Vitamin C: What is It? How much is too much? What kind of supplement should I purchase?

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some plant-based foods, added to the others, and available as a dietary supplement. It plays an essential role in a variety of bodily functions, from healing wounds to preventing diseases, and has been linked to an array of impressive health benefits.

Where does vitamin C come from?

Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of natural-source vitamin C. Citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato juice, and potatoes are major contributors, but red and green peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe also contain beneficial amounts of vitamin C.

Am I getting enough vitamin C?

The USDA recommends adults consume 90 mg of vitamin C per day. For comparison, one half-cup of raw red peppers packs 95 mg of vitamin C per serving, while ¾ of a cup of orange juice contains about 92 mg per serving.

While rare in developed countries, acute vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy. Within one month of little to no vitamin C intake (below 10 mg/day), individuals may begin seeing signs of the condition. Symptoms include fatigue, depression, bleeding gums, and loosening or loss of teeth.

On the contrary, high fiber amounts of vitamin C from synthetically-made ascorbic acid (more than 2,000 mg per day for adults) can cause gastrointestinal distress due to excess of unabsorbed vitamin C in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common complaints are diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramps.

What are the benefits of adding a vitamin C supplement to my diet?

Research has proven that natural-source vitamin C is linked to a variety of health benefits, including a faster recovery time during illness, reduced damage from inflammation and oxidation, and an increased ability to fight off infections compared to those with a deficiency.

What should I look for in a vitamin C supplement?

When choosing a vitamin C supplement, opt for a natural, plant-source vitamin C. Avoid supplements with synthetic ascorbic acid or calcium ascorbate in order to achieve the greatest health benefits.