The Many Benefits of Vitamin C
One of the most common supplements households stock up on this time of year, is vitamin C. But, despite its popularity, many people are surprisingly unaware of the full extent of its role in the body.
In this blog, we take a closer look at this essential nutrient and how it can benefit your overall health.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is an essential, water-soluble nutrient that is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Some particularly rich sources include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Citrus fruit and juice like grapefruit and orange
- Red cabbage
- Snow peas
- Sweet peppers
Vitamin C has many functions in the body including supporting immune function, helping to heal wounds, maintaining and developing bones, cartilage, teeth and/or gums, aiding in the formation of collagen, and tissue growth and repair. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against cell damage. These functions translate into a number of health benefits!
As the temperatures dip, many Canadians gear up for their favourite winter activities, whether it is snowshoeing through a trail, hitting the slopes, or gliding across the skating rink. Unfortunately, these winter outings are often accompanied by sniffles, sneezing and coughing — all signs of the dreaded winter cold.
Vitamin C is often the first thing your parents, friends and colleagues will recommend for that nagging cough or first signs of the common cold — and there is a reason this advice continues to be passed down.
Like many other vitamins or minerals, vitamin C plays a crucial role in supporting immune function. [1,4] When your body is fighting off a cold, vitamin C is used up in the body due to its varied roles, and adding a vitamin C capsule, tablet or powdered formula, can help you get a boost as part of a winter supplement program.
Healthy Connective Tissue and Nutrient Absorption
Vitamin C is a key player in the health and integrity of connective tissue throughout the body. It contributes to the formation of collagen – the most plentiful protein in the body found in teeth, bones, cartilage and skin. [1,4]
This relates to the role vitamin C plays in wound healing – by supporting the integrity and development of layers of the skin. It’s also why vitamin C deficiency results in scurvy – where wounds don’t heal and there is bleeding of the gums, among other symptoms (don’t worry – this deficiency disease is extremely rare and is preventable even with a small daily intake of vitamin C). 
Vitamin C also plays a role in the absorption of iron and helps to maintain the body’s ability to metabolize nutrients [1,2].
Vitamin C’s antioxidant action helps protect cells from free radical (oxidative) damage and helps with the maintenance of good health. 
Many fruits and vegetables are naturally rich in antioxidants like vitamin C and can easily be incorporated into meals, and snacks. Get some inspiration from our collection of nutritious recipes.
Tips for Supplementing
The recommended dose to prevent deficiency of vitamin C is 75 mg per day for women and 90 mg for men, and Health Canada provides a complete dietary reference intake table.
Deficiency in Canada is rare due to our generally ready access to high-quality food and supplements, but therapeutic benefits are often seen at higher doses. Supplements are available from very low doses all the way up to 2000 mg for adults. This wide range is due to its good margin of safety, and because it’s water-soluble, the body can excrete excess vitamin C through urine. That being said, it’s important to speak with your health care practitioner before making any changes to your daily regimen.
Vitamin C is vulnerable to breaking down when exposed to heat and light, so be sure to follow storage instructions on your supplement’s label. Most supplements come in the form of ascorbic acid, which is often how it appears in nature, and have good absorption in the digestive tract. If you’re taking higher doses, spread them out throughout the day to ensure optimal absorption.
You can visit your local CHFA Member health food store, to find more information and the best selection of vitamin C supplements, including capsules, powders, gummies, liquids and more!
When you’re stocking up your supplement cabinet – consider adding some vitamin C, for some extra daily nutritional support and a variety of benefits for the whole family.
- Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
- L Hallberg, M Brune, L Rossander. (1989). The role of vitamin C in iron absorption. Int J Vitam Nutr Res Suppl. 1989;30:103-8. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2507689/
- Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Dietary Antioxidants and Related Compounds. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2000. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK225480/
- Chambial, S., Dwivedi, S., Shukla, K. K., John, P. J., & Sharma, P. (2013). Vitamin C in disease prevention and cure: an overview. Indian journal of clinical biochemistry: IJCB, 28(4), 314–328. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12291-013-0375-3