You probably already know that vitamin C is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. There’s a reason we drink orange juice and take vitamin C supplements when we start coming down with a cold or the flu: large doses of vitamin C can reduce cold and flu symptoms by as much as 85 percent.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals, which cause cellular damage. It plays a role in many body functions, including growth and tissue repair, iron absorption, collagen production, wound healing, and immunity.
Vitamin C deficiencies are rare in the US due to the availability of fresh produce, but they can still happen. Vitamin C deficiency affects roughly 7 percent of adults in the US. Risk factors for low vitamin C levels include poor nutrition, anorexia, alcoholism, smoking, and severe mental illness. People who don’t include enough fruits and vegetables in their diet> are often at risk of a vitamin C deficiency.
Continue reading to learn why vitamin C is so important, and what you can do to prevent a vitamin C deficiency.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that must be obtained from the diet. Vitamin C is water soluble, which means it’s not stored in the body. Any extra is excreted in the urine. Regular consumption of vitamin C, ideally every day, is necessary to prevent deficiency.
The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C is 90 mg per day for adult men and 75 mg for women, but it’s safe to take more. In studies of the effects on vitamin C on cold and flu symptoms, doses of 1000 mg were given to participants three times a day.
Vitamin C is considered safe in almost any amount when it’s obtained from food, and vitamin C supplements are also considered safe for most people.
At least 45 mg per day is necessary to prevent scurvy, but some research indicates that higher levels of vitamin C may be even more beneficial. Some people may need more vitamin C. It’s recommended that pregnant women consume at least 85 mg, and women who are nursing should consume at least 120 mg.
People who smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke may have lower levels of vitamin C and may require 35 more mg daily than non-smokers.
It can take months before symptoms of vitamin C deficiency develop. While the symptoms below can also have other causes, pay attention if you notice any of these signs. It may be worth increasing your vitamin C intake to see if your symptoms improve.
Vitamin C plays a role in skin health, and low levels of vitamin C can negatively impact the skin in a number of ways. Healthy skin contains high concentrations of vitamin C, which helps protect against oxidative damage and UV damage from the sun and environmental pollutants.
Vitamin C is necessary to produce collagen, a protein that provides structure to connective tissues, such as skin and cartilage. Collagen helps keep skin looking firm and youthful. Collagen production naturally decreases as we age, which contributes to wrinkles and sagging skin.
High intake of vitamin C is associated with a lower risk of wrinkles, dryness, and skin atrophy.
Vitamin C is also necessary for effective wound healing. Vitamin C increases activity in dermal fibroblasts, cells in the skin that are responsible for generating connective tissue and repairing skin after an injury.
Slow wound healing is an advanced sign of vitamin C deficiency, and would likely not occur until after several months.
Low levels of vitamin C can also affect joints, which contain a lot of collagen-rich connective tissue. Vitamin C deficiency has been linked to pain in the ankles, knees, and wrists, as well as muscle pain. It’s also associated with bleeding into musculoskeletal tissue, which can lead to pain so severe that it causes difficulty walking.
Bruises form when blood vessels near the surface of the skin break, causing blood to leak out. Because collagen fibers help protect skin and blood vessels, decreased collagen production can lead to extensive bruising or an increased tendency to bruise.
Vitamin C supports various functions of cells in the immune system, helping to protect against oxidative stress.
Vitamin C deficiency is associated with an increased risk of infection. One study found that vitamin C can help prevent pneumonia, while another found that vitamin C provided benefits for patients with tetanus. Studies have also shown that vitamin C helps decrease the duration and severity of cold symptoms when 1000 mg of vitamin C is taken daily.
Scurvy is the result of a severe vitamin C deficiency. Modern cases are rare. Scurvy is often associated with sailors in earlier centuries, when long sea voyages made it difficult to obtain fresh produce. Symptoms of scurvy include sores that bleed, slow wound healing, tooth loss, red spots on the skin, shortness of breath, anemia, and depression. Scurvy can be fatal. Fortunately, people with even advanced scurvy tend to respond well to vitamin C.
It’s easy to get plenty of vitamin C in your diet if you eat enough fruits and vegetables. If you want to boost your vitamin C intake, try eating more of these foods.
Citrus fruits such as oranges are usually the first foods we think of when we want more vitamin C. One large orange provides 98 mg of vitamin C.
Other citrus fruits high in vitamin C include:
Try squeezing a lime or lemon into your water for an extra boost of vitamin C, add half a grapefruit to your breakfast, or keep oranges and clementines on hand for a healthy snack.
Acerola cherries are packed with vitamin C. A half cup provides 822 mg of vitamin C, or 913% of the daily value. Acerola cherries may be hard to find in the supermarket, but you can also drink the juice. Just look for a brand that’s low in sugar and other additives.
Sweet peppers are another excellent source of vitamin C. One yellow pepper contains 341 mg of vitamin C, one red pepper contains 209 mg, and one green pepper contains 132 mg.
Many vegetables are also high in vitamin C. One cup of broccoli contains 81 mg of vitamin C. Broccoli can easily be added to salads or stir-frys, or served steamed as a side dish.
Balance the Superfood Shot makes it easy to get a high dose of vitamin C in one convenient two-ounce serving. Our Immunity Blend contains organic elderberry, acerola cherry, orange, concord grape, carrot, beet, blueberry, pomegranate, spinach, and broccoli to keep your immune system strong. Each shot contains ½ day’s servings of fruits and vegetables, and provides 1200% of your daily requirements of vitamin C. Try some today!