Learn about the health benefits of Vitamin C. Does it really keep you healthy?

Do Foods with Vitamin C Really Prevent Colds?

So, you’re trying to stay healthy.

The classic way to boost your immune system is to pump your body with vitamin C, but what’s the best way to do that? And will it really minimize your risk of coming down with a cold? With myriad products claiming they’ll help you ward off sickness, you should know the facts.

Read on to learn about the sources and benefits of vitamin C.

RELATED: Can You Decode These Diet Buzzwords?

Where Does Vitamin C Come From?

Unlike other animals, the human body doesn’t make vitamin C on its own, and it can’t store the nutrient for any period of time. That’s why it’s essential to get plenty of vitamin C through your diet or dietary supplements.

Vitamin C is naturally found in foods such as:

  • Oranges and citrus fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Kale

You can also get vitamin C from supplements that come in many forms, from chewables to effervescent tablets to gummies.

Learn more about nutrition services at UPMC. 

Which Is Better: Supplement or Food?

There doesn’t seem to be a significant difference in vitamin C benefits between consuming it in a supplement versus in whole foods. In both cases, the nutrient comes from ascorbic acid. As long as you’re getting enough vitamin C (the National Institutes of Health recommend 75-90 milligrams per day for adults), both forms provide the same level of health benefits.

However, fruits and vegetables can lose some of their potency when they’re cooked. To get enough vitamin C, try to eat raw, uncooked foods with vitamin C. If these foods aren’t part of your daily diet, you might consider taking a vitamin supplement to make up the difference.

What Are the Benefits of Vitamin C?

Your body needs vitamin C for all of the following:

  • Maintaining muscles, tendons, and blood vessels
  • Healing wounds
  • Repairing and maintaining teeth, bones, and cartilage
  • Absorbing iron

Vitamin C benefits also include helping your immune system to function properly and helping your skin recover from sunburn.

Although we tend to turn to vitamin C when we feel a cold coming on, there’s little evidence that vitamin C can prevent colds altogether. Regular vitamin C intake can help make viruses shorter or less severe, though it won’t stop them altogether, according to the NIH. Vitamin C taken after the onset of cold or flu symptoms likely will not provide any benefit.

You should ensure you’re getting plenty of vitamin C, because your body can’t stay healthy without it. But when it comes to preventing colds and the flu, it’s best to wash your hands often, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Make sure you get plenty of rest and water, and maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle.

To learn more about vitamin C and its benefits, find a doctor at UPMC.