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5 Ways Vitamin C Keeps You Healthy

You in all probability already know somewhat bit about vitamin C. It’s in oranges, proper? (Yes.) And it may well aid you recover from a chilly, proper? (Kind of.) You’re heading in the right direction, however there’s a lot extra to vitamin C than that.

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Registered dietitian Devon Peart, RD, MHSc, explains what vitamin C actually does to your physique and why it’s so vital to get sufficient of it.

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that performs a vital function in your well being. “It’s what’s known as an essential nutrient, meaning that your body doesn’t make it,” Peart says, “so you have to get it from your diet.”

And after all, the phrase “essential” signifies that your physique actually wants it. But what for? Well, every kind of issues, together with wholesome pores and skin, bones, eyes and extra.

Vitamin C is a robust antioxidant, serving to to defend your physique towards cell harm. It additionally performs an vital function in rising and growing tissues, therapeutic wounds and preserving your immune system sturdy.

Health advantages of vitamin C

What does vitamin C truly do to your physique? Peart delves deeper into among the confirmed ways in which it helps your well being, plus a number of prospects which can be nonetheless being researched.

1. Fights cell harm and illness

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, a pure chemical present in sure meals. You can consider antioxidants like invisible superheroes inside your physique. Their primary job is to guard you from free radicals, or unstable molecules that may harm your cells, trigger oxidative stress, improve indicators of ageing and extra.

“A buildup of free radicals is associated with a risk of diseases like cancer, heart disease and arthritis,” Peart explains. Eating antioxidant-rich meals, like these excessive in vitamin C, might help defend your physique from free radical-related harm.

2. Protects your eyes

Vitamin “see” certainly: This antioxidant is believed to assist keep off cataracts (a clouding of the lens of your eye) and sluggish the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a situation that causes folks to lose their central imaginative and prescient.

“Studies have shown mixed results,” Peart notes, “but we know that vitamin C acts as an antioxidant for cells in the retina and macular region of the eye.”

3. Improves iron absorption

Some plant meals, together with beans and spinach, have iron in them (a kind referred to as non-heme iron), however in addition they have properties that make it arduous to your physique to entry that iron. Enter vitamin C, which acts as iron’s wingman.

“Consuming foods that are high in vitamin C in the same meal with iron-rich plant foods boosts the bioavailability of the iron, meaning that you absorb more of it,” Peart explains.

Let’s say you make a spinach salad with strawberries on prime. Spinach has non-heme iron, whereas strawberries are wealthy in vitamin C. They’re each wholesome on their very own, however once you eat them collectively, the vitamin C within the strawberries helps your physique entry and take up extra iron from the spinach than it may should you simply ate the spinach alone.

4. Helps with wound therapeutic

Vitamin C encourages collagen progress, which is a vital a part of your physique’s therapeutic course of. “Collagen is a protein that keeps our skin looking young,” Peart provides.

It’s one of many keys to correctly therapeutic wounds, together with cuts, scrapes and surgical incisions. And individuals who don’t get sufficient vitamin C have been proven to heal more slowly than those that get the really useful quantity.

5. Promotes wholesome pores and skin

We’re principally speaking concerning the form of vitamin C that you just discover in meals, nevertheless it’s price noting that topical lotions and serums made with vitamin C can do every kind of fine issues to your pores and skin. They assist sluggish indicators of ageing, scale back darkish under-eye circles and even bolster the consequences of sunscreen. (Psst: You are carrying sunscreen, aren’t you? Hint, trace.)

Other doable advantages

Science by no means stops! There are all the time research in progress to uncover new well being data, together with the various roles vitamin C performs in our our bodies. Here are a number of different doable advantages of vitamin C, although extra analysis is required on all of them:

  • May aid you get better shortly: Contrary to what you would possibly’ve heard, vitamin C can’t stop you from getting sick (sorry). But it can nonetheless be of assist. “Some studies suggest that it can help lessen the severity and duration of colds and the flu and potentially reduce your risk of further complications,” Peart says.
  • May enhance coronary heart well being: Vitamin C may help prevent and treat heart problems (CVD), together with strokes. Studies to date have been conflicting, although, so researchers nonetheless can’t say for sure how efficient it is perhaps.
  • May play a task in most cancers therapies: As researchers proceed to find out about most cancers, genetics, vitamin C absorption and metabolism, Peart says they’re exploring the role vitamin C might play in treating some sorts of cancers. “There is some promising evidence so far, as an adjunct to conventional cancer treatment,” she says. This means it may play a task in — however not change — therapy.

How a lot vitamin C you want every day

When it involves vitamin C, somewhat bit goes a great distance — which is to say, it’s not all that tough to get your really useful every day quantity. For instance, one medium orange has about 80 milligrams of vitamin C, which accounts for a lot of your every day consumption.

For adults ages 18 and over, right here’s how the National Institutes of Health (NIH) breaks down its vitamin C recommendations:

  • Men: 90 mg
  • Women: 75 mg      
  • People who’re pregnant: 85 mg
  • People who’re lactating: 120 mg

“Keep in mind that these recommendations are a minimum to prevent deficiency,” Peart says, “and some experts believe the recommendations should be higher.”

These suggestions additionally don’t consider bodily variations like weight, top, intercourse assigned at delivery, total well being, and so on. Plus, should you smoke, you’ll want about 35 mg extra per day as a result of smoking is poisonous to cells, inflicting your physique to make use of up its vitamin C extra shortly.

If you’re undecided how a lot vitamin C you ought to be getting, discuss to a healthcare supplier for personalised steering.

Signs of a vitamin C deficiency

Most individuals who dwell in North America get sufficient vitamin C of their every day food regimen. But malnourishment, alcohol use dysfunction, smoking and consuming issues can all result in low ranges of vitamin C.

“Not getting enough vitamin C is fairly uncommon,” Peart states, “but in some cases, people can become deficient in it.” That can result in scurvy, a extra severe type of deficiency that, although uncommon in North America, is mostly seen in individuals who dwell in excessive poverty and/or those that are under-housed.

Risks of an excessive amount of vitamin C

If you’re getting vitamin C from the meals you eat, it’s sometimes not a giant deal to get extra of it than you want. “The body doesn’t store it,” Peart explains. “In essence, you pee out the excess.”

But an excessive amount of of a very good factor is, nicely, an excessive amount of. The higher restrict of vitamin C dietary supplements is 2,000 mg per day; at doses greater than that, it’s possible you’ll expertise unwanted side effects like:

  • Bloating.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Headaches.
  • Flushed pores and skin.
  • Cramps and/or an upset abdomen.

“At very high levels of supplementation, you’re putting an extra burden on your kidneys,” Peart warns. “This can lead to the formation of kidney stones and, in extreme cases, kidney failure.”

Should you’re taking vitamin C dietary supplements?

If you eat a nutritious diet, you’re possible already getting sufficient vitamin C. “You can’t get too much vitamin C from food sources,” Peart says, “so if you eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day, you will get the recommended amount and more.”

But should you concern you’re not getting sufficient vitamin C (like should you smoke or should you don’t eat many fruit and veggies), discuss to your healthcare supplier about whether or not dietary supplements are protected for you. The normal complement dosage is 500 mg per day, however they might advocate a unique quantity.

There are additionally occasions when it’s possible you’ll wish to take further vitamin C, like should you’re not feeling nicely.

“If you feel like you’re coming down with a cold or the flu, or if you’re in a period of acute stress and feeling run-down, most people can take up to 1,000 mg vitamin C per day (or temporarily increase your current supplement to that amount),” Peart says. “This helps maintain healthy levels of vitamin C, which get depleted in times of physical stress.”

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