As millions turned to vitamin C-rich foods and supplements to boost immunity during the pandemic, most had no idea they were setting themselves up for a slew of slimming side effects. Indeed, women have suddenly begun melting up to 11 pounds a week — a phenomenon that doesn’t surprise experts one bit. “We know people with the highest levels of vitamin C in their body burn more fat and weigh less,” confirms Arizona State University’s Carol Johnston, PhD, who has led dozens of studies on the nutrient.
Meanwhile, British scientists now have proof that a vitamin C diet helps women over 50 build more metabolism-boosting muscle. There’s also evidence the vitamin releases flab that accumulates when blood sugar is high. “Getting optimal amounts of C can be a game changer,” says top natural health expert Natasha Turner, MD. Of course, not everyone who increases their C gets lean. But there’s a breakthrough fix for that…
Turns out, vitamin C is water soluble, meaning as soon as it hits fluid in our GI tract, it begins to dissolve. “This allows it to enter cells quickly yet makes it hard to store,” explains Harvard-trained integrative physician Amy Shah, MD. If we consume a lot of C at once or take a traditional supplement, 50 percent or more is simply flushed away in our urine.
So here’s what scientists did: They put vitamin C in little bubbles of fat called liposomes to slow the nutrient’s breakdown. Better yet, they realized these bubbles end up sticking to cell membranes, so as C is gradually released, it’s pulled directly into cells. “That means much more gets absorbed,” notes Dr. Shah, author of I’m So Effing Tired: A Proven Plan to Beat Burnout,Boost Your Energy and Reclaim Your Life. The proof: A recent German study found liposomal supplements increase vitamin C in cells by a whopping 265 percent. The formulation works so much better, word spread quickly, causing all liposomal C supplements to sell out on Amazon!
How does a vitamin C diet work?
Neglecting her own health while caring for her sick mom, Lynn Jordan had a heart attack. “It was a wake-up call,” shares the Texas native. She joined a TOPS weight loss support group and got the free Lose It! app. “It helped me track what I was eating and make better choices,” she recalls. Looking at her food log, she realized that C-rich foods — citrus, mango smoothies, salsa, and more — seemed to shrink her appetite. So she made them staples, adding a C supplement for good measure. Her body began to transform. Chronic knee and hip aches eased, and cholesterol and blood sugar improved. She shed 100 pounds. “And it’s been painless,” says Lynn, 67. “I simply didn’t realize how good I could feel!”
Extensive testing at Arizona State has found vitamin C plays a key role in metabolism; one small study even found folks who reverse a C deficiency start burning 300 percent more fat. The vitamin also lets us make carnitine, an amino acid that builds muscle tissue, says Ailsa Welch, PhD, a nutrient researcher at England’s University of East Anglia. Her study determined that older women with the most C have the most muscle. And more muscle means burning more calories — even as we sleep.
There’s more: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect the body against damage linked to diabetes. In fact, in one six-week study, “a group given 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C experienced a significant decrease in blood sugar and insulin, while a group given less C saw no improvements,” reveals Dr. Turner, bestselling author of The Supercharged Hormone Diet. She adds that the hormone insulin often malfunctions, driving hunger and fat storage in our midsection. “Anything that lowers insulin will help control hunger, prevent cravings and eliminate belly fat.”
And a vitamin C diet isn’t just about slimming. It keeps immunity strong, plus lowers high blood pressure and cholesterol, regulates moods, and much more — there’s no downside to getting C up!
How much should you get each day?
“When I do blood tests, I find over 95 percent of women have less than optimal levels of C,” says Dr. Turner. “So almost everyone can benefit from a serving of C-rich foods at every sitting.” Best bets include citrus, bell peppers, tropical fruit, berries, cruciferous veggies, leafy greens, tomato, and sweet potato. Worth noting: C and blood sugar use the same “door” to get into cells, so a high-sugar diet lowers C absorption. It’s best to avoid added sugar and excess starch.
Want to try a supplement? The docs we spoke to typically recommend 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams a day (Buy on Amazon, $7.68). If you opt for a liposomal supplement, you can take your whole dose at once; for standard supplements, divide into two or three doses (Buy on Amazon, $18.97). Dr. Shah notes that folks who have C-depleting lifestyle factors like high stress or smoking may need more of the vitamin. Always speak to your doctor before taking any supplement to determine how much is right for you.
What does a vitamin C-rich day look like?
Here’s what a sample day with more vitamin C could look like:
BREAKFAST: Blitz one cup of frozen mango chunks, one banana, a quarter cup of coconut milk, and a spritz of lime; top with fruit, nuts and coconut.
LUNCH: Serve grilled chicken over a salad of baby spinach, red onion, and berries; top with avocado, feta, and a vinaigrette.
SNACK: Layer diced C-rich veggies like bell pepper, broccoli, cabbage, and kale with chickpeas and Greek yogurt dressing.
DINNER: Bake half-inch slices of sweet potato at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Use it as a C-rich “bun” for a burger or any sandwich.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.