Vitamin C plays a vital role in how the body functions, even though it is only considered a micronutrient. Vitamin C is essential to immune function, iron absorption, bone building, wound healing, healthy skin, blood pressure and eyesight. Because vitamin C is vital to so many of the bodies functioning maintaining appropriate levels within the body is important. Vitamin C acts as a catalyst within the body, speeding up chemical reactions using less energy. Without these catalysts due to a deficiency, normal body functions breakdown, exposing the body to disease.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin also known as ascorbic acid. Humans are one of the few animals who can no longer produce vitamin C within the body and it cannot be stored in the body either. Excess amounts of vitamin C are excreted from the body, so it is necessary to replenish the body with vitamin C regularly. It is often thought of as an antioxidant, however it is actually a redox agent. This means that under some circumstances it acts as an antioxidant while in other cases it acts as an oxidant. When acting as an antioxidant vitamin C inhibits cellular damage from free radicals.
Although vitamin C has many uses within the body its main function is in the formation of collagen. Collagen is one of the most abundant fibers contained within connective tissue, which gives us our form and supports organs. Collagen can be found in cartilage, skin, bone, teeth, tendons, ligaments, fascia, organs and separating different types of cells. This is why vitamin C is such an important and vital supplement so that the body physically holds together.
Even though vitamin C’s role in collagen synthesis is important it plays a role in several other areas of the body as well. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, which benefits in treating cases of iron deficiency anemia. It protects fat-soluble vitamins A and E and fatty acids from oxidation. It also helps in the absorption of calcium. Taken at the onset of a cold, vitamin C has been shown to reduce the severity of ones symptoms, boosting the body’s immune response. Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients. It reduces the risk for age related macular degeneration and prevents the onset of cataracts by protecting the eye lens. Helps in the healing of wounds, repairing injuries and burns, prevents wrinkles, and stimulates bone formation.
Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables such as oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, watermelon, papaya, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, kiwi, mango, tomatoes, green peppers, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. Vitamin C can be lost during food preparation, exposure to air, cooking, boiling and submersion in water. Its best to consume vitamin C in its raw form however if cooking, boiling, or steaming limit the amount of water and time the food is submerged. Once fruits or vegetables are cut, store in sealed containers inside the refrigerator to minimize the nutrient damage. In most cases there is enough nutrients remaining after processing for a daily supply. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin C is 60-90 mg a day.
Vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy, which is rarely seen now a days except in alcoholics. Symptoms of scurvy includes bleeding, loose teeth, inflamed gums, easy bruising, poor healing, anemia, pain in joints, muscle wasting. Lowered levels of vitamin C lead to gall bladder disease, atherosclerosis, hypertension, stroke and cancer. Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include fatigue, depression, irritability, weight loss and weakness. Although vitamin C is water-soluble this doesn’t mean it should be taken in excess. Higher doses of vitamin C can be taken if you smoke or during times of fever or infection. However extended excess doses can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, increased risk of kidney stones, jaundice, back pain, fever, vomiting, headaches and itchiness.
Vitamin C is an important part of a healthy diet, which keeps the body functioning and strong. Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables should supply your body with the adequate amounts of vitamin C. However supplement forms are available if your diet doesn’t provide you with the appropriate amounts of nutrients.