While there are all kinds of supplements that have earned rockstar status recently (turmeric, mushrooms, ashwagandha, to name a few!), the OG of vitamin superstars has to be vitamin C. It’s a staple in my diet and cupboard and likely yours. But do you know why vitamin C is such an important nutrient? Here’s what you need to know about the benefits of vitamin C and the best sources to include in your diet to get it.
It’s likely you’ve known of vitamin C’s benefits for some time—it’s an essential nutrient most of us learn about from a young age. Citrus fruits such as oranges often become synonymous with vitamin C’s benefits—catch a cold or the flu and it may be one of the first recommendations from loved ones. Although, coming from a Chinese medicine and macrobiotic background, I would recommend greens and soup over juice. Juice is acidic and too sugary. The anecdotal orange juice remedy, while maybe not the healthiest for other reasons, is backed by science—vitamin C is a proven immune booster, but it’s so much more, too.
Vitamin C benefits
Vitamin C is best known for its immune support benefits, but it’s so much more than that. Vitamin C works as a co-factor, helping more than a dozen enzymes in the body. These enzymes play roles in the function of a number of processes including metabolism, tissue repair, collagen formation, iron absorption, and the formation of bones and cartilage, among other functions. Let’s dive into some specifics.
1. Immune support
Yes, vitamin C is critical for healthy immunity. That’s because it stimulates the production of white blood cells, which fight infections and help them function optimally. This is why taking vitamin C before, during, and after an infection such as the cold, flu, or covid, is recommended. Vitamin C also does some heavy lifting when it comes to fighting off microbes that could cause more extensive damage. And it helps support immune cells that have past their prime, so you always have a new and healthy line of defense. This is why we need vitamin C daily because doing the job of fighting off microbiotic attackers is a full-time job.
2. Healthy skin, bones, and joints
A lot of skincare companies and experts in the field recommend collagen products both topically and taken internally to give you healthy skin. But what your skin really needs? Collagen-promoting nutrients so that it can produce it itself. Eating collagen for healthy skin is a bit like eating healthy skin to get healthy skin! Healthy skin is made by a nourished, healthy body, And, you guessed it: vitamin C is one of those key nutrients. It works both internally and topically to promote elasticity and may help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. One study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found higher intake of vitamin C is associated with better skin appearance and fewer wrinkles. And just like collagen helps keep skin healthy, it also does the same for our hair, bones, joints, and connective tissue. Plus, vitamin C helps protect our skin from oxidative stress, so whether or not you’re taking collagen, vitamin C plays a critical role in healthy skin.
3. Supports the brain and nervous system
Our brains run on a few key ingredients: glucose, protein, healthy fats, and vitamin C. It supports healthy pituitary function and is found in high concentrations in the brain. Vitamin C also supports healthy adrenal function so we can better handle stress—if you ever hear about adrenal fatigue, this can often mean not enough vitamin C! It’s a stress-buster that helps lower cortisol levels and balance hormones. And bonus, it’s readily available in a number of delicious fruits and vegetables (more on that in a bit), so if you’re feeling a little frazzled, reach for berries, oranges, lemon, kale, broccoli — and even potatoes.
4. Increases iron absorption
Iron plays a critical role in immune function, DNA synthesis, and healthy red blood cells that deliver oxygen throughout the body. Vitamin C serves as a carrier in the digestive tract. Think of iron as a celebrity being mobbed by fans—vtiamin C is the security guard clearing a path through the crowd. It supports iron solubility in the small intestine, ensuring it gets into the bloodstream so that your body can absorb all that good iron and get it where it needs to go.
5. Antioxidant power!
A multipurpose nutrient if there ever was one, vitamin C is always working to neutralize free radicals—those pesky atoms that go rogue and damage cells. Vitamin C protects cells—literally makes them less penetrable to free radicals—so that they can keep your body healthy. It also helps another antioxidant, vitamin E, which also works to protect cells and tissue in the body stay safe, strong, and healthy.
Where to get vitamin C
A plant-based diet is bursting with vitamin C. Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with the nutrient. Some delicious places to find vitamin C:
- Citrus (oranges, lemon, grapefruit)
- Bell peppers
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale)
- Red chili peppers
- White potatoes
- Mustard greens
Need an extra boost? I developed the MyKind Organics vitamin C sprays, and I absolutely love them! Because C is so good at balancing stress and supporting immune health, and traveling or being on set can make eating healthy meals so tricky. So for me, it’s essential to have my vitamin C sprays in my purse or in the car for a quick boost of energy, especially if I’m feeling depleted or exhausted, or just need a fun sweet treat.