Vitamin C: Benefits, Sources, and Dosage
We all know vitamin C is healthy. Of all the things that seem to turn up in reports on healthy eating, vitamin C is one of the most common. Most of us make sure to get vitamin C from one source or another.
Whether we take a vitamin C supplement or simply start our day with a glass of orange juice, vitamin C is a common feature of many people’s lives. And it is easy to get your daily dose of vitamin C because many sources of vitamin C are delicious.
Fresh orange or grapefruit juice is a great way to start the day. But there is much more to vitamin C than many of us know. To begin, there are many dietary sources of vitamin C beyond citrus fruit. One of the great advantages of vitamin C is that it can be found in many foods.
What is vitamin C? What are the benefits of vitamin C? What exactly does vitamin C do for us? And what are some of the best ways to get vitamin C in our diet? This guide will give you answers on vitamin C and all the great benefits of vitamin C.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is known scientifically as ascorbic acid. Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of blood vessels, cartilage, muscle, and collagen in bones. Vitamin C also plays a central role in the body’s healing process.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. It helps protect cells against the damage from free radicals like tobacco smoke and even radiation. Free radicals cause heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Getting enough vitamin C helps prevent these deadly diseases.
Since our bodies cannot produce vitamin C, we need to get it from dietary sources or a supplement. You can get enough vitamin C from your diet. Foods that are rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and spinach. There are also numerous forms of vitamin C supplements.
Vitamin C deficiency is characterized by anemia, bleeding gums, bruising, and poor wound healing (this is also known as scurvy). The recommended daily amount of vitamin C is 90 mg for adult men and 75 mg for adult women.
Vitamin C benefits
The benefits of vitamin C are many. Before turning to how vitamin C helps muscles, we should go over the primary benefits of vitamin C.
Reduces your risk of chronic disease
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. As an antioxidant, vitamin C works to reduce or prevent inflammation. This is important because many chronic diseases like arthritis are caused by inflammation.
One cause of inflammation is the presence of free radicals in the body. Free radicals come from the breakdown of some foods and from toxins that get introduced to the body through things like tobacco smoke. When free radicals accumulate in the body, they lead to what is called oxidative stress, and this causes unhealthy inflammation. Vitamin C binds with free radicals and helps eliminate them.
Research shows that consuming vitamin C increases blood antioxidant levels by as much as 30 percent. This helps the body fight inflammation and the chronic diseases that can come from inflammation.
Helps manage high blood pressure
About a third of Americans live with high blood pressure. This is a major cause of heart disease and the leading cause of death around the world.
Vitamin C can help lower blood pressure even for people who do not have high blood pressure. Studies show that vitamin C can help relax blood vessels and this can lower blood pressure.
Reduces the risk of heart disease
Several factors lead to common forms of heart disease. These include high blood pressure, high triglyceride or bad cholesterol levels, and low good cholesterol levels. Vitamin C can help reduce the risk of these problems.
In a study that tracked nearly 300,000 participants over 10 years, researchers found that those who took a vitamin C supplement of at least 700 mg every day had a 25 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who did not take vitamin C supplements. Further studies that tracked the effects of eating vitamin C-rich foods also found a substantially lower risk of heart disease.
Further research that focused on the effects of vitamin C on the problem of high triglyceride levels found that 500 mg of vitamin C per day can lower triglycerides to healthy levels.
Can lower levels of uric acid in the blood
A gout is a form of arthritis that happens when too much uric acid builds up in the blood. When there is an excess of uric acid, which is a waste product, it can form crystals that settle into the joints. This leads to the painful swelling condition known as gout. Gout affects about 4 percent of Americans.
Recent studies have found that vitamin C can reduce levels of uric acid in the blood. One study, in particular, found that taking vitamin C supplements lowered uric acid levels in men who suffered from gout.
In another study, researchers tracked almost 50,000 men for over 20 years who suffered from gout. This study found that men who took a vitamin C supplement had a 44 percent lower risk of gout.
Helps prevent iron deficiency
Among the many roles vitamin C plays in the body, one is to assist other nutrients in helping your body function properly. Vitamin C is essential in assisting iron in the making of red blood cells and transporting oxygen in the bloodstream.
Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from your diet. It also helps convert iron that is not properly absorbed into usable iron. For example, some plant-based iron can be difficult for your body to absorb. These functions of vitamin C are especially helpful for vegetarians since they get their iron from plant-based sources. Studies have shown that an iron supplement of 100 mg can even help fight anemia in children.
The main reason people take vitamin C supplements is to boost immunity. Vitamin C helps with the production of white blood cells called lymphocytes and phagocytes. These are the white blood cells that fight infections in your body. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C also help protect these white blood cells from damage from free radicals. This provides a double benefit to your immune system.
Finally, vitamin C is immediately transported to your skin to protect against external damage. Thus, vitamin C provides three layers of protection against infection and illness.
Helps memory and cognition as we age
One of the debilitating problems that come as we age is dementia. More than 35 million people are affected by dementia worldwide. The loss of memory and clear thinking skills that characterize dementia can be debilitating.
One cause of dementia is oxidative stress brought on by the presence of free radicals. Oxidative stress causes inflammation in the brain, spine, and nerves and this increases the risk of developing dementia.
Since vitamin C is such a powerful antioxidant, it is now believed that the presence of vitamin C can reduce the oxidative stress that leads to dementia. What is more, recent research has found a link between low levels of vitamin C and the onset of dementia.
Following these findings, researchers have found that taking vitamin C supplements helps protect thinking and memory in older adults and may prevent the onset of dementia.
What does Vitamin C do?
Vitamin C is needed for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. It is used to:
- Form an important protein used to make skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels
- Heal wounds and form scar tissue
- Repair and maintain cartilage, bones, and teeth
- Aid in the absorption of iron
Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants. Antioxidants are nutrients that block some of the damage caused by free radicals.
- Free radicals are made when your body breaks down food or when you are exposed to tobacco smoke or radiation.
- The buildup of free radicals over time is largely responsible for the aging process.
- Free radicals may play a role in cancer, heart disease, and conditions like arthritis.
Sources of Vitamin C
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C. Citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato juice, and potatoes are major contributors of vitamin C to the American diet. Other good food sources include red and green peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe. Although vitamin C is not naturally present in grains, it is added to some fortified breakfast cereals.
The vitamin C content of food may be reduced by prolonged storage and by cooking because ascorbic acid is water-soluble and is destroyed by heat. Steaming or microwaving may lessen cooking losses. Fortunately, many of the best food sources of vitamin C, such as fruits and vegetables, are usually consumed raw. Consuming five varied servings of fruits and vegetables a day can provide more than 200 mg of vitamin C.
Deficiency of Vitamin C
Vitamin C deficiency is commonly known as scurvy. It consists of anemia, debility, exhaustion, and spontaneous bleeding. A common symptom of scurvy is bleeding gums which can lead to tooth loss. Pain in the limbs and other parts of the body are also symptoms of scurvy. If untreated, scurvy can be fatal.
Vitamin C dosage
The recommended daily dosage of vitamin C changes according to age, gender, and other factors. Here is the breakdown:
- Children 1-3: 15 mg
- Children 4-8: 25mg
- Adolescents 9-13: 45 mg
- Teens 14-18: 65-75 mg
- Adult women: 75 mg
- Adult men: 90 mg
- Pregnant women (19 and older): 85 mg
- Breastfeeding women (19 and older): 120 mg
Vitamin C side effects
While vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential nutrient, it's possible to have too much of it. If you follow the recommended daily allowance guidelines you should have no problems. But too much vitamin C can lead to the following issues:
- Abdominal cramps
Remember, for most people, a healthy diet provides an adequate amount of vitamin C.
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To stay healthy, we need to pay attention to all vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are not options when it comes to good health. There are real consequences to not getting the correct amount of each vitamin and mineral. Vitamin C is of profound importance.
Vitamin C supports so many important natural functions that it cannot be ignored. Everything from feeling good to fighting cancer can be gained from paying attention to how much vitamin C we get in our diet. Not getting enough vitamin C can have profound consequences. Vitamin C deficiency is a serious medical condition. We need only look at times in the past when vitamin C was not as easy to obtain to see how dangerous it can be when we do not get enough vitamin C.
Thankfully, there are many dietary sources of vitamin C. Simple fresh fruit is one of the best and easiest ways to get the vitamin C you need. And fresh fruit and fruit juices are delicious. It is not hard to take in your vitamin C.
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