Of all the nutrients important to the body Vitamin C is perhaps one of the most recognised, but perhaps one that is still poorly understood and underestimated.
Vitamin C is a super popular supplement especially in winter. But as you will read, this essential nutrient is also needed for a number of other important reasons by the body.
Most commonly associated with oranges, in fact Vitamin C is found in much higher amounts in other foods.
Let’s take a look at this key vitamin and the amazing things it can do in the body.
Vitamin C AKA Ascorbic Acid
This micro nutrient is classified as an essential nutrient to the body as we cannot make this vitamin in the body. So we have to get it either from food or supplements.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin meaning that it can dissolve easily in water. What this means for the body is that it can be transported around easily and utilised by the cells of the body but it cannot be stored in tissue (such as muscles) like other vitamins or minerals can.
Vitamin C is also among one of the least stable vitamins. So when cooking vegetables or fruit, vitamin C is easily destroyed.
For example a freshly made salad will have a much higher content of vitamin C compared to a salad that has been made quite a few hours beforehand.
When you boil vegetables, a lot of the vitamin C content is lost in the water that is drained out.
Vitamin C content is also lost when vegetables are fried or baked.
What foods can you find Vitamin C in? Clue: Fresh is best!!!
Not just in oranges! But of course in other citrus fruits such as lemons, mandarins, limes and grapefruits.
However vitamin C can also be found in higher concentrations in capsicums, broccoli, parsley, kale, cauliflower, papaya, strawberries and spinach….to name just a few!
As you can see many of the above vegetables may perhaps be cooked in some way whether it be boiling, steaming or stir-frying. So valuable vitamin C may be lost through simple meal preparation.
The ways to get around this – where you can (it’s not always possible of course) – is to eat freshly made salads, or lightly steam or very quickly grill these vegetables (keep them crunchy!).
Here are some other foods with vitamin C:
Vitamin C in foods
So why is Vitamin C so good for you? Top 6 reasons.
As I mentioned Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for the body.
It is commonly associated with the immune system for coughs and colds, but actually is needed for a lot of other biochemical processes.
Take a look at this impressive list!
1: Boosts your immune function
Vitamin C is needed by various immune functions. It is needed for the stimulation of white blood cell production, function and activity. These are the important immune cells that are involved in protecting the body from invading micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi or virus’.
Vitamin C increases important immune antibody levels and function. Antibodies help to detect these invading microorganisms and neutralise them. Vitamin C is also is an important anti-viral nutrient as in high amounts can help to stimulate interferon production which is an important anti-viral protein which can inhibit virus replication.
It will also help to mop up any oxidative damage normally associated with the death of bacterial, viral and fungal cells damaged the immune process. This is explained further in antioxidant protection.
It is also a potent anti-histamine nutrient. It can help increase diamine oxidase an enzyme that can help to metabolise excess histamine, therefore reducing histamine levels in the body.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute who have dedicated a considerable amount of research towards Vitamin C, it is believed that a deficiency in vitamin C has quite a considerable impact on general immune function and may lead to the early onset of many diseases and disorders as a result. Boosts your immune function – Vitamin C is needed by various immune functions. It is needed for the stimulation of white blood cell production, function and activity. These are the important immune cells that are involved in protecting the body from invading micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi or virus’.
2: Is an important nutrient for collagen production
Collagen is an integral part of connective tissue within the body - found in cartilage, ligaments and tendons. But also in found in blood vessels, digestive tract, teeth of course skin and eyes, muscles, bone and bone marrow.
Collagen is made up of important amino acids found in the protein we eat. Collagen is continuously made within the body depending on our own personal needs such as growth, tissue repair and joint care.
As we age, the ability to make collagen slows down – hence the wrinkles in our skin! – but also may contribute towards joint degradation and aches or poor hair growth.
Vitamin C is an important nutrient needed for the enzyme reaction needed to make collagen. Therefore any deficiency in vitamin C will directly impact on the body’s ability to make collagen.
Vitamin C for skin and collagen
One of my favourite reasons to take a vitamin C supplement is for its powerful antioxidant activity.
What is an anti-oxidant? “It is a substance that inhibits oxidation….removes damaging oxidizing agents in a living organism”.
Let me elaborate a little further.
The process of oxidation occurs when our cells make energy from the oxygen we breathe. This normal process produces free radicals (aka crazy molecules) which interact within our cells which causes free radical damage aka oxidative stress or sometimes described as oxidative damage. This “normal” damage can affect all cells of the body, DNA and its replication, the energy production and in the long term impact upon healthy ageing.
Oxidative damage is believed to be involved in poor brain health and function, poor cardiovascular health, mitochondrial disease and disorders, cancers, metabolic disorders such as diabetes, poor eye health….the list unfortunately goes on.
Antioxidants are found naturally in plant based foods especially those that are brightly coloured but also in dark chocolate, coffee, many herbs and therefore tea leaves and help to stop this cell damage.
I absolutely love antioxidants! For those who have had me speak to them in clinic you will know how much I love to promote the importance of antioxidant supplementation.
Because of the very simple fact that we cannot avoid making free radical damage, antioxidant supplementation is vital to help ensure the health of all of our cells and therefore promote healthy ageing.
And Vitamin C is one of the most cost effective ways of doing this!
4: Needed for healthy beautiful skin
We have already discussed how vitamin C is important for collagen production and as a powerful antioxidant – two very important factors for healthy skin.
And let’s not forget its role within immunity – if you think of a skin wound, immune processes are in full swing here trying to fight potential skin infection. Vitamin C is one of the important nutrients for proper wound healing as well as zinc and vitamin E.
Vitamin C is transported by the blood to the skin and remember although vitamin C cannot be stored in the body, small concentrations of vitamin C have been found in the dermis and epidermis layers of the skin indicating its importance for skin health.
Scurvy is a disease of severe vitamin C deficiency. It presents with many different symptoms such as severe fatigue due to anaemia (see iron absorption below), gum disease and skin lesions that may bleed and are hard to heal.
Scurvy is one of the oldest known nutritional disorders and although not commonly seen, can be found in pockets of society where lack of fresh food is evident or where highly processed foods are consumed.
5: Boosts iron absorption
There are two types of iron, non-heme and heme iron. Non-heme iron is found in plant based foods such as grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits and beans. Heme iron foods are red and white meat, seafood as well as some offal.
Non-heme iron is harder to absorb during digestion than heme iron. But vitamin C significantly increases the absorption of this type of iron. It must be consumed at the same time, so say lets say if you had a salad with spinach or kale leaves, you could add lemon juice and tomatoes to it to increase the non heme iron absorption within the digestive tract.
This is particularly important for vegetarians and vegans who might naturally have a lower amount of iron consumption in their diet.
Children, elderly, pregnant women and teenagers are also at risk of iron deficiency so it is important to remember the important need for vitamin C rich foods when consuming a predominantly plant based diet.
6: May help with cardiovascular health
This important nutrient is a must for good cardiovascular health!
Did you know that vitamin C helps to relax the blood vessels which is particularly important for those who have hardening of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis), keeping the arteries flexible.
Clinical trials also shows that vitamin C has been shown to be an effective therapy for reducing total cholesterol as well as the bad cholesterol – LDL a major risk factor for heart disease.
Antioxidants are particularly important where there is poor cardiovascular health due to the oxidative damage that occurs. So another reason why Vitamin C is very beneficial!
Vitamin C for heart health
There are a few types of different vitamin C supplements on the market the most common one being varying forms of ascorbic acid.
On its own, ascorbic acid can cause some people an upset stomach. This might be the case particularly if the dose is high. Because it is a water soluble vitamin, it may draw water into the colon – temporarily – but enough to cause gut complaints and possible diarrhoea.
Buffered vitamin c is where ascorbic acid is added to a mineral like magnesium, calcium or potassium.
Some individuals do much better on this type of buffered vitamin C supplement. Bioflavonoids are often added to a Vitamin C supplement to help increase its absorption within the gut but also to protect ascorbic acid from oxidative damage. Bioflavonoids work synergistically in nature with vitamin C found in food so it makes sense to add them to a supplement.
Is it true you just pee vitamin C out?
There is a true science to the metabolism of vitamin C – and how plasma (blood) concentrations may reach saturation.
I would rather not bore you with the science behind it! And there are many schools of thought on whether you should mega dose or not!
So let me just say, when it comes to supplementation, there are certain times where your body needs more than the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
Yes you may wee out excess vitamin C, but this is not to say that your body does not need it, it just has a natural saturation point for the simple fact that we cannot store Vitamin C in the body. But as you can see from this article, it is a vital nutrient to the body and intake via food may be limited depending on your dietary lifestyles.
So for an otherwise healthy adult you may decide that a supplementation dose of 500mg is good for you. You can increase this amount to bowel tolerance – where loose bowl motions occur. In some cases I suggest 2000 - 4000mg (2-4g) per day which must be at separated doses if you are fighting an infection.
The good thing is, Vitamin C is a very safe in most people. At very high doses (referred to as mega dosing) a small number of people are at risk of kidney stones. Which is why I feel that a daily dose of between 500mg to 1000mg per day for adults is generally ok.
Bio-availability - why choose liposomal?
Being a water soluble vitamin means vitamin C does not interact particularly efficiently with the cell membrane wall which is made up of fatty acids.
Every cell within our body has a membrane which is made up of proteins and lipids (fatty acids) which not only help to protect the inner workings of the cell but also help to control what goes in and what comes out. The membrane itself is made up of 2 layers of molecules. One end is the head or the hydrophilic (water loving) end and the tail is the hydrophobic (water hating) end.
The key difference with liposomal vitamin C is that the ascorbic acid is suspended in a phospholipid (fatty acid) complex that includes something like sunflower lecithin - which is the fatty acid, essentially making it more of a fat soluble vitamin, so allowing it to be transported into the blood stream easier and also more likely to move across the cell wall membrane. This is particularly important for the white blood cells which remember – require good amounts of vitamin c for their activity.
Remember liposomal supplements don’t necessarily increase the storage of nutrients such as the fat soluble vitamins but this type of supplement method helps to increase their absorption.
One that I like to use in clinic is the practitioner only Orthoplex Liposomal C Powder which per serve provides 1gm of vitamin C.
Want to know more?
If you have any questions around Vitamin C and how it may benefit you and your family feel free to get in contact.