With winter comes the dreaded cold and flu season. And that means getting plenty of vitamin C to keep those germs at bay.
Did you know that humans are one of the few animals that don’t create their own vitamin C?
It’s true. Most animals manufacture their own vitamin C, and in abundant quantities too.
However, humans–as well as primates and guinea pigs–do not manufacture vitamin C and instead have to get it through food.
I don’t know about you but I was very surprised when I discovered that fun fact.
So why is Vitamin C such a big deal?
As you’ll see in a minute, we need vitamin C for everything from staving off illness to keeping our skin young.
While vitamin C is probably the best-known vitamin most people can’t name any vitamin C rich food beyond oranges and lemons. But there are tons of other great and yummy sources of this immune boosting vitamin.
So here’s a handy little list of 15 surprising sources of vitamin C, plus a run down of why it’s so important.
How does vitamin C keep you healthy?
First let’s briefly go over why you want vitamin C in your life.
Vitamin C is essential to your health.
For starters vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant.
Vitamin C helps mitigate the damage from rogue free radicals. These are the bad guys in your body that go around causing damage. This is important considering how toxic our world has become.
Vitamin C also helps your body to repair and regenerate tissues. Want young looking skin, then you want vitamin C.
Vitamin C is required to build collagen, and collagen is an important protein that does everything from keeping skin smooth to repairing connective tissue in your body.
Basically vitamin C helps you look good and feel good. You do want to look good right?
We’ve all heard of vitamin C and its role in boosting immunity.
If you are deficient in vitamin C, your immune system will likely suffer too. When you are sick your vitamin C levels quickly go down. It doesn’t help that your body doesn’t store (or make) vitamin C, so constant replenishment is necessary.
And of course no discussion of vitamin C would be complete without talking about double Nobel Prize winning chemist Linus Pauling.
Pauling believed that atherosclerosis (heart disease) was actually a form of sub-clinical scurvy and could be reversed using his vitamin C based Pauling protocol (source).
There has since been other research supporting this theory and many have taken matters into their own hands and used this protocol with success. You can read more about the Pauling protocol here but at it’s core is a daily supplementation of 5000-6000 mg of vitamin C.
Then there are the reports of cancer patients successfully using vitamin C as part of an overall holistic protocol to eliminate their cancer. You can read more about that here.
But that’s not all, vitamin C therapy has been linked to benefiting or healing everything from bacterial infections to COPD to preventing bone loss. You can search through the medical literature on vitamin C at the vitamin C page of Green Med Info.
How much is recommended?
So how much do you need exactly? According to The Mayo Clinic the official recommendation for vitamin C is:
Adult Men — 90 milligram
Adult women — 75 milligrams daily
Pregnant women — 85 milligrams daily
Breastfeeding women — 120 milligrams daily
There are medical professionals (usually integrative) who say these recommendations are totally inadequate, and the recommendations should be much higher, closer to 2,000 milligrams daily in adults.
And of course as I mentioned some doctors using high dose therapies such as the Linus Pauling Protocol recommend around 5000-6000 mg (or 5-6 grams).
Furthermore the need for vitamin C is higher during illness, I’ve frequently read of holistic doctors recommending between 1000-4000 mg daily to fight off a cold. According to Dr. Josh Axe
It has long been understood that vitamin C benefits your immune system and plays a large role in your body’s ability to fight off colds and viruses. You can take 1000 mg of Vitamin C to fight off an oncoming cold and 4000 mg per day to get rid of a cold already in your system.
I personally aim for 1000-2000 mg per day, and 4000+ mg daily when I’m sick because that number seems to work well for my body. This is a key point, listen to your body.
If you get the poops with high doses then you’ve reached “bowel tolerance” and need to cut it back.
Why you should choose whole foods over supplements?
I believe that it’s best to get your nutrients the way nature made them.
There is a symbiotic relationship that make up the spectrum of nutrients in any given whole food. Extracting just one component excludes an abundance of beneficial antioxidants, phytochemicals, minerals, vitamins, and fiber.
If you can your first source of vitamin C should be through organic whole foods.
The case for supplementation
Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you to choose whole foods first, here’s why I also supplement.
I used to be in favor of whole foods over lab created supplements. However, through my research it has been made clear that food (even organic) simply does not have the nutrition it used to. You can thank monofarming and contaminated soils for that.
Therefore, relying on food sources for all your nutrition would leave most people deficient in key nutrients. Because of that I have changed my position on vitamin C supplementation to be in favor of it (provided it’s high quality and dosed properly) along with whole foods.
I still believe that organic whole foods should be your primary source of nutrients however I also believe that high quality supplements have an important role to play in keeping us healthy in a world of pesticides, contaminated air, contaminated water, and hundreds of other toxic chemical exposures.
So to be clear, yes, I believe you should supplement your whole foods based diet while a high quality vitamin C supplement.
Beware GMO vitamin C
I think supplementation is a good idea BUT beware, not all supplements are equal.
A big problem in vitamin C supplements is that most are made from GMO sources (like corn) and contain questionable fillers and binders. Definitely not part of a Filtered lifestyle.
While it’s still hard to find high quality vitamin C, more manufacturers are meeting demand with non-GMO vitamin C supplements. Always make sure your vitamin C is non-GMO sourced.
Supplements specifically for the kids
It can be tough to make sure the little ones get enough nutrition. In addition to organic whole foods, I also supplement vitamin C for my little one.
I’ve recently switched to the new Garden of Life Dr. Perlmutter Probiotics for Kids. This product formulated with Dr. Perlmutter and is a great probiotic with 14 strains and a very respectable (for kiddos) 5 billion CFU.
This probiotic has 30 mg of vitamin C derived from amla berry. It also has 100% of vitamin D (as D3) so if you use this adjust any other supplements accordingly. So far my little one loves the organic chewable tablet, and her gut health remains vibrant.
But 30 mg isn’t enough vitamin C so the other brand I’ve used in the past is Childlife.
I was assured by a representative at Childlife that their vitamin C is not based on GMO sources and is in the process of certification. If taste is a big deal for your little one (pure C can be sour as heck) a child designed supplement can be the perfect solution.
These days I buy bulk bags of pure non-GMO vitamin C and measure the needed amount and add it to a bit of juice for little one. This is an easy and inexpensive way to get enough C.
Whole foods based supplements
There are a few whole foods based products you can consider if you want to avoid synthetic C.
A great option is Pure Radiance which is a popular whole foods based C supplement.
My favorite whole foods based supplement is camu-camu powder which can be added to smoothies or drinks.
Camu-camu has roughly 1882 milligrams to about 2,280 milligrams per 100 grams.
A 5 gram serving (1 tsp) of camu-camu will give you roughly 100 mg of whole food vitamin C.
However you’ll notice that these supplements don’t approach the 2000 mg recommended by many naturopaths and no where near the protocol numbers referenced above.
So again my vitamin C recommendations are:
- #1: High vitamin C whole foods (list below)
- #2 Whole foods based supplements like camu-camu powder and rosehips
- #3 Synthetic vitamin C such as non-gmo ascorbic acid
Great sources of vitamin C
So finally here it is, a handy-dandy list of vitamin C rich foods to boost your C intake naturally.
Per 3 ½ ounce serving (100 grams)*
Camu-camu – 1882-2280 mg
Rosehips – 1700-2000 mg (source)
Guava – 228 mg
Red Chili Peppers – 144 mg
Red Bell Peppers – 128 mg
Kale – 120 mg
Kiwi – 92 mg
Broccoli – 90 mg
Brussel Sprouts – 85 mg
Papaya – 61 mg
Strawberries – 59 mg
Orange Juice – 50 mg (this is included for reference)
Pineapple – 47 mg
Lemon juice – 46 mg
Mango – 30 mg
Spinach – 28 mg
*Data taken from the USDA Nutrient Data Base
Putting it all together
Good nutrition shouldn’t be complicated. Just take stock of what your needs are, choose some favorite foods, add some supplements, and make it a habit. That’s it. Once good health is part of the routine you don’t need to think about it.
Here’s a snapshot of my easy-peasy routine.
- I drink a 16 oz. glass of lemon water every morning (and drink about 3-4 more glasses throughout the day usng the juice of about 2-3 lemons daily).
- I usually start each day with a nutrient dense smoothie that typically has some combination of berries, kiwi, pineapple, mango, banana, and/or greens, and when I have some on hand I’ll add some camu-camu powder.
- I enjoy a cup of white tea with rosehips most mornings.
- I also supplement with 1000 mg of vitamin C twice daily (double if I’m sick).
The routine ends up giving me plenty of vitamin C without much thought. It can be that easy.
If you need more tips on how to eat a healthier diet read my post, The Beginner’s Guide to Clean Eating.
I hope this helped you figure out a plan that will work for your busy life. How do you get your nutrient dense foods in? Did I miss a great vitamin C food or product that you love? Do you have a compelling vitamin C story to share? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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