Everybody knows what Vitamin C is. Ever since we are little kids we are taught to get enough of it, hopefully through a balanced diet.
It was once thought to be the cure for the common cold (though it’s not proven) but the benefits of Vitamin C are far reaching. We know it commonly for things like improving skin health, healthier gums, and it seems it just helps us feel better.
What Is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and also available as a dietary supplement.
It is a must take: Humans, unlike most animals, are unable to synthesize vitamin C so it is an essential dietary component to add.
In the body, Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by things called free radicals.
Vitamin C Is An Antioxidant
If you take a trip down the vitamin aisle in a pharmacy or supermarket, you will notice that antioxidants are promoted as necessary for a healthy body.
Some products say that they are “high in antioxidants” or that they have “50% more antioxidants.”
Antioxidants are highly promoted by media, some physicians and dietitians, and nutritional industries for a variety of reasons. They are supposed to help slow the aging process or prevent a number of maladies.
Vitamin C is a great antioxidant and it helps with a number of things. Antioxidants help with body functions but it’s important to mention that they should only be taken in moderation.
Once it was thought that antioxidants were harmless, but researchers are learning that it might be possible to get too much of a good thing. Too big of a dose of antioxidants may have damaging side effects so you must remember to be careful.
Vitamin C Fights Free Radicals
One of the best functions or benefits of Vitamin C is that, as an antioxidant, it help combat free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy.
Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging.
The body generates hundreds of substances called “free radicals” when converting food to energy. Other free radicals are extracted from food or breathed in from the air, and some are generated by the sunlight’s action on the skin and eyes.
Once formed, these toxic compounds can start a chain reaction like dominoes.
Cells may function poorly or die. They can cause oxidative stress which is associated with more than 200 diseases.
It’s important to combat the free radicals. They are scavenger molecules missing an electron in their outer shells, so they will do anything to fill them, including stealing electrons from your body’s cellular structures. Such cellular thievery may damage DNA, proteins, and cell membranes and when these cells are damaged, your body is damaged, creating the foundation for disease and accelerated aging.
How To Stop Free Radicals
Free radicals are linked to aging and a host of diseases, but little is known about their role in human health, or how to prevent them from making people sick.
Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged.
Vitamin C is a good antioxidant for body health and for combating free radicals.
How Much Vitamin C Do We Need?
If you eat a balanced diet, it’s pretty easy to get enough vitamin C.
Adult women (who aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding) need 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day while adult men need 90 milligrams.
Pregnant women need 85 mg daily and for breastfeeding they need 120 mg.
Smokers, individuals who smoke, require 35 mg/day more vitamin C than nonsmokers.
There are many ways to get your required dose. For instance a 1/2 cup of raw red bell pepper or 3/4 cup of orange juice will do it, while 1/2 cup cooked broccoli gets you about halfway there.
It’s important to remember that your body doesn’t make or store vitamin C, so you have to eat it every day.
How Long Does Vitamin C Stay in the Body?
The body needs vitamin C but it doesn’t like too much. When ascorbic acid levels are high in the blood for a long period of time, the body tries to remove it by increasing the amount excreted in the urine. So if you take multiple large doses throughout the day (like every two hours), most will be either unabsorbed or quickly excreted.
Sources of Vitamin C
Since vitamin C is a must have then we want to know what are the sources of it. The best source is food, especially following a balanced diet.
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C. Things like Citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato juice, and potatoes are great contributors of vitamin C to your diet.
Other good food sources include red and green peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts and cantaloupe.
The vitamin C content of food may be reduced by prolonged storage or by cooking because ascorbic acid is water soluble and is destroyed by heat.
Preparing your food by steaming or microwaving may lessen cooking losses.
Fortunately, many of the best food sources of vitamin C, such as fruits and vegetables, are usually consumed raw so there are definitely easy ways to get your vitamin C.
Dietary Supplements for Vitamin C
Supplements typically contain vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid and are a popular way to get your dose.
Use of these vitamin C-containing supplements is relatively common and can add to the total vitamin C intake from food and beverages.
One Fun Fact:
According to 1999–2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, approximately 29% of children take some form of dietary supplement that contains vitamin C.
Vitamin C and Health
Due to its role as an antioxidant and in immune function, vitamin C has been promoted as a means to help prevent and treat numerous health conditions.
Some of its benefits are preventing immune system deficiencies and cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even wrinkled skin.
Research suggests that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with lower risk of most types of cancer, probably due to their high vitamin C content.
Because it helps with health and vitality and has antioxidant functions vitamin C can possibly decrease oxidative damage that can lead to cancer.
Most studies have found a convincing link between dietary vitamin C intake and reduction of cancers of the lung, breast, colon or rectum, stomach, oral cavity, larynx and esophagus.
Evidence from many studies suggests that high intakes of fruits and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
This fact could be partly attributable to the antioxidant content of these foods because oxidative damage is a major cause of cardiovascular disease.
Once again it points to the benefits of taking vitamin C.
The Common Cold
For a long time we thought that vitamin C might help with the common cold. In the 1970s Linus Pauling suggested that vitamin C could successfully treat and/or prevent the common cold.
One thing for sure is, although it hasn’t been proven conclusively, public interest in the subject remains high.
Learning about vitamin C and its benefits helps us plan our diet and regulate our health since vitamin C is a major player in the body’s overall health.
It’s good to know about and it’s not hard to fill our daily requirement of it.
Not getting enough vitamin C can have dreadful side effects and we know we are supposed to get our dose daily. It seems to brighten us up and is so useful in preventing damage and ailments that we really don’t want to get.
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