What is Vitamin C? Otherwise known as Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that must be obtained from the diet. It’s a water soluble vitamin, and much of it is destroyed by cooking – the freshest fruit and vegetables have the highest amount of vitamin C. It oxidizes in air and is sensitive to heat and light, so storing fruit and vegetables in a cool dry place is critical to preserving their Vitamin C content.
Ascorbic acid is absorbed in the intestines from food at a rate of 80-90% of what’s ingested (ideally). It is used by the body in about 2 hours and out of the blood stream within 3 to 4 hours, so it’s best to have eaten sources of this vitamin every 4 hours, or if supplementing, to take the supplement every 4 hours. In times of stress, illness, or excessive alcohol intake, the body needs more.
Vitamin C has many actions in the body:
- It’s an essential ingredient to the formation and maintenance of collagen – connective tissue which is found in skin, ligaments, joint linings, even bones and teeth. It helps wounds to heal, maintains healthy blood vessel walls, and gives support to body structures.
- Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, and folic acid. It helps to form serotonin, an important chemical for the brain.
- It supports adrenal function. The adrenals are often over taxed in times of stress, increasing their need for Vitamin C.
- Vitamin C also supports thyroid hormone production and cholesterol metabolism.
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant. It helps to prevent the creation of free radicals in the body, which can cause damage to cells and eventually lead to disease.
- Vitamin C stimulates the immune system – it increases the number of certain immune system chemicals in the body, patrolling the body for bacteria and virus’ and strengthening their response to those attacks.
- Some studies also show that Vitamin C may act to dampen down production of histamine in the body, so it can also help with allergies.
What Foods Contain Vitamin C?
While citrus fruits have the highest concentrations of Vitamin C, there are other sources. Try these – broccoli, bell peppers, parsley, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, strawberries, cantaloupe, squash, grapefruit, pineapple, spinach, green beans, fennel, cranberries, asparagus, and watermelon.
Are There Any Side Effects With Supplementation?
Generally, in the cases of illness and high stress, high doses of Vitamin C are recommended. Everyone is an individual, so it’s important to find the right level for you. If you experience diarrhea, cut back the by 500mg daily until the symptoms disappear, then stay at that dose. Remember, divided doses are best.
Always check with your health care professional before supplementing at high levels.
Sources for this article include:
- Staying Healthy with Nutrition, by Haas