Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin well known for its role in supporting a healthy immune system. Because your body cannot make vitamin C, it must come from the foods you eat every day. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Vitamin C? Immunity, right? Do you also think of bright and juicy oranges and associate vitamin C with it? We do too! However, vitamin C has so many cool benefits within our body that most aren't aware of. Vitamin C is like the "superfood" of vitamins, and here's why.
Unlike other mammals, humans cannot produce vitamin C in our livers. We need to maintain adequate levels within our body through our foods and supplementation to prevent deficiencies, illness, and other health-related problems associated with low vitamin C levels.
A few wonders of Vitamin C
1. Antioxidant – One of my favourite reasons to take a vitamin C supplement is for its powerful antioxidant activity.
Vitamin C, as we know, is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants are essential in binding to the free radicals within our body and preventing illness, diseases, cancer, heart conditions, and much more. Vitamin C helps protect the body against oxidative stress while reducing cell damage and inflammation within the body.
2. Needed for healthy beautiful skin – We have already discussed how vitamin C is important for collagen production and as a powerful antioxidant – two very important factors for healthy skin.
And let’s not forget its role within the immune system – if you think of a skin wound, immune processes are in full swing here trying to fight potential skin infection. Vitamin C is one of the important nutrients for proper wound healing as well as zinc and vitamin E.
Vitamin C is transported by the blood to the skin and although vitamin C cannot be stored in the body, small concentrations of vitamin C have been found in the dermis and epidermis layers of the skin indicating its importance for skin health.
Scurvy is a disease of severe vitamin C deficiency. It presents with many different symptoms such as severe fatigue due to anaemia (see iron absorption below), gum disease and skin lesions that may bleed and are hard to heal.
Scurvy is one of the oldest known nutritional disorders and although not commonly seen, can be found in pockets of society where lack of fresh food is evident or where highly processed foods are consumed. Eating foods rich in vitamin c may help reduce the risk of scurvy.
3. May help with cardiovascular health – this important nutrient is a must for good cardiovascular health!
When it comes to our heart health, vitamin C again proves to be essential against preventing heart disease, high cholesterol levels, and even hypertension (high blood pressure). Vitamin C, as previously mentioned, helps fight against oxidative stress within the body while carrying oxygen in our blood vessels and preventing risks associated with blocked arteries and vessels.
4. Boosts your immune system – Vitamin C is needed by various immune functions. It is needed for the stimulation of white blood cell production, function and activity.
Immunity is where vitamin C shines. Alongside its potent antioxidant levels, vitamin C supports both our innate and adaptive immune system by supporting the cellular functions in both. Vitamin C helps increase our ability to fight off viruses and illnesses, reduce the time that we are sick, and support our immune system and lymphatic system daily. When our bodies have low levels of vitamin C, our immune system can be impaired, leaving us more susceptible to infections and illness.
5. Boosts absorption of iron – There are two types of iron, non-heme and heme iron.
Non-heme iron is found in plant based foods such as grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits and beans. Heme iron foods are red and white meat, seafood as well as some offal.
Non-heme iron is harder to absorb during digestion than heme iron. But vitamin C significantly increases the absorption of this type of iron. It must be consumed at the same time, so let’s say if you had a salad with spinach or kale leaves, you could add lemon juice and tomatoes to it to increase the non heme iron absorption within the digestive tract.
This is particularly important for vegetarians and vegans who might naturally have a lower amount of iron consumption in their diet.
6. Is an important nutrient for collagen production – Collagen is an integral part of connective tissue within the body – found in cartilage, ligaments and tendons.
But also in found in blood vessels, digestive tract, teeth of course skin and eyes, muscles, bone and bone marrow.
Collagen is made up of important amino acids found in the protein we eat. Collagen is continuously made within the body depending on our own personal needs such as growth, tissue repair and joint care.
As we age, the ability to make collagen slows down – hence the wrinkles in our skin! – But also may contribute towards joint degradation and aches or poor hair growth.
Vitamin C is an important nutrient needed for the enzyme reaction needed to make collagen. Therefore any deficiency in vitamin C will directly impact on the body’s ability to make collagen.