Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is one of the most talked about vitamins. This nutrient gets special mention for its immunity-boosting abilities. But talking about vitamin C’s ability to ease the common cold only scratches the surface of its role in the body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, this antioxidant is not naturally made by the body, so it’s important to get it from vitamin C rich foods.
Vitamin C can be found in a variety of foods, including red and green bell peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes, and Brussels sprouts, says Tamar Samuels, RDN, co-founder of Culina Health in New York City. .
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements, adult women need 75 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day, and adult men need 90 mg. Most Americans generally get enough nutrients through diet alone.
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Read on to learn about seven major health benefits of Vitamin C.
1. Vitamin C stimulates collagen synthesis
According to the NIH, the body depends on vitamin C to synthesize collagen, which is found in connective tissue around the body. Samuels says adequate vitamin C levels are essential for collagen production. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and plays a vital role in our organs and of course connective tissues such as our hair, skin and nails.
You may know collagen as the skin’s anti-aging protector, as some health and beauty experts portray it. One study found that applying vitamin C topically to the skin increased collagen production and made the skin look younger. According to Oregon State University, increased collagen synthesis also means that vitamin C helps wounds heal.
2. Vitamin C combined with iron leads to better absorption
Another benefit of vitamin C is how it interacts with other vitamins and minerals in the body, such as iron. According to the NIH, iron supports proper growth and development, aids the body’s ability to deliver oxygen throughout the body and helps make certain hormones. Nonheme iron, a type of iron found in plants, can be difficult for the body to absorb, but vitamin C (and ideally heme iron, which is commonly found in meat and seafood) Eating with nonheme iron can cause harm. Better absorption, according to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
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3. It plays a role in improved brain functioning
Samuels says vitamin C also plays a role in neurotransmitter synthesis and cognitive function. According to the University of Queensland in Australia, neurotransmitters are important for sending messages from the brain to the rest of the body. And more vitamin C may be linked to increased brain function. A systematic review in Nutrients Cognitively intact study participants were found to have higher vitamin C concentrations than participants with impaired cognition.
4. Its antioxidant properties help protect against chronic disease
Many of the benefits of vitamin C can be traced to its antioxidant properties. Samuels says that antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals, which are unstable and harmful substances produced in the body that damage cells and tissues. According to the Mayo Clinic, antioxidants may protect against the development of serious health conditions like cancer or heart disease. However, according to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, more studies are needed, especially involving human participants, to show whether vitamin C can specifically prevent cancer or heart disease.
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5. Vitamin C strengthens the immune system
Perhaps the most well-known benefit of vitamin C is its positive effect on the immune system. In a research review, vitamin C was found to support the immune system by protecting against oxidative stress, aiding in microbial killing, and reducing the likelihood of tissue damage. Due to deficiency of this vitamin, an increase in the rate of infection has been seen. According to another review, it’s unlikely that taking vitamin C will save you from a cold when you start sniffling, but it may help you recover more quickly.
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