Vitamin C is another micronutrient that’s vital for keeping our bodies healthy. Because it is not a nutrient the human body can produce, we must consume Vitamin C every day in our diet or from dietary supplements.
What is Vitamin C
Vitamin C—also known as ascorbic acid—is a water-soluble vitamin found in an abundant number of vegetables and fruits, primarily citrus fruits, but can also be consumed via dietary supplements.
This micronutrient plays an important role in several vital body functions, which is why it needs to be consumed daily. These include supporting a healthy immune system, keeping bones strong, aiding in healing, helps in iron absorption, functioning as an antioxidant, and promoting healthy aging.
6 Benefits of Vitamin C
1. Healthy immune system support
Vitamin C is involved in many parts of the immune system.
First, vitamin C helps encourage the production of white blood cells (i.e., lymphocytes and phagocytes) and essential antibodies. These cells help protect the body against infections and illnesses (1).
Even further, vitamin C is a key component of the body’s first line of defense to disease and infection—the skin (and mucus membranes), which is discussed further below.
2. Aids in healing and tissue repair
Vitamin C is essential for the growth, skin strengthening and defense, and repair of tissue all over the body due to its contribution to collagen production. Collagen is a key protein for of skin tissue construction.
This way, vitamin C keeps our skin strong, but also helps to heal tissue wounds (2). Research has shown a higher intake of Vitamin C is associated with faster wound healing.
3. Keeps bones strong
Like in healing and tissue repair, vitamin C’s role in collagen production is also vital of bone mineralization, maintenance, and repair. However, collagen is also found in not only bone, but also teeth and cartilage (2).
Studies have shown an increased intake of vitamin C is linked to higher bone density (3). Older individuals, who naturally have lower bone density and are at higher risk for breakage and fracture, will want to increase their supplementation of vitamin C to increase density.
4. Helps to absorb and store Iron
Iron is an important nutrient for several functions in the body, including making red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body. However, some food sources of iron, like those found in plants, is poorly absorbed by the digestive system. Vitamin C helps convert these certain forms of iron into one that is easily absorbed by the body (1).
5.Functions as an antioxidant
As an antioxidant, vitamin C can help protect your cells against the effects of molecules called free radicals.
Free radicals are produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to harmful tobacco smoke or radiation. (4) This occurs by Vitamin C aids the protection of white blood cells (i.e., lymphocytes and phagocytes) from the damage free radicals can cause (1).
It’s antioxidant properties also assist in maintaining skin health. Vitamin C is actively transported to the skin where it help strengthen the skin’s barriers and promote its natural regeneration process (1).
6. Promotes healthy aging
To keep bodily systems running at top shape as we age, it’s important to maintain an adequate intake of vital nutrients that contribute to these systems is essential. Vitamin C being one of those nutrients.
As discussed above, vitamin C is a key component of many body functions including maintaining a healthy immune system, keeping bones strong, aiding in healing and iron absorption, and functioning as an antioxidant, which all promote healthy aging over the lifetime.
Additionally, high vitamin C intake has been linked to a lowered risk of cataracts, blood sugar stabilization for those with diabetes, increase heart health and function, reduced cholesterol levels, and help in preventing gout—all of which are common complications of aging. (5)
What is the daily requirement of Vitamin C
What are the best sources of Vitamin C?
Because Vitamin C is a vital nutrient, it’s important to meet the suggested intake recommendations every day via diet or dietary supplement.
As mentioned, vitamin C found primarily in citrus fruits, but is also in an abundant number of other fruits and vegetables. These include strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, kale and spinach (1).
However, fruits and vegetables lose vitamin C when heated or stored for long periods of time. To get the most nutrients, you must eat them as soon as possible after shopping and consider steaming or microwaving vegetables for short periods of time to limit nutrient loss. (2)
Consult with a healthcare professional to discuss if you are consuming an adequate amount of vitamin C through your daily diet.
If you are having difficulties meeting your vitamin C daily intake requirements through your diet, supplements are also recommended. Vitamin C can be found in most multivitamins, but is also available alone as a dietary supplement or in combination with other nutrients. The vitamin C in dietary supplements is usually in the form of ascorbic acid, but some supplements have other forms, such as sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, other mineral ascorbates, and ascorbic acid with bioflavonoids. However, no one form has been proven to be more effective than the other (6)
Author: Allison Lansman, RDN, LD