Before knowing what’s what in the wellness space was my job, meeting my nutrient quota for the day heavily relied on gummy vitamins that were more or less the equivalent of sugar-packed artificial fruity bears and worms. Of course, I got a decent amount of nutrients naturally from the foods I was eating, but once college rolled around, my diet wasn’t exactly well-rounded, and, trust me, when you’re living off pizza and hot pockets, the subtle signs you need more vitamin C, D, K, and the like are going to show. Take it from someone who ignored their parents’ warning for years, my friend: Taking your vitamins matters, and I, personally, am just starting to see the light.
If you were to have me prepare all your meals for one day, you’d never believe that up until senior year of college I was probably one of the pickiest eaters on planet Earth. Nowadays, my fridge is packed with fresh produce, my kitchen cabinets are stocked with plant-based proteins, and I’m almost hyper aware of what’s going into my body in terms of nutrients. I’ll admit, once upon a time, I knew what vitamins were, sure, but I didn’t really know a) what the most important ones were and b) the benefits they offered my body and mind.
Vitamin C is definitely one of those key nutrients you want to make sure you’re getting enough of on the daily. According to Mayo Clinic, vitamin C is an ascorbic acid found in citrus fruits and green veggies, as well as a natural antioxidant. Its primary function is to heal and protect your body from free radicals, on top of forming your “blood vessels, cartilage, muscle, and collagen in bones.” That’s a big job for one little vitamin, and if you’re not getting enough of it, you may not realize it off the bat, but your body will feel the effects of a deficiency.
So now you might be wondering how much vitamin C should you be squeezing in? Well, per the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) recommends women aged 19 years and older should be tallying in 75 mg of vitamin C per day. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can be difficult to reach if you aren’t paying attention or don’t eat enough fresh produce.
Vitamin C can be found in fruits like oranges, and kiwi, and veggies like brussel sprouts and cauliflower, but if you know for a fact there are going to be days when healthy foods aren’t available, you can supplement with powders and pills. Talk to your doctor about what route is right for you, but first, here's how you can identify whether or not you might be severely lacking in vitamin C.
1. Your Skin Feels Super Dry
If you start to notice your skin visibly flaking, cracking, or, even worse, feeling like a desert no matter how many pounds of moisturizing cream you apply to your face, consider these flashing signs pointing to the fact that your diet could be heavily lacking in vitamin C.
Looping back to the benefits of the essential vitamin, it's important to note that a steady flow of collagen production tops the list. As collagen supplement brand Vital Proteins points out, collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, and is responsible for the elasticity and tone of skin, as well as a protecting your complexion from the sun's harmful UV rays. So while you should be applying sunscreen every day, no matter what season, eating an abundance of foods rich in vitamin C will also help.
2. You Bruise Easy
Now that I think about it, I always had bruises as a kid. Which, looking back now, makes a ton of sense, because the only fruit I ever wanted was slices of apple dipped in peanut butter, and the only veggies I'd eat without complain were carrots and corn. I wasn't lying when I said I was picky AF (sorry Mom and Dad).
Per Reader's Digest's report, a lack of vitamin C can lead to easy bruising, and that's because the nutrient builds up your blood vessel walls by encouraging collagen production. In other words, if you don't get enough vitamin C, collagen production slows down, and your blood vessel walls become weak. When this happens, and you accidentally bang your knee against the coffee table, it's not exactly a surprise when you wake up and the area is black and blue.
3. Your Oral Hygiene Starts To Suffer
Growing up with a sister who's worked in dental office after dental office, I like to think I know a thing or two about the importance of oral hygiene. Here's what I've picked up over the years: brush, floss, and meet your vitamin C intake. I know myself, and I, personally, would never have associated whatever's going on in my mouth with the nutrients I fueled or failed to fuel my body with, but it turns out, it really does make a difference.
According to Healthline, when your body doesn't consume enough vitamin C, two things can happen in your mouth as a result: You can lose teeth, and have a bad case of bleeding gums. It all goes back to vitamin C playing a huge role in the strength of body tissue. The less you absorb, the weaker your gums are going to be, which can lead to inflammation, blood vessels tearing, and teeth falling out. In other words, unless you want to pay a pricey dentist bill, it's in your best interest to start adding orange slices to your lunch.
4. Staying Awake Is A Struggle
By now you're probably aware there's a laundry list of reasons why you might be tired (staying up until 1 a.m. binge watching cat videos on YouTube, for example, is certainly not helping), but did you know the food you eat could be the difference between feeling alive and feeling, well, not?
Enter vitamin C: the vital nutrient that not only makes the inner workings of your body strong, but also keeps you alert throughout the day. Lisa Samuels, RD, founder of The Happie House tells Elite Daily one of the earliest signs of a vitamin C deficiency is "unexplained fatigue," and that's because vitamin C has the upper hand when it comes to your energy levels.
5. You're Crankier Than Usual
This one should come as a no-brainer. I know myself, and when I'm tired, my lack of shuteye reflects in my lack of patience. Having said that, it's important to note that the research behind whether or not vitamin C plays a significant role in your mood is varied, but eating more fruit and veggies or taking a dietary supplement will only benefit you in the long run.
Plus, according to Mayo Clinic, there are studies that show vitamin C can be a mood booster. In fact, according to research that studied the affects vitamin C supplements had on high school students, it was shown that more vitamin C helped relieve stress and anxiety. So even though science might still be undecided, I'd much rather be safe than sorry.
6. Your Joints Are Achy
I'm willing to bet before this article you didn't realize just how important vitamin C, or collagen, for that matter, is to include in your diet and how it impacts the overall health of your body. Well, if you thought a little exhaustion and mood swings were tolerable, a lack of vitamin C will lead to more than just irritability, friend.
When you aren't getting enough vitamin C, and your body isn't generating enough collagen to keep you strong inside and out, sooner or later, you're bound to feel it in your joints and muscles. U.S. News reports vitamin C is super important in terms of tissue health, and if you're skipping leafy greens at dinner, or reaching for sweets instead of a fresh piece of fruit for a snack, your bones and joints become less flexible, which reflects in your cardiovascular health and how your body feels overall.
The earlier you can tackle these issues, the better, and I promise it's a lot easier to meet the daily vitamin C requirement than you think. The key, Samuels tells Elite Daily, is to eat an abundance of foods high in vitamin C such as "citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit), tomatoes and tomato juice, potatoes, red and green bell peppers, kiwis, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe." But, if all else fails, she says, a once-a-day supplement will suffice.