L-ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, and as such, it can only be acquired from food and supplements, since human body doesn’t store it. Most commonly known vitamin C, benefits include a remedy for the common cold and an aid for iron absorption. Most commonly consumed foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits and tomatoes.
Vitamin C’s role in the body
Aside from supporting the absorption of iron and enhancing immunity, vitamin C’s role in the body doesn’t stop there. It is essential for the biosynthesis of carnitine and catecholamines. As it also functions as cofactor in the biosynthesis of collagen, vitamin C is responsible for creating and repairing tissue for skin, cartilage, ligaments and blood vessels. Healing wounds and maintaining bones and teeth would be impossible without vitamin C. As an antioxidant, vitamin C also helps regenerate DNA that can be damaged by free radicals which can cause rapid aging and a number of health conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
Vitamin C benefits
Vitamin C has always been an essential part of anti-aging products. Its antioxidant properties serve to block free radicals from damaging the skin and speeding up its aging. As it helps to produce collagen, a protein that makes skin, vitamin C serves to regenerate skin and slow the aging process. Insufficient amount of vitamin C leads to rough, dry and peeling skin.
Lower levels of vitamin C have been known to correlate with building up of plaque in blood vessels which can lead to stroke. A study that lasted for 20 years and included 2,000 Japanese rural residents showed that vitamin C has vital role in reducing the risk of stroke. Participants with higher serum levels of vitamin C had 29% less risk of getting stroke as opposed to those with lower serum levels of vitamin C. The EPIC – Norfolk study that involved 20,649 adults and lasted 10 years had similar findings. Participants with higher levels of plasma vitamin C were at lower risk of stroke by 43%, as opposed to those with lower levels of plasma vitamin C.
Contrary to the popular belief, vitamin C doesn’t seem to have any greater impact on preventing the common cold in regular population. The studies have shown that vitamin C helps to slightly shorten the duration of cold. Its impact on preventing the common cold was quite successful only with population involved in high levels of physical activity, such as athletes, where the regular intake of vitamin C helped to reduce the incidents of colds by half.
Another little known vitamin C benefit is the reduction of stress and anxiety. One study showed that the increased dose of vitamin C (500 milligrams daily) “reduced mood disturbance by 71% and reduced psychological distress by 51% after an average of 8.2 days.”
Daily consumption recommendation
While vitamin C benefits are numerous and can help to improve many health conditions, not all age groups should take the same amount of it regularly. Daily consumption for vitamin C recommended by the National Academy of Sciences for each age group is as follows:
Birth – 6 months: 40 mg
Infants 6 – 12 months: 50 mg
Children 1 – 3 years: 15 mg
Children 4 – 8 years: 25 mg
Children 9 – 13 years: 45 mg
Adolescent girls 14 – 18 years: 65 mg
Adolescent boys 14 – 18 years: 75 mg
Men over 18 years: 90 mg
Women over 18 years: 75 mg
Pregnant women 14 – 18 years: 80 mg
Pregnant women over 18 years: 85 mg
Breastfeeding women 14 – 18 years: 115 mg
Breastfeeding women over 18 years: 120 mg
Since nicotine reduces vitamin C, smokers are recommended to take additional 35 mg daily.
Vitamin C deficiency happens with smokers, people with limited food variety and people with certain chronic diseases such as end-stage renal disease on chronic hemodialysis. The deficiency can lead to scurvy that manifests with fatigue, malaise, and inflammation of the gums.
Higher intakes of vitamin C usually don’t trigger any high-risk effects due to its low toxicity. Most common side effects include diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramps.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamin C. Small servings of certain fruits and vegetables provide the daily recommended amount of the vitamin. For example, ½ cup of sweet, raw, red pepper can help you achieve the recommended daily amount. Likewise, eating one medium kiwifruit or orange can help you get 100% daily value of vitamin C.
Food rich in vitamin C
1. Sweet red pepper (95 mg in ½ cup)
Although it best preserves its vitamin C values when raw, you can also add sweet red peppers to your favorite salad, or you can consume them grilled:
Clean several red peppers.
Season them with salt and black pepper.
Brush them with olive oil.
Place the peppers on hot grill and grill for 3-8 minutes until they soften.
2. Orange (70 mg in one medium orange)
To preserve the freshness and vitamin C values in oranges, they are best consumed fresh or in a juice. For desert, try strawberry-orange salad:
Slice one orange and a handful of strawberries.
Drizzle with basil syrup for 30 minutes before serving.
3. Kiwifruit (91 mg in one fruit)
Aside from eating raw, fresh kiwifruit, you can make a delicious kiwi-apple smoothie:
Peel and cut kiwifruit and apple.
Squeeze an orange.
Add 1 tsp. honey.
Blend until smooth.
4. Grapefruit (78 mg in one medium fruit)
Eat raw, in a juice or make a citrus salad:
Slice grapefruit, lime, tangerine and orange and place them in a bowl.
Mix 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 diced bulb of shallot and 1 zested lime in a separate bowl.
Tear one head of romaine lettuce, place the fruit slices atop of it and pour the dressing over the fruit.
5. Strawberries (85 mg in one cup)
Strawberries are best consumed raw as a part of a fresh salad:
Slice strawberries, kiwifruits, oranges and grapes.
In a separate bowl, mix orange juice and honey and pour over the fruit.
Refrigerate and sprinkle with chopped mint leaves before serving.
6. Broccoli (102 mg in one cup)
For healthy meal rich in vitamin C, try roasted garlic lemon broccoli:
season broccoli florets with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic
spread the broccoli out on a baking sheet
bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes
7. Brussels sprouts (96 mg in one cup)
Try this healthy Brussels sprouts recipe:
Steam Brussels sprouts for 7-8 minutes.
Whisk 2 tbsp. walnut oil, 1 tbsp. minced shallot, ¼ tsp. freshly grated lemon zest, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. whole-grain mustard, ¼ tsp. salt, and pepper to taste.
Add the sprouts to the dressing.
8. Cabbage (56 mg in one cup)
Cabbage potato soup is an easy to prepare meal rich in vitamin C:
Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add ½ of a head of shredded Savoy cabbage, 3 trimmed and chopped scallions, 3 peeled and halved garlic cloves, and ½ teaspoon salt.
Cook for about 5 minutes.
Add 4 cups of chicken broth, 1 pound of potatoes, and 3 dried bay leaves.
Using a blender, puree the soup until smooth.
9. Cauliflower (52 mg in one cup)
Cauliflower is another good source of vitamin C. For a healthy cauliflower dish, try creamy chopped cauliflower salad:
Mix 3 cups of chopped cauliflower florets, 1 tart-sweet red apple and 2 cups of romaine.
In a separate bowl, mix 5 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 small finely chopped shallot, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.
Toss to coat.
10. Tomato juice (44 mg in one cup)
Finally, tomato juice serves as another healthy source of vitamin C. In order to best preserve vitamin C values, try raw tomato and carrot juice:
Juice 4-8 carrots and 5-8 tomatoes in a juicer and enjoy.
Vitamin C supplement
Even though most health professionals suggest acquiring vitamin C from food, a 2013 study shows that there are no significant differences in the amount of vitamin C absorbed from food as opposed to that absorbed from supplements. Most often in the form of ascorbic acid, vitamin C supplements can actually provide more constant values of vitamin C, as the vitamin found in food can be decreased due to cooking. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C are also sources of at least one other vitamin, therefore, keeping a healthy and varied diet is always an advantage.