Acting as an antioxidant may be one of the most important health benefits of vitamin C. Its health benefits to the cardiovascular system are many. As an antioxidant it protects LDL cholesterol from free radical damage (damaged LDL may lead to heart disease) and may also protect against hardening of the arteries (Atherosclerosis). Recent studies have shown it to improve nitric oxide activity. This is potentially important in lowering blood pressure and stopping spasms of the arteries in the heart that could help prevent heart attacks.
What Is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is important to many bodily functions. Because it is water-soluble, unused portions of this nutrient are excreted from the body in the urine; for this reason, a constant supply of vitamin C from external sources is needed. This vitamin is available from a wide range of food sources, including melon, citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, greens, and a variety of other fruits and vegetables. Many cereals and other processed foods are fortified with vitamin C, as well, although it is not clear how much of the nutrient is absorbed from these sources.
How Does Vitamin C Help to Promote Good Health?
Vitamin C is essential to numerous metabolic and restorative processes. It is used to form proteins that are needed to grow and repair tissues such as skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels; it also works alongside calcium to build and maintain bones, teeth, and cartilage. In addition, this nutrient is necessary for healing wounds and forming scar tissue, and it helps to build collagen, which is needed for maintaining healthy, wrinkle-free skin.
Vitamin C is also one of several antioxidants, nutrients that block the effects of environmental contaminants known as free radicals. These harmful agents have been linked to cancer and other life-threatening diseases; maintaining a good source of vitamin C has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing these conditions.
What Does Deficiency of Vitamin C Lead to?
When there is a deficiency of vitamin C in the body, various problems can arise.
A shortage of vitamin C may result in hemorrhages under the skin and a tendency to bruise easily, poor wound healing, weakness, poor digestion, bleeding gums and loose teeth.
Low levels of vitamin C have been associated with a variety of conditions including hypertension, gallbladder disease, stroke, some cancers.
Edema (water retention) also takes place due to a shortage of vitamin C, along with painful joints, bronchial infection and colds.
Scurvy is the only disease that is treated with vitamin C.
During the therapeutic use of this vitamin, the dosage is usually increased significantly, but the toxicity level must be kept in mind.
The average (Recommended dietary allowance) RDA is 60-80mg, per day.
For adolescents it is 80 mg, 75 mg for adults, 100 mg during pregnancy and 150 mg during lactation.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is 60 to 90 milligrams per day. Men should consume more vitamin C than women and individuals who smoke cigarettes are encouraged to consume 35 more mg of vitamin C than average adults. This is because smoking depletes vitamin C levels in the body and is a catalyst for biological processes, which damage cells.
What Are Deficiency Symptoms of Vitamin C in a Person?
Symptoms of scurvy, the vitamin C deficiency disease include:
- Bleeding gums (gingivitis) and skin discolouration due to ruptured blood vessels.
- Poor wound healing.
- Weak immune function, including vulnerability to cold and other infections.
Sources of Vitamin C
Eating a variety of foods that contain vitamin C is the best way to get the required amount each day.
Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet do not need Vitamin C supplements.
Since the body does not produce vitamin C, it must be obtained from fruits and vegetables. Some excellent sources of vitamin C are oranges, olives, guava, green peppers, watermelon, papaya, strawberry, kiwi fruit, mango, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, and citrus juices or juices fortified with Vitamin C.
Amla or the Indian gooseberry is one of the richest sources of Vitamin C, whether fresh or the dried, powdered form.
Raw and cooked leafy greens (turnip, spinach), red and green peppers, fresh tomatoes, potatoes, pineapple are also rich sources of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is sensitive to light, air, and heat, so it is best to eat fruits and vegetables raw, or minimally cooked in order to retain their full vitamin C content.
List of Foods Rich in Vitamin C:
- ½ cup of colored peppers: 101-144
- ½ cup of green peppers: 63
- ½ cup chopped broccoli: 54
- 1 cup of red cabbage: 54
- 4 brussel sprouts: 50
- ½ cup of kohlrabi: 47
- ½ cup of snow peas: 41
- ½ cup of cauliflower: 28
- ½ cup of kale: 28
- ½ cup of rapini: 24
- 1 medium sized potato: 21
- ½ cup of bok choy: 23
- 1 medium sized sweet potato: 22
- 6 spears of asparagus: 22
- ½ cup of turnip tops (greens): 21
- ½ cup of collard greens: 18
- 1 medium sized tomato: 16
- ½ cup of tomato sauce: 15
- 1 regular guava fruit: 206
- 1 large papaya: 188
- 1 grapefruit: 95
- 1 large kiwi: 84
- 1 medium sized orange: 75
- 10 lychees: 69
- 1 mango: 58
- 1 avocado: 52
- ½ cup strawberries (not chopped): 52
- ½ cup pineapple (chopped): 45
- 1 clementine: 36
- ½ cup of cantaloupe: 31
- ½ cup of fortified juices (apple, orange, grape, grapefruit, pineapple): 29-70
- ½ cup of soursop: 25
- 1 medium tangerine: 22
- ½ cup of persimmon: 17
- ½ cup of berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries): 17
How to Prepare and Store Foods to Retain Vitamin C
Vitamin C can be lost from foods during preparation, cooking, or storage. To prevent loss of vitamin C:
- Serve fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible.
- Steam, boil, or cook foods in a very small amount of water, or microwave them for the shortest time possible.
- Cook potatoes in their skins. Be sure to wash off the dirt on the outside of the potato.
- Refrigerate prepared juices and store them for no more than two to three days.
- Store cut and raw fruits, vegetables in an airtight container and refrigerate – do not soak or store in water. Vitamin C gets dissolved in the water. Consumption of vitamin C rich foods in their fresh, raw form is the best way to maximize vitamin C intake.
What Are the Health Benefits of Vitamin C?
People with diabetes don’t produce as much insulin as non-diabetics. Insulin pushes vitamin C into our cells where it does all its work. Low levels of circulating vitamin C, combined with low insulin levels means diabetics are more susceptible to the effects of free-radical damage. Vitamin C also reduces glycosylated hemoglobin levels (sugar adhering to red blood cells) which causes slow wound healing, high blood pressure, neuropathy and numerous other health problems.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C prevents cataracts, which are caused by sunlight, to cloud up our eyes. A healthy human eye will contain loads of concentrated vitamin C; poor intake is one of the leading causes of cataracts, next to excessive sun exposure.
Asthma is a disease resulting from excessive inflammation in the lungs and airways. Vitamin C controls inflammation and has proved instrumental in treating and preventing symptoms (1). Asthmatics can benefit from doses of 1000-2000 mg daily.
Because “C” reduces oxidative stress on cells and reduces inflammation, adequate levels in the body will also promote faster healing than would occur with those with poor dietary intake of the vitamin.
Free radical damage inside the walls of our arteries leaves them vulnerable to plaque, which is caused by circulating cholesterol and fatty acids forming together (i.e., arteriosclerosis). Vitamin C is beneficial to prevent plaque formation and also helps to reduce it when plaque has already begun.
Cancer Prevention & Treatment
Cancer is caused by cumulative oxidative stress in the areas of the body affected by cancers of all kinds. Vitamin C is directly responsible for removing free radicals before they cause damage, making it essential for prevention and treatment of all types of cancer.
Obese people have lower levels of circulating vitamin C in their body; most likely due to a poor diet. Increasing your dose of vitamin C significantly lowers levels adiponectin, a fat-suppressing hormone shown to dramatically decrease waist circumference and over all body-mass-index numbers (2).
Our bodies do not manufacture vitamin C, putting it at the top of the list of 13 essential vitamins that we must get via diet to maintain optimal health. Anyone who’s taken a middle-school history class knows about scurvy (3) and its effects on early sea-farers, but many of the effects caused by deficiency today are silent killers, slowly robbing us of our health and youthful exuberance.
At the very least, consider taking a quality supplement, chelated or liquid form, to ensure optimal health – now and in the future.