The Benefits of Vitamin C
What can vitamin C do for your health?
Vitamin C is one of the safest and most effective
nutrients, experts say. It may not be the cure for the common cold (though it's thought
to help prevent more serious complications). But the benefits of vitamin C may
include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease,
prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.
A recent study published in Seminars in Preventive and Alternative
Medicine that looked at over 100 studies over 10 years revealed a growing
list of benefits of vitamin C.
"Vitamin C has received a great deal of
attention, and with good reason. Higher blood levels of vitamin C may be the
ideal nutrition marker for overall
health," says study researcher Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, of the University of
Michigan. "The more we study vitamin C, the better our understanding of how
diverse it is in protecting our health, from cardiovascular, cancer, stroke, eye health [and] immunity to
"But," Moyad notes, "the ideal dosage may be higher than the recommended
How Much Vitamin C Is Enough?
Most of the studies Moyad and his colleagues
examined used 500 daily milligrams of vitamin C to achieve health results.
That's much higher than the RDA of 75-90 milligrams a day for adults. So unless
you can eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, you may
need to take a dietary supplement of vitamin C to gain all the benefits, Moyad
says. He suggests taking 500 milligrams a day, in addition to eating five
servings of fruits and vegetables.
"It is just not practical for most people to consume the required servings
of fruits and vegetables needed on a consistent basis, whereas taking a
once-daily supplement is safe, effective, and easy to do," Moyad says. He also
notes that only 10% to 20% of adults get the recommended nine servings of
fruits and vegetables daily.
Moyad says there is no real downside to taking a 500-milligram supplement,
except that some types may irritate the stomach. That's why he recommends
taking a non-acidic, buffered form of the vitamin. "The safe upper limit for
vitamin C is 2,000 milligrams a day, and there is a great track record with
strong evidence that taking 500 milligrams daily is safe," he says.
Still, American Dietetic Association spokeswoman
Dee Sandquist, RD, suggests doing your best to work more fruits and vegetables
into your diet before taking supplements.
"Strive to eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, because you
will get a healthy dose of vitamin C along with an abundance of other vitamins,
minerals, and phytochemicals that are good for disease prevention and overall
health," she says.
While a cup of orange juice or a half-cup of red pepper would be enough to
meet your RDA for Vitamin C, here are all the foods and beverages you'd need to
consume to reach 500 milligrams (mg):
- Cantaloupe, 1 cup (8 ounces): 59mg
- Orange juice, 1 cup: 97mg
- Broccoli, cooked, 1 cup: 74mg
- Red cabbage, 1/2 cup: 40mg
- Green pepper, 1/2 cup, 60mg
- Red pepper, 1/2 cup, 95mg
- Kiwi, 1 medium: 70mg
- Tomato juice, 1 cup: 45mg.