Worried about getting a chilly or the flu? For many people, the knee-jerk motion is to take a giant dose of each day vitamin C. For a few years, C has been the vitamin with the most important advertising finances (thanks partly to the citrus trade). Now, within the period of COVID-19, with many people making an attempt to determine the way to eat to greatest help our immune methods, 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 each day vitamin C complement? And if that’s the case, which of them are greatest?

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also referred to as 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 in the present day is excreted via urine, so regardless of how a lot you are taking in the present day, it’s essential to get extra tomorrow and each day after that.

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

Benefits of Vitamin C

little girl using oranges as glasses

Vitamin C has a number of advantages and makes use of in human well being.


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

White Blood Cells

Vitamin C may additionally assist to advertise the manufacturing and safety of white blood cells, which assist your physique combat off infections. This is likely to be particularly related to COVID-19 as a result of many contaminated sufferers have a low white blood cell depend 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 each day vitamin C is required to provide collagen, essentially the most considerable protein in your physique’s connective tissue. It helps strengthen your pores and skin’s boundaries, which is essential to combat the unfold of COVID-19 and different viruses in addition to defend your pores and skin with all the hand-washing you’re doing. (You are washing your fingers lots, proper?)

Iron Absorption

Vitamin C boosts iron absorption, which will 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 in. 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 task in stopping coronary heart illness, primarily by managing blood strain. It’s additionally protecting towards oxidative stress within the mind, particularly in relation to illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Your eyes can profit from each day vitamin C too, which can even assist sluggish age-related illnesses like cataracts. It may additionally assist enhance fertility in males, primarily by enhancing 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 each day vitamin C, which you’ll simply acquire from a wholesome, plant-centered weight loss plan. For reference, one massive orange accommodates 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 each day vitamin C has well-established detrimental 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 well 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 severe and pretty frequent situation. Sailors on lengthy sea voyages who subsisted on fish, dried meats, and onerous tack (a fundamental biscuit or cracker), with no entry to recent or preserved produce, continuously 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 firms and governments assumed that half of the sailors would die from scurvy on any given voyage.

After experimenting with ineffective and sometimes harmful remedies 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 option 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 could possibly be taken on board and saved and distributed to sailors to maintain them wholesome. Once the sailors acquired recent vegatables and fruits, scurvy could possibly be reversed and prevented. Navies and delivery firms started taking oranges, lemons, and limes on these voyages to deal with and stop the sailors’ illness. The tie is so sturdy that “ascorbic” within the chemical identify for vitamin C really means “anti-scurvy.”

Scurvy Risk Today

Today, scurvy may be very uncommon, particularly in case your weight loss plan is wealthy in fruits and veggies. Most scurvy circumstances are related to a vitamin C consumption of lower than 10 mg per day. Some individuals are extra in danger, nevertheless, together with those that smoke, infants fed evaporated or boiled milk (as this will 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 eliminates extra vitamin C each day, is it attainable to get an excessive amount of of it? The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for vitamin C is 2,000 mg, that means that that is the quantity that has been established as the very best quantity usually tolerated with out detrimental results for most individuals.

The commonest unwanted effects of vitamin C, related to extreme consumption, are digestive disturbances — like diarrhea, nausea, and cramping — primarily resulting from 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 could possibly be in danger for iron overload leading to tissue harm as a result of absorptive-boosting results of vitamin C on iron. People with renal issues may additionally have a heightened threat for unwanted effects if their vitamin C consumption is in extra of 1,000-2,000 mg per day. Kidney stones can kind 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 additionally have the potential to intrude with sure medicines, like cholesterol-lowering statins, Adderall for ADHD, and warfarin, which is used to stop blood clots.

For most individuals, nevertheless, 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 each day vitamin C. However, fashionable agricultural practices have depleted soil high quality around the globe, that means that the soils wherein crops are grown have far fewer vitamins than they used to.

An evaluation of nutrient knowledge 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 listing 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 methodology, the extra vitamin C was destroyed.

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

Though not nicely documented, the quantity of vitamin C in fruits and veggies may additionally 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 greatest option to meet vitamin C wants is to include a wide range of vegatables and fruits into your weight loss plan frequently. 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 listing, that means that they’re typically excessive in pesticides when grown conventionally. So it’s a good suggestion to purchase natural produce each time attainable.

  • 1 medium guava = 126 mg
  • 1 medium purple 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 massive tomato = 25 mg

Should You Take Vitamin C Supplements?

vitamin c supplement with orange halves

If you’re seeking to enhance your each day vitamin C consumption nicely past the RDA, you possibly can both eat a really great amount of vitamin C-rich meals like oranges, guavas, and purple bell peppers, or you might wish to take into account supplementation. And whereas getting vitamins from meals is sort of at all times greatest, there are some compelling research to again up the notion that for some individuals, vitamin C supplementation could possibly 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 help your physique’s pure defenses and combat 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 comparable viruses.

Vitamin C for COVID-19

What about COVID-19? Some scientists consider that vitamin C supplementation could possibly 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 develop into infected. Severe lung irritation with COVID-19 can lead to respiratory misery and even loss of life. Until we now have research that take a look at the usage of 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 the moment 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 could cut back ICU size and shorten time on ventilators. Based on preliminary analysis, the Shanghai Medical Association endorsed the usage of 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 option to get very excessive doses of vitamin C is thru intravenous, or IV, remedy. However, this may be very pricey and isn’t almost as handy or accessible as oral vitamin C.

On the opposite hand, typical oral vitamin C dietary supplements, typically 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 massive quantities of vitamin C through dietary supplements. Ascorbic acid — the supplemental type of vitamin C — has a really low pH, that means that it’s extremely acidic. When a complement doesn’t adequately buffer the ascorbic acid, it may well 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 kind is encapsulated in liposomes or double-layered, protecting fats bubbles that ship vitamins to cells in your physique. Research reveals that liposomal vitamin C is simpler and bioavailable than typical oral vitamin C dietary supplements.

Liposomes defend 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, regularly 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 identified antioxidant, is present in a few of the healthiest meals on the planet, and appears to be good for immune well being too. Eating vitamin C-rich vegatables and fruits in regular portions has no obvious draw back. And taking vitamin C dietary supplements might have some optimistic advantages, although there’s extra to be taught.

Whether or not supplemental vitamin C is useful within the prevention or therapy of COVID-19 is an open query. But there’s little doubt that consuming a weight loss plan that’s considerable in vitamin C-rich meals is sweet 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 illnesses like COVID-19? What do you consider that?
  • Do you are taking each day vitamin C? Why or why not?

Feature picture: iStock.com/Chinarius

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