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What is Vitamin C? Getting Under the Microscope

by Liza Semenova

Let’s start with the basics. We see it in skincare, vitamins, and some of our favorite foods. But what is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient and antioxidant that our bodies need but actually aren’t capable of producing. So, we need to rely on outside sources, like food and supplements, to give our bodies a helping hand and get the vitamin C we need.

Vitamin C sounds pretty important if it’s essential to our bodies. So, what are the benefits of Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is what we’d call a multitasker. It supports normal immune function and helps the body metabolize fats and proteins but it doesn’t stop there. Vitamin C is also essential in the production of collagen, L-carnitine (critical in energy production), and certain neurotransmitters. It even helps iron absorption from plant-based iron sources like nuts, legumes, or green leafy vegetables

Although it’s an antioxidant itself, vitamin C has been shown to regenerate other antioxidants within our bodies, and help fight cell damage caused by free radicals. 

What’s the best form of Vitamin C?

There are a few different types of vitamin C. You’ll usually find vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid in supplements. Luckily, the body is able to use and absorb ascorbic acid from supplements, as well as naturally occurring ascorbic acid in foods. 

Vitamin C sounds pretty great but you’re probably wondering: how much vitamin C should I take daily?

The recommended amount of vitamin C varies, of course, depending on who you are! Below are the Dietary Reference Intakes as established by the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dietary Reference Intakes

We mentioned some of our favorite foods contain vitamin C. What foods can you find vitamin C in?

Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C. Some common food sources include red and green peppers, oranges and orange juice, grapefruit juice, kiwis, strawberries, leafy greens, and broccoli. Colorful fruits and veggies add a healthy dose of vitamin C to your diet, plus they’re rich in various phytochemicals, which vary uniquely with the colors of the plants. So don’t hesitate to make your plate look like a rainbow!

We know it’s possible to be deficient when it comes to vitamins, even vitamin C. What are the signs of a vitamin C deficiency?

The good news is, it’s pretty rare to be severely Vitamin C deficient. Severe vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy, a common illness amongst many sailors until the late 18th century. No pirate’s life for me, thanks! This only really happens if vitamin C intake falls under 10mg/day, for multiple weeks. 

Symptoms can start with fatigue, general discomfort, and gum inflammation. As it progresses, vitamin C deficiency leads to a drop in collagen production, weakened connective tissues, depression, loss of teeth, and even iron deficiency anemia. 

On the flip side, what are the side effects of too much vitamin C? 

Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient with low toxicity, meaning it doesn't carry the same risks of overdose toxicity that fat-soluble vitamins, like Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) carry. The most common negative side effects of too much vitamin C can include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, and other gastrointestinal issues.

Which SmartyPants products have vitamin C?

All of SmartyPants products have vitamin C! Check out our Kids, Adults and Prenatal lines.

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Liza Semenova