From healing wounds to boosting your immune system, vitamin C offers multiple benefits.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an essential role in your health. Moreover, our body does not produce it, so we must obtain it through food.
You probably already know a bit about vitamin C. It’s found in oranges, right? Yes. And it can help you overcome a cold, right? Something like that. You’re on the right track, but vitamin C offers so much more. What is Vitamin C?
Additionally, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the body against cell damage and plays an important role in tissue growth, wound healing, and maintaining a strong immune system.
Health Benefits of Vitamin C
Fights cell damage and disease
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, present in certain foods. You can think of antioxidants as invisible superheroes inside your body. Their main job is to protect you from free radicals or unstable molecules that can damage your cells, cause oxidative stress, increase signs of aging, etc.
The accumulation of free radicals is associated with a risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis. So, eating foods high in antioxidants, such as those high in vitamin C, can help protect your body against free radical damage.
It protects your eyes
Vitamin C is thought to help prevent cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a condition that causes loss of central vision.
Studies have shown mixed results, but we do know that vitamin C works as an antioxidant for cells in the retina and macular region of the eye.
Improves iron absorption
Some plant foods, like beans and spinach, contain iron (a type called non-heme iron), which is not completely absorbed by our bodies. But if you take it with vitamin C, you increase the bioavailability of non-heme iron, which means you absorb more of it.
Let’s say you’re making a spinach salad with strawberries on top. Spinach contains non-heme iron while strawberries are rich in vitamin C and if you eat them together, the vitamin C in strawberries helps your body absorb more iron from spinach.
It helps heal wounds
Vitamin C promotes the growth of collagen, which is an important part of your body’s healing process. Collagen is a protein that keeps our skin young.
It is one of the keys to proper healing of wounds, including cuts, scrapes and surgical incisions. People who don’t get enough vitamin C have been shown to recover more slowly than those who get the recommended amount.
Other potential benefits
Science never stops. There are always studies being done to uncover new health information, including the many roles vitamin C plays in our bodies. Here are some other potential vitamin C benefits, although more research is needed on each:
It can help you recover quickly: Contrary to what you may have heard, vitamin C cannot prevent you from getting sick (sorry). But it can still help. Some studies show that it may help reduce the severity and duration of colds and flu and possibly reduce the risk of further complications.
May improve heart health: Vitamin C may help prevent and treat cardiovascular disease, including stroke. However, studies to date are conflicting, so researchers still can’t say for sure how effective it might be.
Signs of vitamin C deficiency
Most people get enough vitamin C in their daily diet. But malnutrition, alcohol use disorders, smoking, and eating disorders can all lead to low vitamin C levels.
Not consuming enough vitamin C is quite rare, but in some cases people can be deficient in it. This can lead to scurvy, a severe form of deficiency which, although rare in Western countries, occurs more often in people living in extreme poverty and/or those who are malnourished.
The dangers of too much vitamin C
If you get vitamin C from food, you generally don’t need to consume more than you need because the body doesn’t store it, but actually excretes the excess. The upper limit for vitamin C supplements is 2,000 mg per day. At doses higher than this, you may experience side effects such as:
Cramps and/or stomach pain.
At very high levels, you put a strain on your kidneys, which can lead to stone formation and, in extreme cases, kidney failure.
Should you take vitamin C supplements?
If you eat a balanced diet, you’re probably already getting enough vitamin C. For example, if you eat vegetables and fruit every day, you’ll get the recommended amount.
But if you’re worried that you’re not getting enough vitamin C (for example, if you smoke or don’t eat a lot of fruits and vegetables), ask your doctor if supplements are safe for you. The usual supplement dose is 500 mg per day, but a different amount may be recommended for you.