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Easy to C: The Vitamin That Brings Its ‘A’ Game

By Martha Michael

The Benefits of Vitamin C

While the letter C is not a welcome sight in the classroom, when it comes to immunity from colds and other ailments, it has an A-plus standing.

Vitamin C in Your Body

L-ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, is an “essential vitamin,” meaning we need to get it nutritionally because it’s not produced naturally by the body, according to the National Institutes of Health, or NIH. By including it in your meal planning, you gain an important ally in preventing the development of illnesses that are ignited by oxidative stress, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. As an antioxidant, not only does Vitamin C limit the proliferation of free radicals in the body, it also regenerates other antioxidants including Vitamin E.

Vitamin C aids in the biosynthesis of certain neurotransmitters and collagen, contributing to the formation of connective tissue and playing a part in wound healing. It helps you absorb a form of iron found in plant-based foods and, when taken orally, Vitamin C augments plasma concentrations and produces tissue.

Health Benefits of Vitamin C

The daily recommended dose of Vitamin C for adult women is 75 milligrams and for males, 90 milligrams. The maximum amount you can ingest without damage to your health is 2,000 milligrams, according to an article on WebMD. However, most adults fall short of the recommended daily dose, says Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, researcher at the University of Michigan.

Vitamin C is an ideal nutritional marker of a person’s overall health, Dr. Moyad claims. One of the most widely known benefits of Vitamin C is its contribution to your immune system. While it doesn’t cure the common cold, as some have claimed, Vitamin C boosts your immunity to prevent a range of health problems.

"The more we study Vitamin C, the better our understanding of how diverse it is in protecting our health, from cardiovascular, cancer, stroke, eye health [and] immunity to living longer," Dr. Moyad says.

An article in Healthline offers a list of benefits to an adequate intake of Vitamin C.

Blood pressure management - Though you cannot rely on Vitamin C alone, studies show that taking supplements can reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure in both healthy individuals and patients with high blood pressure.

Gout attack prevention - By reducing uric acid levels in the blood, Vitamin C may protect you from gout attacks which are caused by inflammation of the joints when the waste product crystallizes.

Memory boost - Dementia affects more than 35 million people and studies suggest the antioxidant properties of Vitamin C can reduce the risk of stress and inflammation to the brain, spine, and nerves, which cause poor thinking and memory.

Lower risk of chronic disease - By increasing your antioxidant levels, Vitamin C strengthens your body’s natural defenses against harmful molecules known as free radicals.

Nutritional Sources of Vitamin C

The list of foods rich in Vitamin C is a lengthy one and all the top performers are fruits and vegetables.

The greatest level of Vitamin C is found in red peppers, according to a chart on the NIH website. With 95 mg per serving, they offer 106 percent of your recommended daily allowance. With just 3/4 cup of orange juice you can also exceed the suggested daily intake of Vitamin C.

In addition to the widely known benefits of citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits, other foods are major contributors of Vitamin C, including:

  • Kiwifruit
  • Green peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Green peas

While our bodies lack the means to create certain vitamins, at least we have a wide range of nutritional sources to access the physical boost we need. And among the elements that contribute to your wellness, the health community -- like the alphabet -- puts C near the top of the list.

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