Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is found in an abundance of foods but it's more than just an ordinary vitamin. On top of its essential relationship to the production of collagen in the body, (hello beautiful hair and skin), the vitamin also acts as a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals and oxidative stress.
Lets break it down: without enough vitamin C in your body things can get pretty nasty. If you are deficient, you'll be at risk of becoming anemic or developing a condition called scurvy with symptoms ranging from bleeding gums, joint pain, depression, and even death! But don't worry too much, not only is the condition very rare, we've got everything you need to know about vitamin C right here to keep your levels high!
From the best food sources for vitamin C to how much you need and how it can help, ladies, consider this a crash course in all there is to know about incredible vitamin....
The top foods for vitamin C...
How much vitamin C do you need?
Vitamin C is water soluble, meaning any excess is easily dissolved and flushed out by the body (yeah, we're talking about pee). The problem is we can't make or store vitamin C, so we have to depend on our diets to give us exactly what we need, which is why it's SO important to get a healthy, balanced diet.
According to the National Health Service (NHS), adults need at least 40mg of vitamin C per day. But go easy! Taking too much vitamin C could actually be harmful. More than 1,000mg can cause flatulence, diarrhea, and stomach pain, so be mindful of your intake.
For most people, their diets alone should suffice! However, if you have a cold or think you may not be consuming enough, take a supplement! We recommend Vitabiotics' Ultra Vitamin C which is infused with bioflavonoids for the ultimate absorption and effectiveness.
If you're pregnant, currently undergoing cancer treatment or heavily exposed to environmental pollution (such as smoke, air pollution and ultraviolet light), speak to your doctor about dosages or other options.
Ok, lets find out what C has to offer us...
1. It helps you absorb other nutrients
Vitamin C is your BFF when it comes to absorbing iron, which is pretty damn important if you're a woman!
There are two types of iron - non-heme and heme - and you need to be aware of the difference. Heme iron is found in meat, poultry, fish and seafood, and non-heme iron is found in eggs, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Apart from coming from different sources, non-heme iron isn't as easily absorbed by the body (because of phytonutrients) so we need to find other ways to get it functioning just as well. (And we think we know just the thing...)
Nutritionist, Emma Wight-Boycott says, "Iron is a very difficult mineral for our bodies to absorb but it’s really important because it helps with oxygen efficiency and maintaining energy levels. If you aren’t getting enough iron from your diet try taking natural liquid iron food supplement Spatone Apple – the added vitamin C in Spatone Apple helps the absorption of the iron and contributes to a healthy immune system."
If you don't fancy that then just drinking a glass of orange juice at the same time as taking an iron supplement will do the trick just as well. But remember to get pure orange juice not sugary concentrated liquid orange!
2. It helps your immune system
Not feeling good? Well, when it comes to relieving sickness vitamin C is a superhero! Although it doesn't get rid of a cold altogether, vitamin C can certainly prevent and even shorten the length of your sniffles and runny nose.
Emma says, "Lack of vitamin C increases vulnerability to infection due to its importance in immune function. Vitamin C activates white blood cells and the production of the chemical mediators that direct the immune response. If you have a cold, for example, ensuring that you have enough vitamin C can often shorten the duration and also reduce the severity of the symptoms by acting as a natural antihistamine."
3. For stress
Research has found that vitamin C helps you deal with stress better. So if you're up for an exam or edging towards a deadline, it's a good idea to UP your intake of vitamin C.
Emma explains: "Vitamin C helps the body deal with stress by reducing the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol. Most animals are able to synthesize all the vitamin C they need from dietary sugars; humans and other primates cannot do this.
"During times of stress, animals simply increase their synthesis of vitamin C, whereas humans have to increase their intake through dietary means - food or supplements. Citrus fruits like orange, lemon and grapefruit contain a huge amount of vitamin C – and so do sweet potatoes, broccoli and tomatoes!" Eat 'em up, ladies!
4. Helps boost energy
A strong immune system is the foundation to your health. If it's ever compromised, your defense system will be down, leaving your body susceptible to infection and disease. BUT if your immunity is at full strength and you're constantly being protected by vitamin C, you're guaranteed to have more energy.
There are other ways C can help increase energy too. Emma informs us that "Vitamin C helps boost energy by lowering levels of carnitine (the amino acid that is responsible for the breakdown of fats into energy). While doing this, it also aids dopamine in the nervous system and supports adrenal function for increased metabolic energy."
What an amazing vit!
5. It can help you lose weight
If you want to lose weight or looking to tone up, vitamin C is your guy.
"L-carnitine helps you burn fat to use as energy to exercise, meaning you’ll have more energy throughout the day and lose weight," says GoNutrition nutritionist, Tommy Gaughan. Basically, your body needs vitamin C to make L-carnitine, the fat burning amino acid, which is a good enough reason to make sure you're on top of your C game, right?
And if that's not enough incentive, get this...studies have proven that those with higher levels of vitamin C can burn up to 30 PERCENT more fat during moderate exercise than those with low levels!
6. Helps thicker hair
Vitamin C could be our answer to Kim Kardashian-esque locks! Without enough vitamin C our hair is left brittle, dry and prone to breakage. Ugh.
Emma asserts that "vitamin C helps improve blood circulation and repairs capillaries too – this is particularly important for getting stronger thicker hair." What’s not to love here?
All you have to do is make sure you're getting enough vitamin C in your diet. So perhaps a healthful bowl of strawberries or a plate of sliced pineapple in the morning? Or even better (and easier), whizz up a handful of vitamin-rich foods and give yourself a smoothie-kick of nutrients first thing in the morning. Trust us, you'll feel AND see the difference. Where's that kale?
7. Mood and mental health
Have you been feeling low and depressed? If you're low in vitamin C, chances are you're probably feeling pretty blue.
"One of the first signs of vitamin C deficiency is an irritable mood. Supplementation of vitamin C can help release neurotransmitters such as dopamine. This has been shown to reduce anger, anxiety and depression," explains Tommy.
A study conducted at Montreal's Jewish General Hospital found that patients given vitamin C supplements for seven to ten days quickly felt a significant improvement in their moods. By now it's pretty obvious how much this vit can do for us, but ladies, we're not even finished...
8. It's great for your eyes
Getting your fair fix of vitamin C everyday is one of the best ways to take care of your eyes and it's all down to the fluid between the cornea and the iris.
Known as your aqueous humor, this fluid is brimming with vitamin C, which is essential in preventing oxidative stress inside the eyes. Studies have also shown that long-term consumption may even help prevent cataracts and vision loss from macular degeneration (AMD). What doesn't this vit do?
9. It can help reduce chemotherapy side effects
A new US study at the University of Kansas found that women who had been given high-dose vitamin C injections during chemo reported significantly less side effects than those who hadn't taken them.
Originally, the study hoped to see whether high doses of vitamin C would help boost the patient's chemotherapy outcome, however the trial was too small to be considered a breakthrough.
But although there's more research to be done (through a bigger trial), it looks as though vitamin C may actually help ease many uncomfortable symptoms that come with chemo. Hurrah.
10. It’s great for skin
Vitamin C has long been a favorite in the beauty industry. "The nutrient helps form collagen and elastin which are essential to keep the skin looking plump, taut and young. It also acts as an antioxidant to protect us from the effects of the environment such as UV rays or pollution," says Emma.
As well as eating a healthy diet rich in vitamin C, there's evidence that using vitamin C topically can work wonders on the skin! Why not try an easy home remedy for clear skin using orange peels or invest in a quality product rich in vitamin C.
We recommend using a high-powered vitamin C serum like Ole Henriksen's Truth Serum Collagen Booster or a moisturizer during the day as the antioxidants will help fight off environmental aggressors like air pollution and UV damage, which is when it is most prevalent. Reverse time's effect on your skin!
Originally published by Vivian KELLY for WeWomen