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Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin C | Healthy Eating Series

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Vitamin C is one of the most popular nutrients today. You’ve probably even seen it advertised on orange juice cartons. But Vitamin C isn’t just a clever marketing scheme for fruit juices. It’s a necessary component for every healthy diet.

Find out if you’re getting enough of this key vitamin, and what you can do if you’re low in Vitamin C.

What is Vitamin C?

How can we describe Vitamin C?

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To start, it’s a water-soluble vitamin, along with all the B vitamins. This means that your body will eliminate any extra Vitamin C from your body to prevent toxic levels.

Therefore, it’s nearly impossible to have too much Vitamin C in your body. In fact, it’s more usual that people have the opposite problem.

Why is Vitamin C Important?

In science class, you probably learned that Vitamin C was used to cure sailors of scurvy, a now-rare condition from extreme Vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy isn’t very relevant nowadays since you’d have to go a very long time without Vitamin C to end up with this disease.

But Vitamin C is relevant to you and me. And there are so many ways that Vitamin C can support your health and wellness. Here are just a few:

Vitamin C is a Free Radical Fighter

Vitamin C, which is sometimes referred to as ascorbic acid, is also an antioxidant.

Therefore, it fights against oxidizing agents, pollutants and toxic chemicals that can damage and harm the body. Having too many free radicals within the body can lead to serious illnesses, like cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.

Vitamin C and Your Skin

The body’s connective tissues all benefit from Vitamin C’s nourishment. That includes your skin.

In fact, one study that observed more than 4,000 women between the ages of 40 and 74, found that those who consumed more Vitamin C had fewer wrinkles, they had nourished skin and they aged more slowly.

That’s why many facial creams and skin care products now include Vitamin C.

Your Heart Benefits from Vitamin C

Vitamin C can help to prevent heart disease as well as cancer. Having Vitamin C in the body also aids in lowering not only cholesterol in general but LDL cholesterol, which is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol.

Stronger Immune System with Vitamin C

You’ve probably been told to eat oranges or to take a cold remedy when you’re getting sick. That’s because Vitamin C can assuage cold and flu symptoms by supporting your immune system.

Improved Digestion and Nutrient Absorption

There’s that old saying, “You are what you eat.” But that’s not exactly the case. Instead, you are what you absorb.

And if your body has a hard time absorbing all the nutrients within your diet, you won’t obtain the many benefits of a healthy, balanced diet.

This is where Vitamin C comes in, especially in helping your body absorb iron, as this study shows. Therefore, consuming enough Vitamin C can prevent an iron deficiency and anemia, too.

What Happens When You’re Deficient in Vitamin C?

Without this powerful little vitamin, you can suffer from several conditions. Here are the most prominent symptoms of a Vitamin C deficiency.

  • Bleeding gums and gingivitis
  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Wrinkles
  • Bruising
  • Eye disease
  • Weakened immunity
  • Slower recovery time
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness
  • Aching and swollen joints and muscles
  • Nosebleeds
  • Rashes, or dry and scaly skin

Luckily, it doesn’t take much Vitamin C to counteract these symptoms and get back on track. (Vitamin C deficiencies become much more problematic if you remain deficient for a very long time.)

Here are some of the more serious problems related to low Vitamin C levels:

  • Scurvy
  • Some cancers
  • Stroke
  • Leaky gut
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Hypertension
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Atherosclerosis

When your body goes without Vitamin C for too long, you put yourself at risk to develop some serious conditions. We’re often told, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, but we could easily say this about oranges, too!

How Do You Become Vitamin C Deficient?

Compared to other nutrients, such as iron, it’s relatively simple to become Vitamin C deficient. It all boils down to your dietary choices.

That’s because your body doesn’t produce Vitamin C on its own. And since it’s a water-soluble vitamin, your body also doesn’t store extra Vitamin C for later use.

Therefore, if you’re not eating Vitamin C-rich foods regularly, it’s very easy to end up with low levels of this important nutrient.

Vitamin C-Rich Foods for Every Diet

You probably think that you can only get Vitamin C from citrus fruits, like lemons, limes, and oranges. But luckily, there are many other fruits and vegetables that provide this vitamin. Just look at all the colorful choices you can choose from!

  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Berries
  • Black Currants
  • Bread, fortified
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Cereal, fortified
  • Grains, fortified
  • Grapefruit
  • Guava
  • Honeydew
  • Kale
  • Kiwi
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Peppers, red and green
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

How Much Vitamin C Should You Consume Every Day

Since your body eliminates excess Vitamin C in your urine, it’s nearly impossible to get too much Vitamin C.

If you do overdo it, you can end up with diarrhea or digestive upsets. So, try to stay within the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) as set by the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine:

Adult recommendations:

  • For men between the ages of 18 and 90 years old: 90 milligrams per day
  • For women between the ages of 18 and 90: 75 milligrams per day
  • For pregnant women, above the age of 18: 85 milligrams per day
  • For breastfeeding women, above the age of 18: 120 milligrams per day

Children recommendations

  • For infants between the age of 0 to 12 months: naturally occurring Vitamin C in human milk
  • For children between the ages of 1 and 3: 15 milligrams per day
  • For children between the ages of 4 and 8: 25 milligrams per day
  • For children between the ages of 9 and 13: 45 milligrams per day
  • For teenage boys between the ages of 14 and 18: 75 milligrams per day
  • For teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 18: 65 milligrams per day

As always, consult with your primary care physician about the appropriate vitamin and mineral recommendations for you and your family.

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Vitamin C is fundamental for a healthy body, and luckily, it comes in a variety of delicious fruits and vegetables. So, no matter what kind of diet you follow, you can easily get your daily dose of Vitamin C and thrive.

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