Natural Vitamin C Vs Synthetic Vitamin C: What's The Difference?
Is natural Vitamin C the best form of Vitamin C? Know the difference between natural and synthetic Vitamin C here.
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With the cold and flu season upon us, it's time to get educated on the type of Vitamin C that’s best for you.
Vitamin C is probably one of the first 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 the skin younger, firmer, and healthier.
Humans don’t make Vitamin C on our own and so, we must rely on food for our daily vitamin requirements: we chug our orange juice, try to eat well when we can, and take our vitamins.
Known by its chemical name ascorbic acid, Vitamin C can be obtained from various food sources. They are mainly found in fruits and vegetables.
But not everyone can get the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C because many people don’t eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
That’s where supplementation comes in.
People who want to get 100% of Vitamin C daily but can’t get it from natural food sources turn to supplementation to fill in the gap.
Of course, there are organic Vitamin C supplements, but most of the time, people turn to synthetic vitamins and multivitamins instead.
Vitamin C Varieties
There are two forms of Vitamin C variety: L and D.
The L variety can be found in both natural and synthetic forms of ascorbic acid. It’s the best form of Vitamin C to take.
You absorb L-ascorbic acid naturally from fruits, vegetables, and whole foods. Most supplements also carry a synthetic version of the L variety.
Meanwhile, D-ascorbic acid cannot be found in nature.
Chemically, it looks identical to the L variety, but D-ascorbic acid differs at the molecular level. It is not used in supplements because it cannot be synthesized by the body.
Synthetic Vitamin C Is Isolated
You may be surprised to find out that almost all multivitamins (including Vitamin C in these multivitamins) are made using synthetics.
Synthetic means “man-made” and not found in nature. But many of these vitamins still claim to be “natural” since scientists have decided 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 does and do not have 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.
What are phytonutrients? These are compounds found in fruits and vegetables that help prevent disease and infections in humans.
Natural sources of Vitamin C include the following:
- Ascorbic acid
- J factors
- K factors
- P factors
These all work together. The isolated and synthetic ascorbic acid form of Vitamin C found in fortified foods, vitamins, and pasteurized foods are 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 tissues and organs.
Synthetic Vitamin C Is Less Absorbable and Less Active
Many people take large doses during the 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 counteracting 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.
Synthetic Vitamin C May Upset the Stomach
Synthetic ascorbic acid supplements not processed as mineral ascorbate may cause an upset stomach in some people. These dietary supplements negatively affect people sensitive to acid.
Taking just enough ascorbic acid helps digest food and eliminate bad bacteria in the digestive system. Too much of it increases the acid in the stomach, leading to reflux, bloating, and flatulence.
Newer versions of Vitamin C containing mineral ascorbate mitigate the acid, preventing overproduction of acid in the stomach. A study noted calcium ascorbate has the same antioxidant qualities offered by Vitamin C with less acid.
Natural Vitamin C Benefits
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 work better when combined with other antioxidants, such as we find in whole foods.
Avoid Synthetic Vitamins
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 plant sources.
Food Sources for Natural Vitamin C
You can still get the recommended daily allowance for ascorbic acid by eating foods rich in the said vitamin.
For real Vitamin C that includes all parts of the complex, eat the following fruits and vegetables:
- red bell pepper
- citrus fruits
- dark leafy greens
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.
Check out this easy-to-prepare Green Orange Julius recipe from Sunwarrior:
Don’t settle for something similar to the vitamins in real, natural foods. Our health is one place where similar isn’t good enough.
That’s why Sunwarrior developed Raw Vitamins, a multivitamin made from organic ingredients. We also have Vitamin Mineral Rush which is made from raw plant sources but comes with fulvic acid to increase absorption.
Get only the best vitamins and minerals for the nutrition you need daily. Never sacrifice your health!
Are you taking enough natural Vitamin C to boost your immunity? Share your ascorbic acid food sources in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 5, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.