What Is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also called L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is an essential part of your diet. Although some animals can produce their own vitamin C, humans have to get it from other sources.
Vitamin C is found in many fresh fruits and vegetables, but can also be made into dietary supplements. Research suggests that eating foods rich in vitamin C is essential to a healthy working body.
Why You Need Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps with the growth and function of various body parts. It helps your body produce compounds (collagen, L-carnitine, and neurotransmitters) important for your nerves, heart, brain, muscles, and energy production.
Vitamin C also helps restore antioxidants in your body. Antioxidants prevent cell damage that can lead to diseases. It also helps your body metabolize protein and absorb iron.
Some specific health benefits of vitamin C are:
Wound healing: Vitamin C is needed for the biosynthesis of collagen, which is a protein that is an essential part of connective tissue. Because of this, vitamin C plays an important role in wound healing.
Immune function: Vitamin C contributes to immune defense against disease and infections, by helping to make more white blood cells. Vitamin C deficiency impairs your immune system and increases your risk of getting infections. It can’t cure your cold, but it may help shorten it.
Maintenance of bones, teeth, and cartilage: Vitamin C helps repair and maintain healthy bones, teeth, and cartilage (the rubbery material that covers the ends of bones). Vitamin C might also reduce the risk of cartilage loss in people with osteoarthritis.
There is also some limited research to suggest that sufficient vitamin C levels could help protect against heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, and may promote eye health. But scientists need to do more study to be sure.
Vitamin C Deficiency
Adults ages 19 and older need 75-90 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C a day. If you eat the right foods, you can easily get your daily value from your regular diet.
Although vitamin C deficiency is relatively rare, it can lead to the disease called scurvy. Symptoms of scurvy include:
- Crankiness and sadness
- Severe joint or leg pain
- Swollen, bleeding gums
- Red or blue spots on your skin
- Your skin bruising easily
On the other hand, too much vitamin C may cause stomach pain and other digestion issues. It may also change the way other medications work, like fluphenazine (Prolixin), indinavir (Crixivan), and warfarin (Coumadin).
That’s why it’s important to ask your doctor if it is safe or even advisable before you take any supplements, including vitamin C, and check with them about the right dosage.
Remember that supplements are not subject to the same level of regulations as over-the-counter medications. Studies have shown that many claims made by supplement companies are not supported by science.
Foods With Vitamin C
Cantaloupe is a rich source of vitamin C, with 202.6 mg of the vitamin in a medium-sized melon, and 25.3 mg in one slice.
Raw citrus fruits are very high in vitamin C. One medium orange provides 70 mg of vitamin C, while one grapefruit provides about 96 mg. Citrus fruit juices contain even higher amounts of vitamin C, with a cup of orange juice providing around 71 mg of vitamin C.
Surprisingly, a cup of broccoli contains as much vitamin C as an orange. Broccoli is a good source of other vitamins and minerals, such as:
Red cabbage, also called purple cabbage, is high in vitamin C and low in calories. A half-cup contains only 14 calories but almost 30% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. It also has fiber and other vitamins.
One serving of kiwi contains most of your recommended daily intake. Studies have also shown that adding kiwi to a marginal vitamin C diet largely improves plasma vitamin C levels.
All varieties of peppers are low in calories and high in nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber. Bell peppers have more nutrients than other peppers because they are kept on the vine longer. Red bell peppers have almost 8 times more beta carotene and 1.5 times more vitamin C than green bell peppers.