What is vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, like the B vitamins. In foods, it occurs naturally with plant nutrients called bioflavonoids that are in the same family as vitamin C and work together with vitamin C in the body.
In foods, vitamin C is found principally in fruits and vegetables – some of the best sources are red and green ...Read more peppers, strawberries, papaya, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, mango, pineapple and kiwi fruit. However the vitamin C content in these foods can vary considerably depending on how and where they were grown, how long they have been stored, and whether they have been cooked (vitamin C is easily lost in cooking water and also with exposure to air). Choose fresh, local and (if possible) organic fruits and vegetables, avoid pre-prepared or pre-chopped ones, and when cooking vegetables, it is better to gently steam or roast them rather than boiling them – and use the water they have been steamed in, for example to make gravy.
What does it do in the body?
The functions of vitamin C include:
• Collagen production. For this reason it can also help with wound healing, preventing skin aging and for maintenance of healthy gums.
• Production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and noradrenaline.
• Supporting immune function, including production and multiplication of white blood cells.
• Supporting the function of the adrenal glands – vitamin C is essential for the manufacture of adrenal steroid hormones such as cortisol.
• Cardiovascular protection
• Metabolism of other nutrients in the body such as iron and folic acid
• Antioxidant activity, and helping to recycle vitamin E (itself an antioxidant). As an antioxidant, vitamin C may also be helpful for controlling or reducing inflammation.
Do we need vitamin C supplements?
Most mammals can make vitamin C in their body, but humans cannot. It is thought that some mammals can make up to 15,000mg (15g) a day. The amount that we get in foods may not be as high as it should be due to intensive farming, storage and cooking methods, as mentioned above.
We may recommend vitamin C supplements in particular for anyone concerned about gum health, for healing following a wound or operation, lowered immunity, with suspected low adrenal function (or who has been affected by stress), for improving iron absorption, or for supporting cardiovascular health.
How can I take vitamin C?
Vitamin C is one of the most popular supplements to take, so it comes in many forms. These include:
• Ascorbic acid. This is the most basic and cheapest form of vitamin C. This form can be fine for some people, but for others it can be too acidic.
• Buffered (low acid) vitamin C, which is vitamin C attached to a mineral – often calcium or magnesium. (Look for calcium ascorbate or magnesium ascorbate on the label). This is another commonly available and fairly cheap form of vitamin C.
• Ester-C®. A patented non-acidic form of vitamin C that is thought to be well absorbed.
• ‘Whole food’ vitamin C. This is often found as a whole fruit powder (or powder in capsules), for example acerola cherry powder or camu camu berry powder, or a mixture of several berries. This is one of our favourite forms of vitamin C supplementation because while a dose may provide less actual vitamin C, it is accompanied by other nutrients naturally occurring in vitamin C-rich foods – and that work in synergy with vitamin C in the body – such as bioflavonoids, enzymes, and fatty acids. For this reason, taking a lower dose ‘whole food’ vitamin C can be equivalent to taking four times as much vitamin C in any other form. It is also thought to be better retained in the body than most other forms.
• Food-based or ‘food-form’ vitamin C supplements are also available. These can be produced by mixing a basic vitamin C into a base of nutritional yeast and a whole food, or a probiotic base, to give it back the other nutrients it would occur with in foods. Therefore, similar to a ‘whole food’ form vitamin C, food-based vitamin C supplements are thought to be well absorbed and used in the body.
Vitamin C supplements are most commonly available as tablets, capsules and powders and occasionally as liquids. Children’s vitamin C supplements are also available.
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