Plant based Vitamin C vs. Ascorbic Acid

A bunch of oranges growing on a farm.

Vitamin C is Vitamin C right? Not really. To borrow a phrase from renowned food author, Michael Pollan: eat food; not too much; mostly plants. Whether our concern is for the health of the individual consumer, or the health of our planet, not all Vitamin C is created equal.

Made-for-retail ascorbic acid is one of the many products we get from genetically modified corn. In the process, the “contaminants” are disposed of as much as possible to ensure that the end product is close to pure as possible. When Vitamin C is coming directly from plant sources such as Amla (aka Indian gooseberry, aka Emblica officianalis), the fruit is kept intact. Because of this, the plant can provide many other benefits than just vitamin C. In your body, swelling and redness are caused by naturally occurring chemicals known as free radicals. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and their harmful effects. 

What does plant-based vitamin C have on ascorbic acid? They are great sources of bioflavonoids (vitamin C enhancers) and other antioxidants. When researchers measured the bioflavonoid content of this plant, they found it had:

  • Quercitin    28 mg/100gm
  • Rutin          3.89 mg/100 gm
  • Gallic acid 2.10 mg/100 gm

Quercitin, gallic acid, and rutin are all compounds called bioflavonoids that are found in a lot of the fruits and vegetables that have vitamin C. Along with boosting antioxidants, they support healthier blood flow and are used to help with allergy relief. 

All of these naturally occurring ingredients, in combination with vitamin C can help balance healthy inflammation levels in your body. After an injury or intense exercise,  the human body produces proteins that increase redness and swelling. These are called cytokines. Levels of these chemicals were significantly lower in animals fed an amla extract. While over the counter (OTC) products reduce inflammation effectively, they commonly have side effects on the cardiovascular system and on the stomach that are less likely to occur when using plant source vitamin C products.

Ascorbic acid is a good source of cheap vitamin C but without the cofactors that nature has included to create beneficial synergies for your body. These cofactors are not there by chance. Plant source vitamin C provides your body with a wide array of health supporting properties that will give your health a boost. So eat more oranges and broccoli (yes, broccoli is high in vitamin C,) or go find an amla supplement for a more potent source!