Most of us are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve and support our immune system.

Yes, the immune system is our foremost ally when it comes to getting rid of foreign invaders — such as viruses, infections, and bacteria — but this incredibly complicated network of organs, white blood cells, antibodies, the complement system, and the lymphatic system (to name just a few components) requires the appropriate nutrition and care to remain balanced and functioning.

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When it comes to boosting your immune system, one of the most well-known natural agents in vitamin C!

This vitamin has been proven scientifically to help support immunity. With that said, recent research has unraveled some stunning facts regarding the effectiveness of different sources of vitamin C. From the food we consume to the supplements we rely on to the less common, yet potent intravenous vitamin C injection. It’s all about how you’re getting the vitamin that determines it’s effectiveness!

With that said, a majority of us don’t have access to intravenous vitamin C, — which happens to be the most powerful and effective form — therefore where’s the middle ground?

What is Vitamin C?

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Vitamin C — a water-soluble vitamin that also goes by ascorbic acid — is well-known for the fact that it supports your immune system, but this essential nutrient has a slew of other health benefits. Vitamin C helps your body “form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle, and collagen in bones,” is integral for the healing process, absorbs and stores iron, and plays a role in many bodily functions such as producing “L-carnitine and some neurotransmitters.”

Plus, vitamin C is also an antioxidant. This means that vitamin C may be able to “protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation.”

Something else important to know about this vitamin? Your body doesn’t produce or store it. This means, in order to maintain adequate levels, you need to make sure your diet is rich with vitamin C foods!

Vitamin C and the Immune System

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Now we get to the nitty-gritty of why most people are curious about vitamin C: your immune system!

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It’s a well-known, scientifically studied fact that vitamin C comingles and supports your immune system. With that said, the science behind vitamin C and your immune system is … well … very scientific.

The basic research suggests that vitamin C supports “various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system,” such as the epithelial barrier — which keeps out “pathogens and promotes the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin” — and microbial killing. It’s also been found that “vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections.”

3 Different Forms of Vitamin C

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It’s never simple as we would like when it comes to nutrition. Partly, we can blame our own society for this, as most processed foods don’t actually contain real, raw, and natural forms of nutrients. Yet, the other part is completely out of our hands! Our bodies are complex systems that know exactly what they need to function properly, how to get it, and what is necessary to pair together for a more efficient “download” of said nutrients.

Therefore, when it comes to your body absorbing and utilizing vitamin C, it’s all about where, how, and what form you get this vitamin.

It’s also important to note that while vitamin C isn’t generally a dangerous vitamin, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian before changing up your diet.

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1. Food-Sourced Vitamin C

The good news is that vitamin C is found in lots of plant-based sources! This means that getting enough of that good ole’ C naturally isn’t that difficult.

While we are all somewhat acquainted with the citrus family as one of the best sources, there are many other places to get your daily dose including Kakadu plums, — an “an Australian native superfood containing 100 times more vitamin C than oranges” — acerola cherries (half cup contains 822 mg), rose hips (six rose hips provide 119 mg), chili peppers (one green chili pepper contains 109 mg), sweet yellow peppers (half cup provides 137 mg), blackcurrants (half cup contains 101 mg), and mustard spinach (one cup provides 195 mg).

Herbs are also a great place to get smaller doses of vitamin C throughout the day. Thyme — one ounce offers 45 mg — has “three times more vitamin C than oranges and [has] one of the highest vitamin C concentrations of all culinary herbs.” Parsley is another great source with just two tablespoons containing 10 mg.

Get your vitamin C-fueled diet in gear with a few of these recipes: Cherry Almond Cluster Granola, Baked Sabudana Vada: Indian Tapioca Fritters, Tangy Chili Sauce, Kale Avocado Salad, High Protein Tempeh Chili, Healthy Blackcurrant Jam, Baked Dessert Tofu With Black Currants, Raspberries, and Blueberries, or this Spinach Crepes with Thyme Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Walnut Sauce.

If you’re interested in rose hips, try adding rosehip powder — such as this Starwest Botanicals Organic Rosehips Powder or this Bulksupplements Rosehip Extract Powder — to a smoothie.

2. Supplement-Sourced Vitamin C

While you could simply make your own Vitamin C Powder, there are also lots of options when it comes to vitamin C supplements.

Make sure you’re sourcing reliable vitamin C! This means look for supplements that are plant-based or vegan, organic, and use non-GMO ingredients. It’s also a good idea to find companies that abstain from using preservatives, fillers, binders, or any other artificial ingredients.

Basically, you want to find supplements that don’t put good in with a lot of other bad stuff as well!

Here are a few vitamin C supplements to give a try: NOW Supplements Vitamin C-1,000, Doctor’s Best Vitamin C with Quali-C, Truvani Vitamin C, Pure Encapsulations Ascorbic Acid Capsules, Jarrow Formulas Vitamin C, NaturesPlus Source of Life Garden Certified Organic Vitamin C, or this NutraMedix Vitamin C 1000mg Capsules.

3. Injection-Sourced Vitamin C

You may be familiar with vitamin B12 injections, which have been proven to give you a boost of energy, as well as help those in states of depression.

Turns out that you can get vitamin C injections as well!

While most vitamin C injections are used to treat a vitamin C deficiency, if you have the resource, the time, and the finances, you can also get vitamin C injections as part of a wellness plan.

What do you need to know?

First off, vitamin C injections are “approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” but technically they’re approved as a way to treat vitamin C deficiency, wounds, and burns.

Secondly, there are “off-label” vitamin C injections used to treat cancer, weight loss, immune function, and general health. If you are not vitamin C deficient or wounded, this would be the type of vitamin C injection you’d receive. Off-label drug use simply “means that a drug that’s been approved by the FDA for one purpose is used for a different purpose that has not been approved.” This means that you need a doctor’s prescription for a vitamin C injection.

Why would you want a vitamin C injection over natural or supplemental sources?

Depending on dose and type, vitamin C injections can last for a long period of time, which means you don’t have to remember to take a supplement every day or worry about integrating certain foods into your diet. Injections can also provide much higher, more potent, and purer dosages and therefore it may be more effective.

With that said, keep in mind that more research is necessary to substantiate these claims.

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Looking to learn a bit more about Vitamin C, where to get it on a plant-based diet, and what it can do for your body? Get your vitamin C education on with these articles:

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