Vitamin C is hugely important - But just how important is it and to what extent should we be looking to eat Vitamin C rich foods or load up on supplemental Vitamin C? The first thing to remember is that our bodies cannot produce Vitamin C by themselves and therefore we need to get a good daily dose via diet at the very least.
A huge deficiency in Vitamin C can cause huge problems as we found out in the past when sailors and pirates in the 16th century would develop Scurvy due to their lack of nutrients in the diet. It was soon found out that by storing Oranges on the ships and allowing those on board to eat them on a regular basis would halt the symptoms: Old wounds opening up, depression and teeth falling out to name a few. So pretty horrible symptoms.
Fortunately scurvy is pretty much a thing of the past now as even very small amounts of Vitamin C will prevent the disease. Saying this we do not need to exhibit symptoms of scurvy to be Vitamin C deficient….
What is often forgotten about Vitamin C is that it holds several important functions in the Human Body:
- Helps Production of Neurotransmitters and Hormones
- Forms Collagen
- Boosts Immunity
- Prevents CardioVascular Disease
So firstly Vitamin C works in conjunction with in conjunction with Vitamin E to function as a potent anti-oxidant reducing free radicals in the body. What is especially cool about Vitamin C is that it works directly against Nitrates and Carcinogens (the nasty stuff we find in burnt/charred foods and processed meats like salami and other deli meats).
When it comes to hormones and neurotransmitters Vit C is often forgotten. A good regular dose of Vitamin C is needed for the conversion of Phenylalanine to Tyrosine which in turn makes up all of our Adrenal, Thyroid hormones and Neurotransmitters like Dopamine and Melanin. These are the hormones that collectively allow us to regulate our metabolism, deal with stress and relax. So pretty important stuff and this is why Vitamin C is so important for adrenal health.
Collagen is the stuff that makes our skin stretchy and allows it to appear youthful and radiant. It also protects our joints from overuse and impacts and helps wounds heal. Without Vitamin C we cannot make Collagen.
We have all heard about Vitamin C and immunity, and while it is an essential part of what it does it is by no means its main function. Vitamin C basically works on the immune system by helping to produce anti-virals and increasing the integrity of the mucous membranes which help us filter out bacteria and viruses from entering the body.
Vitamin C is a great Cardiovascular Protectant. This is done via several facets – firstly Vitamin C Decreases LDL’s (the bad cholesterol) by turning it into bile which also helps your digestion (See this screencast for more info on Cholesterol in general).
It also increases carnitine synthesis which is a fancy way of making your body prioritise using stored fat as fuel/energy. Plus going back to collagen formation it allows your hearts arteries and veins to maintain their elasticity which is obviously a big help in preventing CV diseases.
So 5 huge points, unfortunately Vitamin C is often branded as a one trick pony and simply known for its anti-oxidant properties. The big question is should we supplement and just how much vitamin C do we need?
Well luckily the answer is not too complicated. If you can manage to eat Vitamin C rich foods on a regular basis a supplement should not be necessary, especially not the conventional type we see in stores today (more on that to come).
Vitamin C rich foods are pretty easy to find and your best sources are:
- Citrus Fruits (oranges, lemons, grapefruit etc…)
- Tropical Fruits
- Bell Peppers
- Broccoli and Kale
Basically anything plant based with a strong colour and tangy flavour is vervain to have a good hit of Vitamin C, For a more comprehensive list see here……..
Supplementing Vitamin C? I myself do supplement Vitamin C as I feel that in the world we live in (pollution, chemicals and nutrient loss in foods) and because of just how important Vitamin C is for so many functions in the body.
What is important though is to steer clear of conventional Vitamin C supplements or more specifically those made of Ascorbic Acid, these have been much popularised in recent years as they are cheap and easy to push by the Vitamin Industry. The problem with these is that they are extremely acidic and will therefore cause our bodies to leech minerals like calcium and magnesium to neutralise the excess acidity, this is especially not helpful when we take into account that most people nowadays are already acidic and deficient in key minerals. And the process puts stress on the body in general.
That is why it is important to pay slightly more for Vitamin C and opt for a form which is from a mineral chelate. This form is not only far better absorbed but it will not cause your body to leech minerals to compensate for the acidity. Another tip is to look out for a Vitamin C formula which is combined with things like Bioflavnoids, Bilberry extract and Rutin which mimic how vitamin C is found in nature…..Try a form of Vitamin C which is not acidic.
In terms of when to take supplemental Vitamin C? I would recommend using it when you maybe prone to infections (Travelling, Partying etc) or under times of prolonged stress. Also those who are recovering from any major trauma whether emotional or physical (surgery, recovering from illness) will really benefit with the extra Vitamin C. As will those who live in polluted cities and are eating on the go most of the time.
So in a nutshell – Vitamin C is hugely important for the human body and one does not need to be exhibiting any real clinical signs or symptoms to show they need extra in their diets. When we take into account that we need Vitamin C to do just about every kind of healing and bodily process as well as expelling free-radicals it seems like a no brainer to prioritise Vitamin rich foods in your diet.
If you enjoyed reading checkout my e-book ‘A Simple Guide to Eating Well‘.