvy Risk Today

Today, scurvy could be very uncommon, particularly in case your food plan is wealthy in fruits and veggies. Most scurvy instances are related to a vitamin C consumption of lower than 10 mg per day. Some individuals are extra in danger, nonetheless, together with those that smoke, infants fed evaporated or boiled milk (as this may destroy vitamin C), individuals who eat diets of restricted selection, and people who’ve absorption issues.

Can You Get Too Much Vitamin C?

If your physique simply removes extra vitamin C on daily basis, is it attainable to get an excessive amount of of it? The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for vitamin C is 2,000 mg, which means that that is the quantity that has been established as the best quantity usually tolerated with out destructive results for most individuals.

The most typical unwanted side effects of vitamin C, related to extreme consumption, are digestive disturbances — like diarrhea, nausea, and cramping — primarily on account of unabsorbed vitamin C sitting within the gastrointestinal tract.

For a smaller variety of individuals, extreme vitamin C can result in extra vital issues. For occasion, these with hereditary hemochromatosis might be in danger for iron overload leading to tissue harm because of the absorptive-boosting results of vitamin C on iron. People with renal issues may have a heightened threat for unwanted side effects if their vitamin C consumption is in extra of 1,000-2,000 mg per day. Kidney stones can type on account of excessive quantities of vitamin C from supplementation, inflicting an elevated excretion of oxalate in your urine. Though that is uncommon amongst wholesome individuals with reasonable vitamin C intakes.

Vitamin C may have the potential to intrude with sure drugs, like cholesterol-lowering statins, Adderall for ADHD, and warfarin, which is used to stop blood clots.

For most individuals, nonetheless, a reasonable quantity of vitamin C (2,000 mg or much less per day) appears to be pretty nicely tolerated.

Vitamin C-Rich Foods

infographic vitamin c foods
iStock.com/Alena Igdeeva

Fruits and greens are superb sources of every day vitamin C. However, trendy agricultural practices have depleted soil high quality around the globe, which means that the soils wherein crops are grown have far fewer vitamins than they used to.

An evaluation of nutrient information from the Kushi Institute, carried out between 1975 and 1997, discovered that the typical quantity of vitamin C in crops had decreased by 30%. We can assume that much more depletion has occurred within the almost 25 years because the completion of that examine.

Optimizing Your Dietary Vitamin C

How do you optimize your vitamin C consumption from meals? Start with selecting good sources of vitamin C (see record beneath). Then, take note of the way you put together these meals. Certain preparation strategies can decrease the quantity of vitamin C in a meals. Boiling can considerably cut back the content material, whereas microwaving, surprisingly sufficient, preserved essentially the most. In normal, the longer and the warmer the cooking technique, the extra vitamin C was destroyed.

Storage strategies additionally play a job. Fresh and frozen produce tends to have extra vitamin C than canned. The longer you retain that contemporary produce in your fridge or in your counter, the much less vitamin C you find yourself with. Frozen produce is an efficient possibility because the freezing course of can destroy a number of the enzymes that finally degrade vitamin C.

Though not nicely documented, the quantity of vitamin C in fruits and veggies may differ considerably relying on the place they’re grown, how they’re grown, how lengthy they sit after harvest, what season it’s, and the way they’re saved. Even fruits grown on completely different branches of the identical tree can differ of their nutrient content material!

The finest method to meet vitamin C wants is to include quite a lot of vegetables and fruit into your food plan regularly. Good sources of vitamin C together with their approximate vitamin C content material, are listed beneath. Note that a few of these are additionally discovered on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen record, which means that they’re usually excessive in pesticides when grown conventionally. So it’s a good suggestion to purchase natural produce at any time when attainable.

  • 1 medium guava = 126 mg
  • 1 medium crimson bell pepper = 152 mg
  • 1 medium orange = 70 mg
  • 1 cup of uncooked broccoli = 40 mg
  • 1 small lemon = 30 mg
  • 1 small papaya = 95 mg
  • 1 cup of uncooked Brussels sprouts = 75 mg
  • 1 cup of uncooked strawberries = 60 mg
  • 1 kiwi fruit = 64 mg
  • ¾ cup of diced pineapple = 48 mg
  • 1 cup of frozen cauliflower florets = 21 mg
  • 1 cup of uncooked cantaloupe = 57 mg
  • 1 giant tomato = 25 mg

Should You Take Vitamin C Supplements?

vitamin c supplement with orange halves

If you’re seeking to enhance your every day vitamin C consumption nicely past the RDA, you’ll be able to both eat a really great amount of vitamin C-rich meals like oranges, guavas, and crimson bell peppers, or you might wish to contemplate supplementation. And whereas getting vitamins from meals is sort of all the time finest, there are some compelling research to again up the notion that for some individuals, vitamin C supplementation might be useful. Perhaps particularly within the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vitamin C supplementation has been discovered to cut back severity and shorten restoration time from sicknesses, together with viral infections like chilly and flu. It can assist your physique’s pure defenses and battle irritation. And there’s some proof from animal analysis and case research in people that prime dose, or IV vitamin C, can cut back lung irritation in extreme respiratory sicknesses brought on by H1N1 (“swine flu”) or different related viruses.

Vitamin C for COVID-19

What about COVID-19? Some scientists imagine that vitamin C supplementation might be useful in calming the cytokine storms that always accompany this sickness. Cytokines are proteins launched by cells that ramp up your immune response. In some individuals, an overactive immune system will get caught in a loop and releases so many cytokines that the lungs turn into infected. Severe lung irritation with COVID-19 may end up in respiratory misery and even loss of life. Until now we have research that check using supplemental vitamin C within the therapy of COVID-19, particularly, we received’t know if it helps to cut back cytokine storms or not. But it appears believable that it may.

Research is at present underway in China, as a number of research search to seek out out if excessive doses of IV vitamin C can shorten COVID-19 restoration time. So far, researchers have famous that it might cut back ICU size and shorten time on ventilators. Based on preliminary analysis, the Shanghai Medical Association endorsed using excessive dose vitamin C as a therapy for hospitalized individuals with COVID-19. However, extra examine is critical to know with confidence, whether or not and the way a lot vitamin C is useful.

Best Vitamin C Supplement

One method to get very excessive doses of vitamin C is thru intravenous, or IV, remedy. However, this may be very expensive and isn’t almost as handy or accessible as oral vitamin C.

On the opposite hand, typical oral vitamin C dietary supplements, usually within the type of vitamin C capsules, lozenges, or gummies, can have some drawbacks. For occasion, they may comprise extremely processed components, synthetic fillers, and “natural” flavorings. Some additionally comprise added sugars.

Additionally, digestive points can accompany giant quantities of vitamin C through dietary supplements. Ascorbic acid — the supplemental type of vitamin C — has a really low pH, which means that it’s extremely acidic. When a complement doesn’t adequately buffer the ascorbic acid, it may result in cramping, diarrhea, and different stomach-related points in some individuals.

Liposomal Vitamin C

Liposomal vitamin C is an alternative choice to think about. This type is encapsulated in liposomes or double-layered, protecting fats bubbles that ship vitamins to cells in your physique. Research exhibits that liposomal vitamin C is more practical and bioavailable than typical oral vitamin C dietary supplements.

Liposomes shield the vitamin C micelles from environmental threats and absorption boundaries discovered within the human digestive system. As they undergo your intestinal tract, the liposomes gently peel away, step by step releasing the vitamin C micelles and depositing them close to the intestine lining the place they’re higher absorbed.

Support Your Immune System with Vitamin C

little girl holding an orange slice

Vitamin C is a recognized antioxidant, is present in a number of the healthiest meals on the planet, and appears to be good for immune well being too. Eating vitamin C-rich vegetables and fruit in regular portions has no obvious draw back. And taking vitamin C dietary supplements could have some optimistic advantages, although there’s extra to study.

Whether or not supplemental vitamin C is helpful within the prevention or therapy of COVID-19 is an open query. But there’s little doubt that consuming a food plan that’s plentiful in vitamin C-rich meals is nice for your well being — pandemic or no pandemic.

Tell us within the feedback:

  • What are a few of your favourite vitamin C-rich meals?
  • Have you heard of IV vitamin C as a therapy for viral ailments like COVID-19? What do you concentrate on that?
  • Do you’re taking every day vitamin C? Why or why not?

Feature picture: iStock.com/Chinarius

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