The power of vitamin C

Your fruit and veggie basket can prevent cancer, make you look younger, reduce stress and lower blood pressure.

Photo:  Edgar Castrejon

Have you ever been racked with a horrible cold, coughing, running nose, sneezing, sore throat and reached for that pack of "Emergen-C" or a Vitamin C pill? Then you are in good company, but the problem with that is we're too late at this stage! Unfortunately, there is tremendous research suggesting taking Vitamin C supplements will not prevent a cold directly.  However, it will boost your immune system, therefore allowing your body a better chance of fighting off the cold bug. This assumes you are generally healthy, get plenty of regular sleep, and eat a high plant-based diet which will naturally deliver good doses of Vitamin C.

There is no other vitamin that has the range of positive impacts on our health.  Your body uses large amounts of vitamin C to combat infections, colds, and disease. Vitamin C's antioxidant properties reduce the harmful molecules called free radicals, and are used by your body in all kinds of healing situations such as preventing cancer, healing wounds, and reducing damage from pollutants. Again, this assumes you consume foods rich in Vitamin C on a daily basis. Vitamin C is not readily stored in your body and therefore needs to be replenished every day to be impactful.  

Research suggests that we need a minimum 500 mg daily (and a maximum of 2000 mg) of vitamin C to achieve health results. That's much higher than the RDA of 75-90 milligrams a day for adults.  To put this in perspective, a cup of orange slices gives you about 95 mg of Vitamin C, while a cup of kale will provide about 19mg. So, you need to make a very concerted effort to eat your fruits and veggies everyday to derive the benefit.  This of course is why so many Americans supplement Vitamin C. On average, only 10-20% of adults get the recommended nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Photo:  William Felker

Four powerful benefits of Vitamin C

  • Younger looking skin: Higher intakes of vitamin C and linoleic acid and lower intakes of fats and carbohydrates are associated with better skin-aging appearance. Furthermore, applied to the skin, topical Vitamin C is highly efficient as a rejuvenation therapy, inducing significant collagen synthesis with minimal side effects (1)
  • Lower blood pressure: Observational studies suggest vitamin C supplementation, and higher blood concentrations of vitamin C are associated with lower blood pressure.(2)
  • Vitamin C was show to reduce anxiety and stress in high school students and Type 2 Diabetic patients based on current research, suggesting we all can benefit from ample intake of Vitamin C. Also, Vitamin C inhibits production of cortisol, which signifies that it lowers people’s stress response. (3) (4)
  • Vitamin C prevents exercise-induced muscle damage, immune dysfunction, and fatigue (5) (6)

The research is pretty overwhelming and convincing that we should pack in fruits and veggies every day.  Not only will a diet rich in plant-based foods increase our intake of Vitamin C, but we in essence are eating a multivitamin from Mother Nature as well.  This does NOT mean you have to become a vegetarian or vegan, but simply add in more servings of fruits and veggies every day.  Start your day with a smoothie for a nutrient dense kick off to better health!

Here is a cheat sheet on the Fruits and Veggies containing the highest amounts of Vitamin C.

One cup servings:

Guava                     376 mg

Bell Pepper            190 mg

Kiwi Fruit                166 mg

Strawberries            97 mg

Oranges                    95 mg

Papaya                      83 mg

Broccoli                     81 mg

Tomatoes                  54 mg

Snow Peas                37 mg

Kale                           19 mg