Vitamin C is probably the first one that comes to mind when someone mentions vitamins. It staves off the dreaded pirate scurvy, bolsters the immune system, acts as an antioxidant, and keeps skin younger, firmer, and healthier. Humans are one of the few animals that don’t make their own, so we must rely on our food for all we need, so we chug our orange juice, try to eat well when we can, and take our vitamins.
You may be surprised to find out that almost all multivitamins, including the vitamin C in these, are made using synthetics. Synthetic means these are man-made and not the same thing found in nature, but many of these vitamins can still claim to be “natural” since scientists have decided that the synthetics are similar enough to their whole-food counterparts to be used in the same way. This is, of course, a fallacy. Synthetic vitamins are not created in the same way as nature and they are not the same compounds upon completion.
Synthetic vitamin C is created by taking corn starch and breaking it down with heat, enzymes, acetone, and hydrochloric acid to make ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid is found in nature, but only in small amounts as part of a complete complex of phytonutrients that all come together as natural vitamin C. Natural vitamin C includes ascorbic acid, ascorbigon, tyrosinase, J factors, K factors, P factors, rutin, and bioflavonoids. These all work together. The isolated and synthetic ascorbic acid form of vitamin C found in fortified foods, vitamins, and pasteurized foods is just a small piece of what your body is looking for. When we take ascorbic acid alone, it forces the body to scavenge the other ingredients from other tissues and organs.
Synthetic vitamin C is less absorbable and less active. Many people take large doses during cold and flu season, hoping to minimize the chances of getting sick. There’s a large problem with this. As the dose of synthetic vitamin C increases, the absorption decreases. The benefits of vitamin C are also negated by the synthetic version. Ascorbic acid has been linked to DNA damage and may actually increase oxidation instead of counteract it. Ascorbic acid also kills the beneficial bacteria in the intestines that aid in digestion and combat more dangerous bacterial infections. Ascorbic acid is also mainly derived from GMO corn, which has a host of problems too.
Natural vitamin C can only be found in whole-foods and whole-food based supplements. It is less processed, more whole, more active, more readily absorbed, and less toxic than the synthetic isolate. Apart from combating scurvy, all-natural vitamin C maintains cardiovascular health, promotes healing, boosts immune cell function, works as an antioxidant, and fights allergies and allergic reactions. Studies show that the antioxidant effects of vitamin C also work better when it is combined with other antioxidants, such as we find in whole foods.
Avoid synthetics of any vitamin. These are made in labs using chemicals and processes far removed from the natural world. Coal tar, petroleum byproducts, acetone, acetylene, and volatile acids are typical ingredients. The results are not what we naturally find in food. Our bodies don’t recognize these compounds, treat them as toxins, and waste time and energy in removing them. Seek out whole-food vitamins as often as possible and only pick up multivitamins that contain no synthetics, relying on whole-food pant sources.
For real vitamin C that includes all parts of the complex, eat red bell pepper, citrus fruits, kiwi, dark leafy greens, guavas, herbs, broccoli, papaya, strawberries, and peaches. Tomatoes also contain a good amount of vitamin C. When buying a vitamin, look for these types of ingredients on the label. If you see lemon, guava, and basil instead of ascorbic acid, then there’s a good bet you’ve found something healthy. Avoid vitamins that end in -ate, acid, hydrochloride, or HCL. These are highly processed synthetics made with corrosive acids and dangerous chemicals. Don’t settle for something similar to the vitamins in real, natural foods. Our health is one place where similar isn’t good enough.
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