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The Ultimate Guide to Vitamin C

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Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid and is found in nearly all living tissues. It’s necessary for forming collagen, a protein found in the blood vessels, cartilage, muscles, and bones. 

Harmful molecules, including free radicals and pollutants like toxic chemicals and cigarette smoke, can contribute to unusual conditions in the body. A regular intake of vitamin C through a standard diet is thus crucial for preventing these conditions. 

The body excretes excess amounts of vitamin C, so it is, therefore, safe to say that no amount is too much if taken through a balanced diet. It is also important to be mindful that the benefits of vitamin C can quickly be broken down when it is exposed to heat, light, and contact with metal, making it important to be mindful of how meals are prepared. Being mindful of these two points will ensure that you are consuming sufficient vitamin C. 

bell pepper for vitamin c

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for Vitamin C

The recommended RDA for vitamin C is 90 mg/day for non-smoking males and 75 mg/day for non-smoking females. However, breastfeeding mothers need an additional 30 mg daily, and smokers need an extra 35 mg. Although the body cannot make or store vitamin C, it is still easy to meet your daily requirements if you include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. 

Excessive vs. Excess 

The body excretes excess amounts of vitamin C through your urine.

This typically doesn’t cause any serious problems. However, having an excessive dose of more than 2,000 milligrams a day can harm the gastrointestinal and urinary systems.

Due to the osmotic effect of unabsorbed vitamin C in the gastrointestinal system, the most common complaints of excessive vitamin C intake are nausea, abdominal cramps, and other gastrointestinal disturbances. The incidence of these side effects increases in proportion to the amount of vitamin C consumed. 

Vitamin C Deficiency 

Vitamin C deficiency is a relatively rare condition that is more common among malnourished adults. Individuals suffering from certain types of digestive system problems may be more prone to vitamin C deficiency.

strawberries for vitamin c

Individuals with severe vitamin C deficiency may experience problems like bruising on the skin.

Why Is It Important to Monitor Vitamin C Levels?

The human body cannot produce vitamin C on its own, so it is only possible to get it through your diet. It is essential to do so because vitamin C is one of the most beneficial nutrients for the body. 

Vitamin C helps support the immune system, promotes iron absorption, and increases skin elasticity. Studies also show that vitamin C may be particularly beneficial for those with a weakened immune system due to stress. 

Vitamin C depletes quickly in those who smoke, drink alcohol, and/or are obese, which is why vitamin C levels can serve as an indicator of wellness.

Vitamin C in Urine

70-90% of ascorbic acid intake (up to 180 mg/day) is absorbed through a regular diet. The remaining is typically excreted through the urine. An excessive increase in vitamin C intake thus increases the amount of vitamin C that is detected in the urine. 

In other words, urinary vitamin C levels can provide insights into the vitamin C balance in your body. It is crucial to perform a urine test and monitor the level of vitamin C to prevent adverse negative effects resulting from inadequate or excessive vitamin C intake

white potatos for vitamin c

Low Urine Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. Excess amounts of vitamin C are thus not stored in the body, but instead excreted from the body through urine. The body maintains only a small reserve of water-soluble vitamins, explaining why it is necessary to regularly consume vitamins. 

Symptoms of severe vitamin C deficiency can take months to develop. However, there are still several signs and symptoms that might indicate that the body is low on vitamin C, including: 

  • Broken hair
  • Dry skin
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Iron deficiency
  • Fatigue and bad moods

Optimal Urine Vitamin C

Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, kiwis, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, and spinach. Vitamin C can also be taken as a food supplement to boost intake from natural food sources. Meeting your daily vitamin C requirements is crucial to achieving optimal wellness.

The benefits of getting enough vitamin C include:

  • Exertion of powerful antioxidant effects
  • Improved iron absorption
  • Benefits for healthy skin and strong hair
  • Support for quick healing of wounds 

In What Situations Do Vitamin C Requirements Increase?

Under normal circumstances, meeting your daily vitamin C requirements should be easy as long as you eat a healthy and balanced diet. Unfortunately, having a healthy and balanced diet may not be enough for meeting vitamin C requirements for some, such as people who smoke, are exposed to air pollution, or work under direct sunlight. People to which these conditions apply tend to have low levels of vitamin C. 

If you belong to any of the above groups, you may consider slightly increasing your Vitamin C intake.

grapefruit for vitamin c

High Urine Vitamin C

As mentioned previously, your body cannot produce vitamin C on its own, which means that it is necessary to get sufficient vitamin C through the foods and supplements you consume.  For most people, an orange, cup of strawberries, chopped red pepper, or a serving of broccoli can provide enough vitamin C for the day. 

Though vitamin C is an essential nutrient, it is still possible to overdose on vitamin C, through excessive supplementation. Excessively high urine vitamin C may indicate high dietary vitamin C consumption. Having more than the upper limit for vitamin C daily (above 2g/day) is not life-threatening, but causes side effects like:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps or bloating  
  • Headache  
  • Skin flushing

Vitamin C and Healthy Diets

Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C include:

  • Strawberries
  • Citrus fruits
  • Papaya
  • Kiwi
  • Red pepper
  • Guava
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes

Adding these fruits and vegetables to your daily diet will provide you with the necessary amount of vitamin C for your body.

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