Vitamin C is a vital nutrient for health. It is involved in many crucial body functions, including collagen formation, absorption of iron, proper functioning of the immune system, and wound healing.
Vitamin C plays an essential role in tissue formation and is, thus, crucial in the body’s natural healing process. Plus, it’s one of the few antioxidants capable of protecting the body against oxidative damage (from free radicals). Oxidative damage can contribute to the development of various chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and arthritis. To prevent these, you’ll have to regularly ensure an adequate intake of vitamin C through smart dietary choices. In addition to lowering your risk for various health conditions, consuming sufficient vitamin C also supports immune system functioning, bolstering your body’s ability to ward off infectious diseases.
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin C
The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 90 mg/day for adult men and 75 mg/day for adult women. That said, breastfeeding mothers need an additional 45 mg daily, while smokers need an extra 35 mg.
The human body cannot produce vitamin C on its own. You’ll have to get it from external sources (e.g., diet or supplements). It’s important for you to do so because vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from the foods you eat – and helps store it for later use (e.g., to make hemoglobin in red blood cells).
Another reason you should be mindful of your vitamin C intake? Recent scientific evidence suggests that an increased vitamin C intake is associated with a reduced risk of various chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cataracts. Its protective mechanism against diseases is thought to stem from its antioxidant capabilities. Thankfully, it appears that meeting your vitamin C needs is pretty easy, as long as you include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
As mentioned earlier, adequate consumption of vitamin C helps prevent chronic diseases. That’s why it’s so crucial for you to keep a watchful eye on the level of vitamin C in your body. Luckily, vitamin C levels can be easily detected through the urine. That means you can easily monitor your vitamin C levels through urine samples.
Excess vitamin C is rapidly excreted through the urine in individuals with healthy kidneys. Note that anywhere between 70% to 90% of dietary vitamin C (technical term: ascorbic acid) ends up being absorbed into the body.
Metabolically unchanged ascorbate and its metabolites are excreted mainly through the urine. Therefore, an increase in vitamin C intake proportionally increases plasma concentrations, along with the rate of its excretion through the urine. Of the 100 mg of vitamin C ingested daily, an average of 25 mg is passed out of the body through urine. Thus, explaining why urinary vitamin C levels reflect the dietary intake of the vitamin. In other words: urinary vitamin C levels provide valuable insights into the body’s vitamin C balance.
Score: 8/10, Label: Low, Value: 0 mmol/L Vit-C
Low urine vitamin C level occurs when the vitamin C levels in your urine are lower than average.
The body doesn’t store vitamin C. Instead, it excretes excess amounts of the vitamin through urine. Only a tiny reserve of vitamin C remains in the body. That’s why regular consumption of vitamin C is needed; it’ll help ensure optimal health (i.e., prevent the development of various health disorders).
Symptoms of severe vitamin C deficiency can take months to develop. Vitamin C deficiency symptoms include:
- Broken hair
- Dry skin
- Slow-healing wounds
- Weak bones
- Weak immunity
Score: 10/10, Label: Optimal, Value: 0.6 – 1.4 mmol/L Vit-C
Optimal urinary vitamin C levels indicate adequate vitamin C intake. Maintaining optimal vitamin C levels helps with the following:
- Neutralize free radicals (through its antioxidant effects)
- Immune function
- Dental and bone health
- Skin health
- Wound healing
Score: 6/10 and 4/10 Label: High, Value: 2.8 – 5 mmol/L Vit-C
High urine vitamin C level occurs when the vitamin C levels in the urine are higher than average.
Taking in more vitamin C than is recommended is generally not harmful to health. That’s because vitamin C is water-soluble – and excess amounts are excreted through the urine. That said, consuming too much vitamin C (i.e., above 2g/day) may lead to non-life-threatening side effects like:
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Stomach cramps or bloating
- Kidney stones
Although your body cannot produce vitamin C on its own, it’s still pretty easy for you to meet your needs via your diet – so long as you consume a variety of fruits and vegetables. For instance: one medium orange provides you with 77% of your daily vitamin C recommended intake, while 160 grams of cooked broccoli provides 112%.
Other fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C include:
- Green pepper
- Red pepper
In general, eating a balanced, varied diet is all you need to meet your body’s daily nutrient needs, both macronutrients- and micronutrients-wise. Yes, that includes carbohydrates, fat, and protein. That said, many factors – like illness (fever, diarrhea, and trauma), medications, and environmental conditions (e.g., climate) – may increase your daily nutrient needs.