What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble nutrient found in certain vegetables and fruits. It has several essential functions in the body, including collagen production and antioxidant properties.
Since our bodies do not produce Vitamin C naturally, this makes it an essential vitamin that we need in our diets.
What are the benefits of Vitamin C?
One of the main functions of vitamin C is its role in collagen production — an abundant protein that plays a big part in wound-healing. By helping to stimulate the formation of collagen, vitamin C aids in repairing our skin, bones, muscles, teeth, tendons and ligaments, as well as keeping our skin smooth!
Vitamin C is one of several nutrients found in fruits and vegetables that serve as powerful antioxidants. It protects our cells and connective tissues from damage caused by harmful “free radicals” — molecules produced naturally when our body goes through the metabolic process of breaking down food or when we are exposed to pollution or radiation.
Other antioxidants include vitamins A and E, as well as many phytochemicals.
Aids in Iron Absorption
Vitamin C helps our body absorb iron better — another essential micronutrient with vital functions in growth, immunity, digestion, as well as haemoglobin and myoglobin production (essential for the oxygen-carrying functions of our blood).
How much vitamin C do I need each day?
For adults, the recommended daily amount for vitamin C is 65 to 90 milligrams a day.
The tolerable upper limit (maximum dose of vitamin/mineral you can take safely without risk) is 2,000mg a day.
What happens when I don’t have enough Vitamin C?
Since Vitamin C stimulates the formation of collagen, not having enough means that the body cannot produce enough collagen to repair cells and tissues. Some signs of Vitamin C deficiency include:
- Tiredness and weakness
- Muscle and joint pains
- Spots that look like tiny, red-blue bruises on your skin.
- Dry skin
- Splitting hair
- Swelling and discolouration of your gums
- Sudden and unexpected bleeding from your gums
Vitamin C Deficiency
In severe cases, a persistent lack of Vitamin C can cause scurvy. Symptoms of this disease — which plagued 18th-century pirates on long voyages without access to fresh food — include bruises, easily-broken bones, skin breakage, and in the worst cases, lesions and ulcers.
Additionally, due to the role of Vitamin C in protecting the body from free radicals (and hence oxidation), a chronic absence can result in oxidative stress — leading to disrupted brain activity that causes fatigue, brain fog and headaches.
Thankfully, scurvy is much less common in modern times, as fruits, vegetables and supplements are accessible to most. Treatment for vitamin C deficiency typically involves initial supplementation and incorporating more vitamin C-rich foods into your diet.
If you suspect that you may have vitamin C deficiency, take note of your current diet and consult a doctor or dietician for further medical advice.
Is it possible to take too much Vitamin C?
Though vitamin C is low in toxicity and is unlikely to be harmful even if you overshoot the daily upper limit of 2,000mg, megadoses of vitamin C above 3,000mg can cause:
- Abdominal cramps
As with all essential nutrients, too much of a good thing can be bad — be cautious about taking multiple supplements at once. Many multivitamins will already contain vitamin C, so be sure to check the combined doses of vitamins and minerals you are consuming each day if you intend to take an additional supplement on top of them.
Learn more about multivitamins and general supplementation, including how to take them properly.
What is the best way to take Vitamin C?
As with most vitamins and minerals, the best way to get your daily dose of Vitamin C is through a healthy, balanced diet.
Beyond that, vitamin C supplements and multivitamins containing vitamin C can be another way to ensure you are getting the right amount of vitamin C, as well as other vitamins and nutrients essential to health.
Foods Rich In Vitamin C
Vitamin C can be found in several vibrant fruits and vegetables — oranges and citrus fruits are a well-known example. Other vitamin C-rich foods include guava, red chillies, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, capsicums, citrus fruits, kiwi and papaya.
Raw fruits and vegetables contain about three times more vitamin C than their cooked counterparts, though you don’t have to be too concerned if you are eating a good variety of nutritious fresh food every day. Aim to get at least two servings of fruits and two servings of vegetables each day.
Vitamin C Supplements
Vitamin C supplements come in all kinds of forms, including, capsules, chewable gummies, effervescent tablets, powders and sprays. It is typically a component of most multivitamins, which are supplements that contain several different essential nutrients and minerals. As a water-soluble nutrient, vitamin C can be taken both on an empty stomach and with food.
Note: As mentioned before, be cautious about your vitamin C intake each day — if you already get more than enough vitamin C from your diet, extra supplementation would likely have no benefits and may even cause some undesired side effects.
Bonus: Since iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach, you can take your Vitamin C and iron supplements together with water (or even just take your iron supplement with a glass of citrus juice), to get the benefits of both!
Where to buy Vitamin C supplements?
As with the rest of your supplements, be sure to get your supplements from a reputable pharmacy or health supplement shop — Guardian, Watsons, GNC and Nature’s Farm are some examples of places in Singapore where you can find reputable supplements.
If you are concerned about whether you should take vitamin C supplements, it is always safer to consult a doctor first.
Money-saving hack: you may be able to find cheaper prices on reputable online health product distributors such as iHerb.com, if you are looking to get well-known brands of vitamin C supplements.
Supplements, such as taking Vitamin C, make up just one aspect of your and your loved one’s overall health. Eating the right foods, staying physically and mentally active, and having our daily living needs met, are also key components that help us to stay in the pink of health.
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