Are you getting enough vitamin C? If your diet isn't balanced and you're feeling run down, a supplement may help. One way to gain vitamin C benefits is to take sodium ascorbate, a supplement form of ascorbic acid — otherwise known as vitamin C.
Sodium ascorbate is a vitamin C supplement that’s available as a powder or capsule supplement. It delivers extra vitamin C when your diet is lacking or if you have a condition that calls for an extra dose of this crucial nutrient.
Choose Your “C”
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, sodium ascorbate is considered as effective as other forms of vitamin C supplementation. Along with the sodium vitamin C option, additional options for getting extra "C" include regular ascorbic acid and calcium ascorbate. Both calcium ascorbate and sodium ascorbate are mineral salts of ascorbic acid.
For people who have trouble digesting acidic substances, these mineral salt supplements may be less irritating than pure ascorbic acid. Both calcium ascorbate and sodium ascorbate provide about 890 milligrams of vitamin C in a 1,000-milligram dose. As you might expect from their names, the rest of the supplement in sodium ascorbate consists of sodium, while calcium ascorbate supplement provides extra calcium.
For people who need to watch their sodium intake, the difference between the two popular forms of vitamin C is not insignificant. That's especially true for those who believe in taking "megadoses" of the nutrient. With about 111 milligrams of sodium per 1,000-milligram dose, people who need to monitor their blood pressure should avoid the of sodium ascorbate supplementation path.
Other forms of vitamin C supplement include those that combine a form of vitamin C with other needed nutrients. Your options include potassium ascorbate, zinc ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate and manganese ascorbate. There are also products available which combine ascorbate acid with flavonoids, fats or metabolites. These products are often promoted as intensifying the effect of the vitamin C.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, however, little proof exists that any one type of ascorbic acid supplement, even sodium ascorbate, is superior to others. Your doctor may have a preferred form, if you need the supplement, based on your other health needs.
Read more: How to Take Vitamin C at Night
Reaping Vitamin C Benefits
Vitamin C is a key antioxidant, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements. It helps protect your body from environmental stressors like air pollution, UV rays and germs carried by other people. Smokers or those who live with smokers, also get some protection from taking in adequate ascorbic acid.
Getting enough vitamin C can lower your risk of developing some cancers, as well as cardiovascular disease, according to the NIH. It can also protect you from eye-related diseases and shorten the duration and severity of the common cold. It builds collagen, which slows outward signs of aging, and also maintains strong bones, joints and tendons.
In some health situations, supplements like sodium ascorbate have proven to be effective when combined with dietary sources of vitamin C. For decreasing cancer risk, however, current studies show that supplements don't seem to boost the power of C-rich fruits and vegetables, the NIH notes. Many other health conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration, have been slowed down or improved through supplementation.
Severe signs of vitamin C deficiency include joint pain, skin rashes and swollen or bleeding gums. It can also lead to depression and fatigue.
How Much Is Too Much?
It's tempting to blast your system with vitamin C during cold and flu season. While it may be safe to exceed the recommended amount of the nutrient if your doctor approves, you'll still need to be aware of how much ascorbate acid supplement is too much.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health notes that current recommendations for adult men are 90 milligrams a day and for women, about 75 milligrams. Some circumstances call for increased amounts, such as pregnancy and breastfeeding. Smokers are also urged to take in more than the average minimum recommendations.
In terms of dangerous amounts of vitamin C, the upper intake limit is 2,000 milligrams, according to the Harvard Chan School. Unless a patient has a specific need beyond the upper intake limit, taking more than 2,000 milligrams might lead to symptoms such as diarrhea and other digestive issues. Exceeding 3,000 milligrams can also lead to kidney stones and interference with healthy iron levels.
Sodium ascorbate is available in capsule and powder form, in various strengths. Whichever form and dose you choose, it's helpful to know that going beyond 1,000 milligrams may not provoke anything other than unwanted side effects.
Beyond that dose, the effectiveness decreases by half, warns the Harvard Chan School. Tissues lining the intestine have a limited capacity for absorbing vitamin C, whether in food or supplement form.
Don’t Neglect Food Sources
The NIH notes that foods high in vitamin C remain the best way for most people to take in enough of the nutrient. Unless you have a serious deficiency, consider adding more of these foods to your diet before taking mega-doses of sodium ascorbate or other vitamin C supplements.
Yellow, red and orange fruits and vegetables are often safe bets for getting your vitamin C benefits. Many green vegetables are also good sources of the nutrient.
Citrus fruits are the most well-known foods for vitamin C and for good reason. The NIH lists foods like orange juice and grapefruit juice, along with the fruits themselves, high on the list of foods that are packed with the nutrient. Sweet red peppers, strawberries, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and tomatoes are also good sources.
On the green side of the spectrum, consider sweet green peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens and spinach. Regular white potatoes also provide vitamin C.
So what's the best way to preserve vitamin C benefits in these foods? Fresh is best, and many of the C-rich foods are traditionally eaten raw, at least some of the time. Start your day with an orange, a halved grapefruit or some wedges of cantaloupe. At lunch, have a salad that incorporates fresh spinach, raw tomatoes and sliced red or green peppers. Add fresh strawberry slices to your afternoon yogurt snack and lemon or lime juice to your water.
In terms of cooking, steaming or microwaving vegetables is the best way to retain their vitamin content, according to the NIH. Steam broccoli and cooking greens on the stovetop or in the microwave in just a small amount of water. Even potatoes can be microwaved, which cuts cooking time considerably.
Watch for Side Effects
The Mayo Clinic notes that most side effects of vitamin C come from consuming too much. However, there are symptoms to watch out for whenever you increase your normal amount. Whether you double down on your orange juice consumption or start taking sodium ascorbate, be on the lookout for signs that you may not tolerate the extra vitamin C well.
Heartburn, stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting are all problems that can occur when taking extra ascorbic acid. Some people also experience skin flushing, insomnia and fatigue.
Serious side effects are possible, including esophageal damage from interior swelling. A blockage in the small or large intestine is also possible, according to the Mayo Clinic. These blockages interfere with one's ability to take in fluids and solids.
The Mayo Clinic also warns that extra vitamin C may interact negatively with medications and other treatments, including chemotherapy and estrogen therapy. Medicine that contains aluminum may also become problematic with extra C, because it increases the amount of aluminum that is absorbed. Statins, warfarin and protease inhibitors may also occasion adverse interaction.
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Vitamin C"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "The Bioavailability of Different Forms of Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin C"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Vitamin C"
- National Institutes of Health: "USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28: Vitamin C, Total Ascorbic Acid"
- Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin C"