Vitamin C Supplementation: All You Need To Know
Vitamin C, how much do you need? Where do you get it? And should you supplement with Vitamin C? Is vitamin C abundant in our natural food supply? Does additional vitamin C in our bodies have any benefit? Let’s have a look.
How much vitamin C do we need?
Women need approximately 45mg of vitamin C a day (this is the same for men)*. We need it for it’s antioxidant properties, to fight off disease, assist with immune function including healing wounds and scar tissue. Vitamin C is required to help absorb iron and make collagen (anti-ageing!). And it’s needed for growth, repair and maintenance of all of our body tissues. So it’s a pretty important little thing, but don’t worry I’m sure you’re getting enough of it if you eat fruit and vegetables daily. Here’s a list of some foods containing pretty high amounts of vitamin C:
One thing to consider with meeting your vitamin C requirements
The more we cook our vegetables (and fruit) the more we destroy the vitamin C content – vitamin C doesn’t like the heat! So it is best to steam our vegetables, and eat some serves of vegetables raw, in their most natural state. This goes for fruit too.
One of the best ways to consume a large variety of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables is eating salads. Download my FREE salad recipe eBook.
Why vitamin C supplementation can just be a waste of money
Because vitamin C is found in so many foods, there’s usually no need for the synthetic stuff (the vitamin C supplement) if you eat the required amount of fresh vegetables and fruits a day. In my opinion, why would you want to give your body the synthetic stuff when vitamin C is so widely available in all kinds of beautiful foods we (should) eat daily.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin (along with B vitamins), which aren’t stored in the body. So it’s important to include both vitamin C (and all the B vitamins) daily in our diet. Because vitamin C isn’t stored in our body, we can only absorb a certain amount of the stuff (probably roughly around the daily requirement – 45mg for females).
So basically, our bodies can absorb 45mg of vitamin C a day, and anything more than that we just excrete.
As you can see from the table, if you eat fruit and vegetables daily it would be pretty difficult not to meet your daily vitamin C requirements. But vitamin C supplementation is so common. Whether we think if we take more to help with cold and flu prevention, or to produce more collagen and age less? Who knows, but truth is, we’re basically wasting our money if we do have a reasonably healthy diet (containing fruits and vegetables). Maybe when we’re sick with a cold or flu, small amounts of additional vitamin C might be useful (from fruit and veg), but in most cases it’s not necessary to supplement every day. (I do like the taste of them though, they’re like little sour lollies!).
Toxicity from vitamin C is rare because it’s a water soluble vitamin, meaning the body doesn’t store it. So if you consume too much you will excrete what you don’t need. Symptoms of excess vitamin C are diarrhoea, nausea and stomach upset. These symptoms tend to occur when we consume in excess of 1000mg of vitamin C per day.
Most commercial vitamin C supplements contain 500mg-1000mg in one tablet. Our bodies don’t use this much vitamin C, and our bodies also wont absorb that whole amount in one hit. We’re best off getting small doses of vitamin C throughout the day from fruit and vegetables at various meal and snack times to get the best absorption.
Extremely high doses of vitamin C can lead to hemochromsatosis which causes the body to store too much iron. Excessive amounts can also lead to increased risk of kidney stones and cause damage to body tissues.
As you can see, if you eat fruit and vegetables daily, vitamin C deficiency should not be a concern. It’s a rare deficiency but if present, can cause anaemia, bleeding gums, decreased immunity, easy bruising, poor wound healing, rough, dry and scaly skin, and swollen and painful joints.
Scurvy is a condition caused by extreme vitamin C deficiency (quite common back in the olden days for people who sailed long journeys on ship).
– Update (06/12/16): It has been highlighted that recent cases of scurvy have presented. It is believed that most of these cases have been caused by poor diet (little to no fruit and vegetable intake).
*During pregnancy, lactation and under certain circumstances this value can change. This value is based on Australian recommendations found here.