If you've ever felt a cold coming on and reached immediately for the orange juice, you'll know Vitamin C has a reputation for its immune-boosting benefits. But what exactly is this well-known vitamin? Why is it so important? And how can you ensure you're getting enough to support your lifestyle and specific health conditions?
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, as it's known in the scientific community, is a powerful antioxidant found naturally in a broad variety of fruits and vegetables as well as in the form of Vitamin C tablets. It's commonly hailed for its ability to support the immune system but the benefits of Vitamin C are actually much further reaching, contributing to collagen production and disease prevention, among other functions.
But here's the catch: Vitamin C is water-soluble, which means our bodies can't store it beyond what's immediately needed. So, if you thought that smoothie you had on Monday would carry you through the week, think again. We need to consume Vitamin C every day to replenish our levels and maintain healthy cells throughout our vital systems.
Keep up your intake and these are some of the biggest health benefits you can expect.
When Vitamin C is absorbed into the body, it is sent directly to the cells that need it, including our white blood cells. Here it is used to assist in the immune response, including the creation of antibodies that fight infection. Consuming enough Vitamin C ensures that you don't run out when your immune system is compromised and allows it to continue to function as normal.
Protection from disease
Vitamin C is the most potent water-soluble antioxidant found in the human body. It works to protect your cells against free radicals such as smoke and radiation that may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Collagen is a vital component for skin, hair and nails as well as bones, cartilage and teeth. It helps build connective tissue to heal wounds and protects our skin from the damage of external free radicals such as air pollution. Although it is perhaps best known for its effect on the visible signs of ageing, keeping skin healthy and firm.
So, what does Vitamin C have to do with it? Vitamin C is directly involved in the production of collagen and is therefore needed to maintain normal collagen formation. Not only that, but the antioxidant properties of Vitamin C work to diminish the damage caused by UV rays, helping our skin fight the signs of ageing from every angle.
Other, underrated benefits of Vitamin C include metabolic support, the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, and support for both the nervous system and brain function.
What happens if you don’t get enough Vitamin C?
We know about the benefits of Vitamin C, but what actually happens if you don't consume enough?
Vitamin C deficiency, also known as scurvy, is an uncommon but unpleasant condition that can develop after around two to three months of insufficient Vitamin C intake.
Early symptoms tend to include weakness, fatigue and aching limbs and can be accompanied by easily bruised skin, swollen, bleeding gums or even teeth falling out.
How much Vitamin C do you need?
The daily Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin C for an otherwise healthy person is 75-90mg. This is enough to prevent deficiency and meet a basic requirement for the normal functioning of the body.
The good news is a single orange contains around 70mg so this is completely achievable through a balanced diet. Some great, natural sources of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, blackcurrants, strawberries, peppers, brussels sprouts, broccoli and potatoes. These natural sources also contain Bioflavonoids (sometimes known as Vitamin P) which aid in the absorption of Vitamin C.
However, there are a number of reasons why diet alone may not be enough. A weakened immune system, smoking, pregnancy, breastfeeding or even a rigorous exercise routine are all factors that can cause the natural Vitamin C stores in your cells to become depleted. Vitamin C in food can also be easily destroyed through cooking or freezing processes, meaning you may not be consuming as much as you think you are in the first place.
In all of these instances, a Vitamin C supplement, particularly one containing Bioflavonoids, can provide support alongside a balanced diet for the additional challenges your body may face.
Not all Vitamin C is created equally.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of Vitamin C supplements: natural and synthetic.
Natural Vitamin C is extracted directly from a food source, such as citrus fruit, whereas synthetic Vitamin C is created. From a medical point of view, neither one is superior as they are the same compound and therefore our bodies process them in the same way. They are also both vegan Vitamin C options, and therefore suitable for our entirely vegan and vegetarian range of products.
But when it comes to the impact on the planet, there is a difference.
Although usually, we'd say natural is better, synthetic Vitamin C is currently the most sustainable option available. Using this ingredient for Vegetology Vit C, we can save vast amounts of fruit and other whole foods from needless waste in the production process.
And what about the effects of the supplement on our overall health?
Despite its overwhelming benefits, one commonly reported side effect of all Vitamin C capsules is an upset stomach. Our stomachs are already naturally acidic, sitting at a PH level of around 1.5 to 3.5, so adding an extra dose of acid has the potential for adverse effects.
To mitigate this, our Vegetology Vit C swaps the frequently used Ascorbic Acid for Calcium Ascorbate - a buffered form with a higher PH that's much less likely to cause an upset stomach. Plus, we've added Citrus Bioflavonoids to increase the absorption of Vitamin C into the body.
The result: a Vit C supplement that provides maximum benefits with minimal side effects to support a healthy lifestyle and a boosted immune system.
Going vegan for Veganuary can be a positive and impactful decision. Click to learn How to go Vegan for Veganuary at Vegetology today.
At Vegetology, we explore Veganuary 2024 Products. Find details on vitamins and supplements to support you throughout Veganuary and the year ahead.