Vitamin C may be one of the most important vitamins you could take. It helps protect our immune system, helps prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke, prevents prenatal health problems and may even be a link to helping to cure and prevent cancer – just to name a few.
But what else can it do?
Why do we need vitamin C?
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for many animals, including humans. Also, known as ascorbic acid, it is vital for the growth and repair of every tissue in our body. It functions as an antioxidant by helping our body fight off harmful free radical molecules, which when accumulated in our body can contribute to the development of many diseases including cancer and arthritis.
Besides being a key player in our immune health, vitamin C also aids in the absorption of iron, production of collagen, maintenance of our bones and teeth, maintenance of cartilage, and improves wound healing.
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Vitamin C has been shown to help reduce stress by aiding in the reduction of cortisol levels in our body. Cortisol is released from our adrenal glands when our body is in a state of stress, which can weaken our immune system, decrease cognitive performance, decrease muscle tissue, increase visceral fat, and suppress thyroid function.
Some studies have found that participants who took 1,000mg of vitamin C per day showed a reduction in their cortisol levels, therefore helping to reduce the negative effects stress has on their health. In individuals who smoke, drink, and who are obese, vitamin C is one of the first minerals depleted from the body, which makes it a fairly good marker for evaluating overall health.
Most people think vitamin C will help prevent the common cold, which studies have shown is actually not true, but what it has been shown to do is shorten the length of someone’s cold and prevent further complications such as pneumonia and lung infections.
Vitamin C has also been shown to help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. In fact, one study found that individuals with a higher level of vitamin C in their blood had a 42% lower risk of having a stroke.
While the exact reason for this is unclear, it may be related to the fact that those who consume higher levels of vitamin C also typically consume higher amounts of other beneficial nutrients such as fiber and other minerals.
Vitamin C not only benefits your internal health but can also help with your external health and appearance. Because our skin is actually the largest organ in our body, it makes sense that if vitamin C helps with all of our internal organs that it would also show improvements in our skin. When compared with our other organs, our skin actually has the highest levels of vitamin C present.
Vitamin C aids in the production of collagen, which helps your skin appear full and plump. Supplementing your diet with vitamin C has been shown to help prevent wrinkles, prevent oxidative damage from the sun’s rays, and prevent skin from becoming discolored and dry.
Supplement your health
In order to help ensure they are truly experiencing all of its benefits, many people increase their intake of vitamin C their diet by taking a supplement. Vitamin C is available in pill form, topical cream, and even intravenously.
Vitamin C is one of the safest supplements to take because it is water soluble, meaning that any excess amount that your body does not need is excreted from your body. Even though the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of Vitamin C is only 75-90mg, the majority of studies involving supplementation of Vitamin C are using a dose of 500mg daily.
While overdose is not much of a concern since an excess of the vitamin is excreted, it is still not recommended to exceed more than 2,000mg daily as very high doses like this can cause stomach upset and diarrhea. In order to help prevent these side effects, you can buy a non-acidic and buffered form of the supplement.
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Eating your dosage
Even though it may be easier to just take a pill to get in your daily amount of vitamin C, it is always recommended to try to get the majority of your intake from whole fruits and vegetables. When you eat a lot of different fruits and veggies, you are not only getting the vitamin C but also all of the other vitamins and minerals they provide.
The American Dietetic Association recommends eating nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day, but only about 10-20% of adults actually eat this amount. Some foods that are a good source of vitamin C include cantaloupe, broccoli, orange juice, red cabbage, bell peppers, kiwi, and tomato juice.
In order to help incorporate these foods into your diet, or to help sneak some extra vitamin C into your loved one’s meals, here are a few tips:
• Puree raw fruits and veggies and add them to your everyday recipes for muffins, meatloaf, soups, and more
• Choose raw veggies with hummus or salsa as a snack
• Add vegetable juice or veggies to your morning protein fruit smoothie for added vitamin C without the veggie taste
• Add fresh fruit to your muffins, pancakes, cereal, and oats
• Fill wraps and sandwiches with lots of vegetables and leafy greens
• Cut up fruits and vegetables and divide into individual baggies for a quick and healthy snack on the go
Even with taking enough vitamin C every day, remember that it’s not a magical cure for all your health ailments.
While you may experience a lot of the benefits listed above when you start taking an extra dose of vitamin C daily, overall health is still based off of a diet high in mineral and micronutrients, daily exercise, and focus on getting enough rest and self-care. To help fight infection and prevent illness, live a well-balanced lifestyle, oh – and wash your hands often.
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