What Is Vitamin C?

We often think about vitamin C when we’re starting to get sick. As soon as we feel that telltale tickle in our throats or the first hints of a runny nose, we start eating oranges and drinking hot water with lemon to consume the most vitamin C possible.

We’ll leave debates about the effectiveness of this strategy for another time – today we want to ask, what about when you’re not sick? Do you ever think about the importance of maintaining adequate levels of vitamin C for your physical and mental wellbeing? We often overlook the importance of vitamin C, but this cheerful vitamin is good for a whole lot more than boosting our immune system.

What Is Vitamin C?

The National Institute for Health (NIH) explains the role of vitamin C in the body:

“Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient found in some foods. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy. People are also exposed to free radicals in the environment from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun.

The body also needs vitamin C to make collagen, a protein required to help wounds heal. In addition, vitamin C improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and helps the immune system work properly to protect the body from disease.”

How Much Do I Need?

Most healthcare professionals recommend 90mg of vitamin C daily for men, and 75 mg for women (pregnant women should take 85mg, and breastfeeding women 120mg).

If you’re a smoker, you want to add about 35 mg to these totals, to help counteract some of the damage smoking does to your cells. 

Vitamin C Deficiency

Severe vitamin C deficiency is rare in developed nations but consuming 10mg or less of vitamin C each day can eventually result in scurvy if not remedied. Scurvy can be fatal if left untreated and causes mouth sores, bleeding gums, tooth loss, depression, and anemia among other symptoms.

If you do get enough vitamin C, however, it can have huge benefits for your health and wellbeing.

Healthline explains some of the benefits of adequate vitamin C levels:

  • The antioxidant properties of vitamin C may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, especially those associated with inflammation.
  • May help fight high blood pressure
  • Reduces heart disease factors, which may reduce the risk of heart disease
  • May help prevent gout
  • Helps increase iron absorption and prevent iron deficiency
  • Protects memory and brain function
  • And, of course, boosts your immunity

[Adapted from Healthline]

It’s important to get your recommended daily amounts of vitamin C all year round – not just during cold and flu season!  Bump up your portions of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables and commit to supporting your physical wellbeing. You’re worth it!

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