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Vitamin C: what is, benefits, how much you need, and where to find it

Vitamin C: what is, benefits, how much you need, and where to find it
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Written by: 4Life Research

Publication Date: June 2024


When it comes to staying healthy, vitamins are a must. Vitamins are involved in hundreds of body processes that keep you alive and functioning optimally.

There are 13 essential vitamins: vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate). These are called essential vitamins because they must be obtained from your diet. Your body cannot produce the essential vitamins on its own in sufficient amounts.

The best way to get vitamins is by eating a well-balanced diet, one that is rich in whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Supplements provide a great way to meet your daily needs. Vitamin supplements come in many forms, including tablets, capsules, soft gels, gummies, powders, and liquids.

Classifying Vitamins

Micronutrients

Vitamins are considered micronutrients because they are only needed in small amounts. Despite their small presence inside your body, these powerhouses carry out many important functions that can quickly become disrupted if deficiencies arise.

Getting too much of any one micronutrient, vitamins or minerals, can also be problematic. This is because micronutrients interact with each other and having too much of one can interfere with the absorption or normal functioning of another. Conversely, adequate amounts of micronutrients can lead to positive interactions. For example, vitamin D helps you extract calcium from food as it passes through your digestive tract and vitamin C helps you absorb iron.

Organic Compounds

Vitamins are organic compounds that can be broken down by heat, air, or acid. This can make it challenging to get intact vitamins from foods and supplements into your body. Exposure to air, cooking, and storage can change the chemical structure of vitamins, which causes them to act in a different way once they are inside your body. When vitamins act differently, they no longer provide the same benefits as the vitamins in their original form. Eating whole or minimally processed foods is a good way to avoid this problem.

Water-Soluble vs. Fat-Soluble

Vitamins are categorized based on their solubility. Some vitamins are water-soluble, which means they dissolve in water; other vitamins are fat-soluble, which means they dissolve in oil (fat).

Water-soluble vitamins are found in the watery portion of foods. As you digest foods and supplements, these vitamins are released and absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Water-soluble vitamins circulate easily throughout your body since up to 60% of your body is water.

There are nine water-soluble vitamins:

  1. Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  2. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  3. Vitamin B3 (niacin)
  4. Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
  5. Vitamin B6
  6. Vitamin B7 (biotin)
  7. Vitamin B9
  8. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
  9. Vitamin C – more on this one later!

These vitamins have many important functions inside your body. Some of their roles include:1

  • Releasing energy from the foods you eat
  • Assisting in the energy production process
  • Keeping tissues healthy
  • Building proteins and helping cells multiply
  • Assisting in collagen production

Levels of water-soluble vitamins are regulated by your kidneys and any excess is typically released in your urine. This doesn’t mean that your body can’t store these vitamins; in fact, your liver can store several years’ worth of vitamin B12. To be safe, it’s best to avoid consuming large doses of water-soluble vitamins.

Fat-soluble vitamins are found in a variety of plant and animal foods. Unlike water-soluble vitamins, these vitamins are absorbed into the lymph vessels before entering the bloodstream. In general, fat-soluble vitamins must be attached to a transport protein to travel throughout the body.

There are four fat-soluble vitamins:

  1. Vitamin A
  2. Vitamin D
  3. Vitamin E
  4. Vitamin K

These vitamins have many essential roles, including:1

  • Building bones
  • Protecting vision
  • Protecting from harmful free radicals
  • Supporting the proper functioning of the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and nervous system

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body in fat tissues and the liver. This means there is a high risk of toxicity if they are consumed in large amounts. To avoid potential health problems, stick to the recommended daily intakes for each of these nutrients.

Nutrient Spotlight: Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also referred to as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that supports your body in many ways. It is needed for the growth and repair of tissues; specifically, it is used to form collagen (a protein used to make skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels), form scar tissue, and repair and maintain cartilage, bones, and teeth.3 Vitamin C has also been shown to help maintain normal immune system function.

  • Encouraging the production of white blood cells, phagocytes and lymphocytes, and helping them to function more effectively
  • Helping to strenght your skin’s defense system
  • Potentially supporting the wound healing process

Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, providing protection against harmful free radicals and strengthening your body’s natural defense system.2 As an antioxidant, Vitamin C is believed to support your body by minimizing oxidative stress in the central nervous system.2 It has also been shown to enhance iron absorption.3 Vitamin C captures non-heme iron, found in plant foods, and stores it in a form that is more easily absorbed.

Vitamin C Recommendations

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), healthy adults need 75–90 mg of vitamin C per day.4 The best sources of vitamin C are green peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits, strawberries, melons, tomatoes, raw cabbage, and leafy greens. As mentioned previously, vitamins are organic compounds that are easily broken down. Losses of vitamin C are most likely to occur when foods are stored for prolonged periods, when they are cooked in large amounts of water, and when they are exposed to extensive heat.

Some foods, such as breakfast cereals, are fortified with Vitamin C. Vitamin C is also available as a dietary supplement, commonly in the form of capsules and chewable tablets. Most people can get enough vitamin C from their diet; however, deficiency can occur in people who:

  • Smoke
  • Have gastrointestinal conditions
  • Have certain types of cancer
  • Have limited intake of fruits and vegetables

The NIH recommends an additional 35 mg/day for individuals who smoke. For anyone whose diet is lacking fruits and vegetables, taking a multivitamin or vitamin C supplement can be beneficial. Remember to consult a healthcare professional before starting a supplement regimen to avoid potential adverse health effects.

4Life Vitamin C Supplements

4Life offers a wide variety of supplements that contain vitamin C. Here are a few best-sellers:

References: (in English)

1. https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/vitamins-and-minerals.htm

2. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002404.htm

3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/increase-iron-absorption#TOC_TITLE_HDR_4

4. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/

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