Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble, antioxidant vitamin. It is important for the formation and maintenance of collagen, a protein that gives structure to bones, joints, teeth, skin, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels. Collagen, and thus Vitamin C, is needed for wound healing and to maintain healthy blood vessels. Vitamin C also aids in the absorption of iron and may help the immune system battle various invaders and disease, along with psychological disorders.
Vitamin C and the Immune System
Vitamin C is so essential because it helps support thyroid hormone production. Thyroid hormones are involved in the regulation of metabolism, energy, sex hormones and even brain function. Vitamin C is also required for the metabolism of folic acid, tyrosine, tryptophan and in cellular immune functions, where it may be helpful against bacterial, viral, and fungal diseases. In higher amounts, Vitamin C may decrease the production of histamine, thereby reducing allergy potential. A combination of very high doses of Vitamin C + Vitamin E + Vitamin B12 has been found effective in lessening the symptoms of shingles (herpes zoster), provided they are all taken at the earliest onset of the attack.
Vitamin C and Disease
Vitamin C is useful in preventing or healing iron-deficiency anemia because it allows for the absorption of iron, particularly the vegetable, or non-heme form. Other conditions that benefit from ascorbic acid metabolism include diabetes (for insulin production), certain cases of male infertility, as well as arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis, cataracts, glaucoma, and muscular-skeletal degeneration (mostly because Vitamin C keeps calcium soluble).
How much do you need?
Since vitamin C is water soluble, your body expels what it does not absorb and high doses can be taken with little risk of toxicity. For determining the optimal intake of Vitamin C, most doctors recommend the “Bowel Tolerance Challenge” – by ingesting increasing amounts of ascorbic acid until diarrhea sets in, then reducing Vitamin C to a tolerated dose. We easily tolerate 1,000 – 3,000 mg daily.
When to Boost Your Vitamin C Intake
Ascorbic acid is used up more rapidly with alcohol use, smoking, and under stressful conditions. Prolonged stress depletes Vitamin C in the adrenals and in the blood. Dr. John Hoffer at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital says that vitamin C deficiencies are linked to psychological problems. Other factors that increase Vitamin C requirements include viral illness and fever, Aspirin and other medications (sulfa antibiotics, cortisone), environmental toxins (DDT), and exposure to heavy metals such as mercury, lead, or cadmium.
Dietary Sources Of Vitamin C
Foods rich in vitamin C include: citrus fruit, green peppers, sweet and hot peppers, potatoes, spinach, parsley, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, rose hips, black currants, blueberries and other berries, tomatoes, horseradish, and watercress.
Food – Serving Size/Milligrams Vitamin C
Guava – 1 medium / 165 mg
Red Bell Pepper – 1/2 cup / 95 mg
Papaya – 1 medium / 95 mg
Orange juice, from frozen concentrate – 3/4 cup / 75 mg
Orange – 1 medium / 60 mg
Broccoli, boiled – 1/2 cup / 60 mg
Green bell pepper – 1/2 cup / 45 mg
Kohlrabi, boiled – 1/2 cup / 45 mg
Strawberries – 1/2 cup / 50 mg
Grapefruit, white – Half / 40 mg
Cantaloupe – 1/2 cup / 35 mg
Tomato juice – 3/4 cup / 35 mg
Mango – 1 medium / 30 mg
Vitamin C can be lost from foods during preparation, cooking, or storage. To prevent loss of vitamin C:
- Serve fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible
- Steam, boil, or simmer foods in a very small amount of water, or microwave them for the shortest time possible
- Cook potatoes in their skins. Be sure to wash the dirt off the outside of the potato
- Refrigerate prepared juices and store them for no more than two to three days
- Store cut, raw fruits and vegetables in an airtight container and refrigerate
- Do not soak foods or store in water, the Vitamin C will be dissolved in the water