Why We Need Vitamin C

by Melissa Chichester

When you think of Vitamin C, you probably imagine a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. Maybe you imagine rows of orange trees shining under the Florida sun. You probably even think about other citrus fruits and how nutritious they are. Vitamin C is probably the most popular and most well-known letter vitamin, but what do you actually know about it? Let’s uncover some surprising facts about what Vitamin C can do for the body.

The history of Vitamin C

Did you know that Vitamin C can help ward off scurvy? Because of what we know about Vitamin C, scurvy is now a rare disease. Before the discovery of Vitamin C and what it can do, scurvy was a common disease that occurred in malnourished individuals. In the 1700s, it was very uncommon to have any foods containing Vitamin C aboard ships. Scottish surgeon James Lind gave lemon juice to sick sailors to see if it improved their ailments on the ship. By 1795, Lind had nearly eliminated scurvy in the British naval fleet.

Because of his success with lemon juice, Lind is usually credited with finding the cure for scurvy, but it wasn’t until many years later in 1928 that it was isolated by Hungarian chemist Albert Szent-Györgyi.

Eventually, Szent-Györgyi won the Nobel Prize for his discovery. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, was also the first vitamin to be chemically produced. Animals also need Vitamin C, but many animals can make it in the body. Some, like guinea pigs, sparrows, and bats need Vitamin C as much as we do and cannot make it in their bodies!

Vitamin C in foods

Most people associate Vitamin C with citrus fruits; however, many other foods contain Vitamin C as well. Fruits that contain Vitamin C include pineapple, kiwi, watermelon, and yes, all of those delicious citrus fruits, like limes, lemons, and oranges. There are also many vegetables that contain Vitamin C. Broccoli, spinach, green and red peppers, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes all contain Vitamin C. Today, many foods and beverages are fortified to contain Vitamin C.

Vitamin C in the body

Did you know that the body cannot store Vitamin C? Like the B-complex group, Vitamin C is water-soluble and needs to be replenished daily. Because of this, it is necessary to eat nutritious foods that contain this vitamin or take supplements.

Vitamin C, as ascorbic acid, is on the World Health Organization Essential Medicines List because it is needed by so many parts of the body.

Vitamin C is involved in collagen formation which contributes to healthy skin and connective tissue.* It is also a robust antioxidant and helps fight free radicals that contribute to oxidative stress.*

Most people also know that Vitamin C is one of the most popular supplements to support with immune health.* Today, Vitamin C deficiency is rare; however, it is sometimes seen in malnourished adults, including seniors. Luckily, we have many options today for getting our daily intake of Vitamin C. Vitamin C supplements come in many forms, including easy-to-take crystals that can be mixed into drinks or food, liquid Vitamin C, chewable vitamins, and coated capsules.