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Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that famously acts as an antioxidant in the body. It also supports numerous other body processes and must be obtained from dietary or supplement sources because the body cannot make its own.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that is often associated with oranges and orange juice or thought to be something that you just take when you’re sick, to ward off illness. But it’s far more important than that.
Vitamin C in the body is primarily contained in cells and tissues, with the highest amounts found in white blood cells, the eyes, the adrenal glands, the brain, and the pituitary gland.
Health Benefits of Vitamin C
- Functions as an antioxidant and regenerates other antioxidants in the body (including vitamin E)
- Supports healthy immune function and activity
- Supports the synthesis of collagen (which is essential for skin, hair, nails, gut lining, etc.)
- Necessary for healthy neurotransmitter function
- Supports protein metabolism
- Aids in wound healing
- Improves the absorption of plant-based nonheme iron
Food Sources of Vitamin C
There are many food sources of vitamin C. High dietary sources include:
- Yellow bell pepper
- Red bell pepper
- Oranges and orange juice
- Grapefruit and grapefruit juice
- Green bell pepper
- Brussels sprouts
Vitamin C Supplements
Vitamin C deficiency can result in scurvy, a potentially deadly disease that affects collagen synthesis, wound repair, and cellular health. Scurvy is rare in developed countries, although low levels of vitamin C that do not reach deficiency can still cause negative health consequences.
People who may be most at risk for low levels of vitamin C include:
- Those who live in food deserts or do not have access to fresh produce
- People who smoke cigarettes or are around secondhand smoke
- People with cancer
- Those who have severe intestinal malabsorption issues
Vitamin C supplements are not typically associated with toxicity, but supplementing with extremely high doses isn’t an effective way to maintain optimal long-term levels. Effective therapeutic uses of high-dose vitamin C are typically delivered via IV, not oral supplementation, although short-term oral vitamin C of 3,000 mg or greater can be effective for respiratory or systemic infections.
At low doses, of up to 200 mg at a time, vitamin C is absorbed at close to 100 percent. When doses of 500 mg or more are taken, less is absorbed. So while higher doses won’t harm the body, it’s not an effective way to raise blood plasma levels of vitamin C. Unused vitamin C is excreted in the urine, although high supplement doses may cause diarrhea or intestinal cramping. If this happens, reducing the dosage will resolve these symptoms.
(PPNF Note: When available, nutrition counseling is the best way to determine the supplements that are right for you. We understand that it is not always affordable or accessible. Supplements can be potent and have the potential for negative effects when used incorrectly. Use them with caution and follow recommended product use guidelines unless a practitioner directs you otherwise.)
Today’s Simple Step
Most people who have easy access to grocery stores or farmer’s markets consume enough vitamin C. Half of a large red bell pepper contains 140%DV. If you eat two or three servings of vitamin C-rich foods in a day, you have more than met your body’s vitamin C requirements. For certain conditions or during times of sickness or compromised immunity, it may make sense to consume more.
This Salad Wrap is a great way to eat several types of vegetables, including bell peppers that contain plenty of vitamin C.