Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and potent antioxidant that takes an active role in many of your body’s crucial functions. Most famously hailed as a preventative nutrient that helps stave off the cold and flu, vitamin C is taken in droves by the health-conscious everywhere. But this nutrient does more than help to curb a sneeze! A key contributor to the health of your gums, teeth, cartilage and capillaries, it’s plain to see that there’s more to vitamin C than citrus and immunity. Ready to see it flip out of incognito? Here are some things you should know about vitamin C.
It’s one of the key markers of overall health
Critical for fighting off the dangerous free-radicals we encounter on a daily, vitamin C is an important nutrient for optimal health. Though many plants and animals can make their own, humans are one of the only species who cannot. For this reason, vitamin C is an essential part of our diet. Since higher intake has been closely linked with lower incidence of disease, it has been widely speculated that a person’s levels of this nutrient are a good indicator of their health overall. And while deficiencies are rare, turns out vitamin C is one of the first nutrients to run dry in those who are smokers, consume alcohol, are obese and are stressed.
It’s got your skin coveredWith antioxidant functions in tow, vitamin c glows to the top of beauty nutrients. Not only has it been proven to help reduce inflammation in the skin, but it also regulates the synthesis of the structural protein collagen, playing a major role in its production. Vitamin C has also been credited for its hand in preventing photoaging, which is the premature aging of skin due to UV rays.
It can help slow macular degenerationAlmost all of the cells in your body depend on vitamin C, including those in your eyes. In fact, the cells in your eyes actually need vitamin C in order to function properly. Vitamin C intake lowers the risk of developing cataracts, which can be triggered by lifestyle factors like smoking, diabetes and steroid use, which all deplete your vitamin C stores. People at risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration, which is a degenerative condition that targets the central part of the retina for vision loss and distortion, can benefit from taking at least 500 mcg of vitamin C per day. A study from the American Optometric Association concluded that supplementing with the power nutrient, in tandem with other essential nutrients like zinc and vitamin E, could slow this disease by about 25%, and visual acuity by 19%.
Helps you absorb ironAn essential mineral, your body requires iron to keep it on kilter. The trouble is, consuming doesn’t mean absorbing. Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, supercharges your body’s ability to absorb iron. Once iron is absorbed, it’s used to make hemoglobin, a protein your body uses to help red blood cells traffic oxygen. Iron also feeds myoglobin, a protein that helps store excess oxygen. Vitamin C sneaks away non-heme iron and stores in a way that’s more easily absorbed. One study even claims consuming at least 100 mg of vitamin C-laden foods with your meal can increase iron absorption by at least 67%!
The good news is that many highly available foods boast high values of this super nutrient, so keeping it in your diet is easier than fitting in an orange an hour. Foods like broccoli, red peppers and even winter squash can give you what you need to enjoy the benefits of vitamin C. Need some inspiration? This Butternut Squash Soup is a good place to start.
- Zelman, K. M. (2010, January 7). Vitamin C Benefits, Sources, Supplements, & More. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-benefits-of-vitamin-c#1.
- Benzie, I. F. (1999, May). Vitamin C: prospective functional markers for defining optimal nutritional status. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10466192.