There are a few no-brainer things you probably know about vitamin C, like the fact that you can get a good dose from citrus fruits, it can boost your immunity, and it lends itself to some top-notch summer puns (“I need some vitamin sea.”). But despite all the things you already know about this mainstream nutrient, there are probably plenty others you don’t, like the fact that vitamin C is a natural anti-histamine, for example. This means that it can relieve allergy symptoms and asthma by destroying the histamine molecule. (Some studies show that taking bioflavonoids with vitamin C can enhance the effect.)
Another cool fact? Vitamin C is a cofactor for several enzymatic reactions that include synthesis of collagen and carnitine. It hydroxylates the amino acids lysine and proline to form procollagen, which in turn assists with the process of wound and injury healing. Carnitine is the chemical that transports fat into the mitochondria for use as energy. If vitamin C levels are low, metabolism stalls, causing weight gain and improper fat mobilization.
Beyond that, vitamin C has antioxidant properties that attack free radicals, preventing them from causing mutations in DNA. When applied topically, these antioxidant properties can protect against UV rays, preventing the formation of cataracts and skin aging (wrinkles). Vitmain C can also regulate blood sugar levels by preventing glucose from attaching to hemoglobin molecules, which can be particularly important to those suffering from diabetes.
Think we’re done? Think again. Vitamin C also lowers uric acid in the blood, which is thought to prevent gout (and there are several studies that correlate higher intake of vitamin C with less instances of gout to drive that point home, too).
Vitamin C can also prevent the absorption of some heavy metals, which can be important for people working with products containing lead, such as old paint.
Okay, now we’re done, for the most part. Onto the actionable stuff…
How much can I take to get optimum results?
Recent research shows that 500–1000mg per day is optimal to prevent disease. When using vitamin C to treat various conditions, higher levels — think 3000-10000mg per day — are used. It’s important to note, though, that high intake of vitamin C should only be used for short periods of time because vitamin C can decrease copper absorption and destroy vitamin B12.
High levels of vitamin C may also interfere with glucose tests, due to it being chemically similar in structure.
What foods contain vitamin C?
While Vitamin C is synthesized by many other animals, humans cannot create it organically. We need to get this valuable nutrient by food or supplement. Deficiency is very rare, but low levels can contribute to a host of health problems. Lucky for you, there is no evidence that vitamin C is absorbed better in one food over another, so you can pick from just about any vitamin C-rich food and know that you’re putting yourself on the right track.
The richest known sources of vitamin C are the kakadu plum and camu camu fruit. Needless to say, these aren’t things you just stumble upon in the produce section of your grocery store, so the next best thing is to turn to more common sources of vitamin C like citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, broccoli, kale, sweet peppers, and potatoes.
Things to keep in mind
Vitamin C is easily damaged in the cooking process. To minimize the destruction, cook at low temperatures for a small amount of time. Be sure not to cook in copper pans because this has been shown to hasten the denaturing process. When boiling food, vitamin C can also be lost through a process called leaching, where the vitamin C content of foods like potatoes, for example, is released into the cooking water. However, this water can be saved and put in broths, gravies and soups. To preserve the vitamin C in foods after cutting, cover and put in refrigerator. Vitamin C levels will not deteriorate for several days.
About Scott Schreiber:
Dr. Scott Schreiber has been practicing in Newark, Delaware for over 11 years. He is a chiropractic physician, double board certified in rehabilitation and clinical nutrition, a certified nutrition specialist and a licensed dietitian/nutritionist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.facebook.com/Dr.ScottSchreiber.