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Ep67 – The Micronutrients Series: Water Soluble Vitamins Part 1 (Vitamin C)

Updated: Oct 27, 2023


Hello, hello, this is Katy Bradbury, a registered nurse and nutritional therapist. Today’s podcast episode is called The Micronutrient Series, Water Soluble Vitamins Part 1.


So welcome to today’s episode. I will cut straight to the chase today as we are moving swiftly through the micronutrient series. If you’re a regular listener, you will know that I have spent the last four episodes talking through the fat-soluble vitamins, which are vitamins A, D, E, and K, as they relate to both general health and also to fertility. So I’m moving on now, I’ve wrapped up the fat soluble vitamins, and I’m just gonna spend the next certainly two, probably three, possibly four episodes talking about the water soluble vitamins. And the reason I’m not sure exactly how many episodes this would take is that the B vitamins, so the water soluble vitamins are vitamin C, which is a relatively straightforward one that I’m going to talk to you about today, and then the B vitamins. But there are, in fact, eight different B vitamins. They all work synergistically, which is why they are clumped together. But they are all really important. I don’t think I’m going to spend a full nine, sorry, eight episodes go running through the B vitamins. I’m not going to do them with such a fine tooth comb because they are interrelated. But some of the B vitamins do deserve a bit of a spotlight in their own right, for example, B12 and folate B9. So I think I will probably do it over two, but possibly three episodes, the B vitamins.


But today, we’re keeping it simple, partly because I want to go and watch Glastonbury, and I’m going to go through vitamin C with you today.


So Vitamin C is a really important nutrient for fertility. It’s quite a well known one actually in the fertility sphere. So if you have been on your fertility journey for a little while, if you’ve been reading up if you’ve been doing some research if you’ve been thinking about possibly what supplements you should or shouldn’t be taking, then you might have come across or considered vitamin C already. Now, I’m not here to tell you whether or not you should be supplementing with vitamin C, as you know if you are a regular listener, and if you’re a first time listener, then I will introduce this concept to you right now, which is that I do not advise on supplements in the podcast. I don’t advise on supplements in the podcast. I don’t advise on supplements in my group programmes. And that is because it simply would not be appropriate for me to do so because everyone’s supplement needs are different. Everyone’s stresses and strains on their body are different. And the reasons why you should be taking any supplements are different and unique to you. So I’m not here to tell you whether you should or shouldn’t be supplementing with vitamin C, but I’m very happy to tell you that you can get a wonderful amount of vitamin C from the diet.


So Vitamin C is contained in most plant foods, so it’s really abundant in nature. The reason we need to get vitamin C from our food, unlike some other animals, such as dogs, for example, which synthesises their own vitamin C, we do not. So we need to obtain our vitamin C from vegetables and fruits, and plant foods. This is why some carnivorous mammals don’t need to eat fruit or vegetables because they synthesise their own vitamin C, so they don’t need it, but we do.


Now we first learned about the importance of vitamin C back in the days when we were doing a lot of sailing. And what was happening when we were doing a lot of the sailing was people getting scurvy. So the sailors were going out for months and months at a time. And after a short period of time, they would, of course, run out of fresh produce because they weren’t carrying fresh produce with them. They were relying on tinned preserved foods. Actually, I say tinned. I don’t know if they had tinned foods back then, but they certainly preserved foods. But they didn’t have refrigeration or anything like we do now. So dried foods, that kind of thing. So they quickly ran out of fresh foods, which meant they quickly ran out of vitamin C, and you can survive without vitamin C for a few months. But once you become truly deficient in vitamin C, it causes scurvy. And scurvy is when your collagen, which is basically responsible for supporting your connective tissue in your body, so your muscles, your joints, etc., start to degrade and even haemorrhage because your blood vessels can’t hold themselves together properly. We need collagen inside our bodies. I know that collagen is dubbed a bit of a modern superfood. I know that it’s considered in anti-ageing and all of these kinds of things, and absolutely, collagen is important for the elasticity of the skin, and we do produce it on our own because it’s really important for holding our muscles and blood vessels and tissues together. But we need to be able to synthesise that collagen from vitamin C. So Vitamin C is really important, we do really need it, but thankfully in the modern day, it’s very, very rare that people would actually get scurvy. But nonetheless, we can see how important it is.


So I’ve mentioned already, there I’ve given the game away, one of the main functions of vitamin C, which is the collagen synthesis and kind of working in a cofactor format, I guess, to help with collagen synthesis. It’s also really important for brain health. So Vitamin C helps to produce certain neurotransmitters in the brain, so it really supports the nervous system, specifically Serotonin. Serotonin is known as the happy hormone. It’s quite calming Serotonin, and it helps to relieve stress and anxiety. So we need vitamin C in order to produce Serotonin properly. We also need great gut health to produce Serotonin properly because the majority of our Serotonin is actually produced in the gut. So that’s just a little random side note.


So neurotransmitter brain health, nervous system collagen, you’re maybe starting to get a picture for why some of these things might be important for fertility, but I will expand. The third major function of vitamin C is that it is best known as an antioxidant. So I’ve spoken already about antioxidants. I mentioned already about the antioxidant properties of vitamin E, and I covered vitamin E and vitamin A as well. There are lots and lots of antioxidants. So lots of phytochemicals, Polyfinos have antioxidant properties that you might have heard of. Components of things like green tea and resveratrol, and I mean there are tones there are tonnes of antioxidants, but Vitamin C is a really potent one. And the lovely thing about antioxidants, or the important thing to remember about antioxidants, I should say, is that it’s important to have a mix of both fat soluble and water soluble antioxidants. So when I spoke about vitamin E, that’s a great example of a fat soluble antioxidant which is super important for fertility but equally is the water soluble too, so Vitamin C is a really great example of a water soluble antioxidant.


Now antioxidants are really important for fertility because they help to reduce oxidative stress. So any kind of stress on the body that comes from exposure to chemicals, bad diet, processed foods, anything that our body just doesn’t enjoy having and that needs to be processed out of the body, we need antioxidants in order to do that. So factors such as, I’m not a big fan of this term if you know me already, but for want of a better phrase, advanced maternal age, or anyone who’s tried to get pregnant in their late 30s into their 40s, you might have been told that the health of your gametes, so your egg health, your sperm health can deteriorate with age. I’ve certainly done podcast episodes on those things before, so do go back and listen to the podcasts that I’ve done specifically around egg health and sperm health. But certainly, age, any kind of disease in the body, any unhealthy lifestyle, environmental pollutants, or anything like that can increase oxidative stress in the body. When we have oxidative stress, it can create reactive oxygen species (ROS). So some of you might have heard about that in the context of sperm health, and you can actually look at that and check the levels of ROS in the sperm, but it’s the antioxidants, so it’s these lovely sources of dietary antioxidants that help to keep that oxidative stress at bay and counter the negative effects of them.


So those are the main functions of vitamin C, and possibly the most important one around fertility is the antioxidant properties. Again, specifically around fertility, Vitamin C is essential for hormone production and ovulation. It, Oopsy daisy, I just dropped my phone. I’m not going to bother editing that out, so apologies, so it supports the adrenal glands as well. Vitamin C helps normal adrenal function, and if you’re not sure what I’m talking about when I say adrenal function, please do go back and listen to the episode I did on the HPOAT axis again if that was complete gibberish to you. Just go back and listen to the episode, and it will all make sense, but really important stuff as far as fertility is concerned. So it supports sperm health and DNA in the sperm. There have been research studies linking vitamin C supplementation with improved sperm motility, sperm count and morphology, and it is also suggested that again, vitamin C supplementation, there has been a study that links it to when taken three months links it to reducing the damage of DNA. Sorry, the level of DNA damage in the sperm, as well. So definitely important for male fertility. For egg and vaginal health, it’s a key component in follicular fluid and also a key component for the corpus luteum, which is what is leftover of a follicle. So after a follicle releases an egg, it’s the corpus luteum that is left behind, and it’s that which is responsible for secreting most of the progesterone in the luteal phase, which is important for allowing a pregnancy to progress. So lots of layers to that, really. It also works really well with Vitamin E. So it works synergistically with vitamin E, and it’s been shown together with Vitamin E to help support endometrial lining as well and also to counteract ovarian ageing, both in terms of number and quantity, that’s in a mouse study that last one.


So quite a lot of layers there, really. You can understand when you think about the powerful antioxidant effects of vitamin C. You can understand all of the positive impacts that it has across the sphere, as far as fertility goes. So very, very interesting. Does it mean that you should run out and shove as much vitamin C as you can down you? Well, that is not for me to say. But I will say that vitamin C, you can only tolerate so much of it. So if you start to shovel vitamin C down your throat, you may notice that after a little while, you get loose stools because you can only take so much you excrete out what you don’t need out of vitamin C. However, if you build up too much in one go, then you might get a rather funny tummy, so I will just put that out there to warn you.


The thing that I love about vitamin C, as I alluded to at the start of the episode, is that it is found in abundance in nature. So it is actually really easy to get. If you’re following a good diet and following a lot of the dietary principles that I recommend around a Mediterranean diet and, you know, filling up your plate with 50% vegetables, then you’re gonna be getting a good amount of vitamin C in your diet, and dietary sources of nutrients should always come first. So some of the best sources of vitamin C we often think of citrus fruit. That is not a myth. It’s true that citrus fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C. However, one of my biggest bugbears is people saying, Oh yeah, drink a load of orange juice, and you’ll get your Vitamin C. I’m sighing because there’s just so much ill-informed diet advice out there, and I hear this one all the time actually, which is one of the final things I wanted to mention about the benefits of vitamin C which I haven’t done already is that it is also really important for iron absorption. So for people who have low iron or are having to supplement with iron for whatever reason, it’s often recommended that they have that iron alongside vitamin C to help the body actually be able to utilise that iron. But the advice that that comes in a lot of the time, a lot of the time for medical professionals as well, is Oh, here you go, take this iron tablet and buy some orange juice and have it with orange juice, and that will help. No no! Shop-bought orange juice is heat-treated, for the most part, and the thing about Vitamin C is it is super unstable. So anything like heat, air and time, so if you have an orange, for example, if you were having chopped orange and you’ve cut it open and the longer you leave it, so if you chop your orange into slices and then went and had a bath and then came down and ate your orange, the vitamin C content of that orange would have significantly reduced already. If you have orange juice that has been heat-treated to make that carton of vitamin c (post-recording note – I meant orange juice) that you might get, you’re not going to have a huge amount of vitamin C in there; I’m afraid to say. Freshly squeezed orange juice, yes, absolutely. Freshly cut oranges, absolutely. Lemons, limes, you name it, are all great sources of vitamin C, but the fresher, the better.


Another great source of vitamin C in the plant world, papaya, is a great source, probably the highest source of vitamin C. So one medium papaya will actually get you almost 170 milligrammes of vitamin C, which is great. But who eats papaya that often? No, I certainly don’t.


But things like bell peppers, your cruciferous veg, so broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and kale, they’re all great sources of vitamin C. Cabbage, bok choi, any kind of dark green leafy veg so any kind of dark greens so spinach, turnip greens, beet greens, mustard greens, collard greens, Swiss chard, all of those, they’re all good sources of vitamin C. The citrus fruit I’ve mentioned already, so oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit are all good. Berries as well are a lovely source of vitamin C. Pineapples. Kiwi is a great one, and kiwi is often one that I recommend for people who have a tendency towards constipation because there is some good research out there around having two Kiwis a day to help alleviate the impact of constipation. So if that is you, then you could be giving yourself a nice little double whammy through having some kiwis. So dark greens I’ve mentioned already, and that also includes parsley, tomatoes, also a nice source of vitamin C and also lycopene. So lycopene is another nutrient really important for sperm health Asparagus, sea vegetables, and then herbs such as fennel and thyme and squash. Berries, I’ve mentioned already watermelon, beans, carrots, plums, so many like, honestly, there’s, you know, the list of foods containing Vitamin C is long. But just think fresh plant foods.


If, like me, so, for example, one of my favourite things to do with vegetables for like really easy lunches is to roast them, because I just find it so easy to just chop up some veg, put them in the oven, and then I’ve got myself a nice lunch. The downside of that is that a lot of the vitamin C is going to dissipate from that. So if you want to really focus on your vitamin C intake, then raw veggies, say like salads and stuff like that, and nice and high in vitamin C. Or if you were roasting veggies, you might want to squeeze some lemons over, for example, to help bring some of that fresh vitamin C to the equation. Lightly steaming as well is, is fine.


So that’s vitamin C in a nutshell. I hope that’s been helpful. I will be back next week to talk about some of the B vitamins, not all of them in one go, but I hope to get started on the beginnings of the B vitamins next week.


So look forward to speaking to you then. If you have not joined my free Facebook group, by the way, please do. It’s called the same title as this podcast, fertility and the First 1000 days. I’ve loved it in that group recently because lots of my members who are in my low-cost membership, which is super accessible, and such a lovely, lovely group. We meet every week, we don’t actually have a designated Facebook group for ourselves, so lots of the ladies from there have been very kind in sharing food recipes and inspiration ideas within the Facebook group. So it’s a really cool place to be, actually. And there are some nice discussions. It’s a really lovely supportive space as well. So do come and join fertility and the first 1000 days on Facebook; love to see you there. And of course, as usual, please do get a star rating and leave a review for the show. A) to help me know who’s actually listening and who’s finding it helpful if you’re finding it helpful. And also, just to help it get bumped up in the charts a bit to help more people who need to hear this.


Alright, great speaking to you today. Have a fabulous week, and I’ll speak to you again next week. Take care

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