Vitamin C: For more than just the immune system!
We all know that vitamin C is good for our immune system, but did you know that it has SO many other amazing health benefits?? If you thought this vitamin was only important when you’re sick, keep reading to discover a whole host of other benefits and learn why it is a vitamin you should focus on getting enough of every day.
Properties of Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it dissolves in water and does not need fat to be absorbed into the body (unlike the vitamins A, D, E & K). Being water-soluble also means it has a very low risk of toxicity since anything your body doesn’t need can simply be expelled in the urine. Vitamin C is heat and light sensitive, so cooking it at high temperatures or exposing it to light for long periods of time will reduce its content in foods.
Amazing Benefits of Vitamin C
Here are 8 surprising benefits of Vitamin C:
- Heals wounds & supports healthy gums and teeth. Vitamin C is required for collagen production, which is an important protein used to make skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels and also aids in building scar tissue for wound support.
- Supports the adrenal system & stress response. The adrenal glands are responsible for producing hormones that help regulate everything from metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, and stress response. The adrenal glands are also one of the organs with the highest concentration of vitamin C. Vitamin C is used up much more rapidly during times of stress (both physical and mental), so getting enough can play an important role in supporting these processes.
- Aids in the absorption of iron. Iron deficiency contributes to anemia which can be dangerous on many levels. Vitamin C is proven to help increase iron absorption and can be especially helpful for people prone to anemia, such as children, pregnant women, people with malabsorption, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Try pairing vitamin C rich foods with iron-rich ones such as meats, eggs, beans, poultry, etc.
- Serves as a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C helps fight against free radicals from things like pollution and other toxins. A buildup of free radicals leads to a condition known as oxidative stress, which is linked to the development of many chronic diseases. Vitamin C can therefore help prevent oxidative stress and protect against disease.
- Supports the immune system. While research does not suggest that vitamin C can prevent the common cold, it may help reduce its severity and duration by up to about 14%. Because it helps with the production of white blood cells, it can also help prevent or fight again infection.
- Helps manage and prevent gout attacks. Gout is a type of painful arthritis that develops when uric acid gets built up in the blood. Vitamin C helps lower levels of uric acid, leading to symptom relief or prevention.
- Supports heart health. It does this both by helping to lower blood pressure, as well as reducing atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the arteries. Vitamin C deficiency is also linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
- May support gut health.
Where do we get it?
Vitamin C is naturally present in many foods and is also commonly taken as a supplement. If you thought vitamin C was only found in oranges, keep reading! In addition to citrus fruits, here are some of the other top food sources:
- Tomatoes & tomato juice
- Bell peppers
- Chili peppers
- Kiwi & other tropical fruits (papaya, mango, etc)
- Berries (especially strawberries)
When it comes to supplements, there are lots of options to choose from. It is better to supplement with smaller doses more than one time a day rather than taking mega doses (ie 1,000mg or more) all at once, since this will aid in better absorption in the body.
Vitamin C can come in different supplement forms. Buffered vitamin C is believed to be easier on the stomach and makes it easier for individuals with sensitive or compromised digestive systems to take a higher amount of vitamin C. Buffered vitamin C supplements usually also provides the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Vitamin C can also be paired with something called bioflavanoids (or simply “flavanoids”) which are another type of antioxidant that helps the absorption & usability of vitamin C in the body.
Be careful with taking too much vitamin C, since anything above 2,000mg/day may lead to symptoms of nausea and diarrhea.
How much do we need?
Here’s the current recommended daily intakes:
Children up to age 13: between 15-50mg
Teen boys: 75mg
Teen girls: 65mg
Adult males (age 19+): 90mg
Adult females (age 19+): 75mg
Pregnant women: 85mg
Breastfeeding women: 120mg
Keep in mind, though, that these are all minimum daily requirements and that getting much higher intakes may lead to more health benefits.
Vitamin C is such an important nutrient that we all should be aiming to get enough of every day. While supplementing during times of illness may be the most common go-to, there are so many other great benefits!
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