Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble micronutrient found in a wide range of plant-based foods. Considered a vital nutrient for overall health, vitamin C plays a key role in various bodily functions.
For instance, vitamin C is needed for the growth and repair of tissues, as well as the absorption of iron. It also fortifies the immune system, regulates the production of certain hormones and combats inflammation.
Vitamin C is not stored very well inside the body. As such, it is important to regularly consume vitamin C-rich foods as part of a healthy diet.
The many health benefits of vitamin C
- Boosts collagen production – Vitamin C is needed to make collagen, a fibrous protein that provides structural support to tendons, ligaments, skin, muscles, and hair. Collagen makes up about a third of the proteins in the human body.
- Fights oxidative stress – As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C protects cells from damage caused by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress contributes to aging and can lead to the development of serious health conditions like diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Accelerates healing – Vitamin C is vital to the body’s natural healing process, so much so that having low levels of this nutrient can result in poor wound-healing and cause the skin to bruise easily.
- Prevents scurvy – Scurvy is a disease caused by severe and/or chronic vitamin C deficiency. It usually causes exhaustion, spontaneous bleeding, joint pain and, in some cases, the loss of teeth. Additionally, it slows wound healing as well.
- Improves mood – Recent research indicates that vitamin C exerts an antidepressant-like effect by aiding in the production of serotonin, the key hormone that regulates mood.
- Supports eye health – Collagen also provides structure to the eyes. Therefore, by supporting collagen production, vitamin C inadvertently supports eye health, too. In fact, studies suggest that vitamin C may help reduce the risk of developing a cataract, a kind of eye condition that gradually affects vision.
- May help fight cancer – Cancer typically develops from damaged cells. By protecting against cellular damage, vitamin C might also be helping prevent the development of cancer.
- Maintains strong bones – Collagen makes up a significant amount of bone structure. So by boosting collagen production, vitamin C also helps keep bones strong. Recent research also suggests that vitamin C has a potential role in the prevention of osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones.
- Promotes detoxification – Vitamin C helps the liver flush out toxins, waste products and potentially harmful substances from the body.
- Supports cognitive functions – Vitamin C is needed to produce neurotransmitters. Neurons rely on these chemical messengers to communicate with each other and keep the brain functioning.
Best dietary sources of vitamin C
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 75 to 120 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C every day for adults. This amount can easily be obtained by eating the following plant-based foods:
- Guava (1 cup): 377 mg
- Papaya (1 small): 95 mg
- Sweet red pepper (1/2 cup): 95 mg
- Pineapple (1 cup): 79 mg
- Orange (1 medium): 70 mg
- Kiwifruit (1 medium): 64 mg
- Mango (1 cup): 60 mg
- Green pepper (1/2 cup): 60 mg
- Broccoli (1/2 cup): 51 mg
- Strawberries (1/2 cup): 49 mg
- Grapefruit (1/2 medium): 39 mg
- Raspberries (1 cup): 32 mg
- Cantaloupe (1/2 cup): 29 mg
- Cabbage (1/2 cup): 28 mg
- Cauliflower (1/2 cup): 26 mg
- Potato (1 medium): 17 mg
- Tomato (1 medium): 17 mg
- Blueberries (1 cup): 14 mg
- Spinach (1/2 cup): 9 mg
- Green peas (1/2 cup): 8 mg
Vitamin C is heavily involved in several bodily functions. As such, maintaining healthy levels of this vitamin leads to many health benefits. To enjoy these benefits and avoid the adverse effects of vitamin C deficiency, eat vitamin C-rich foods regularly as part of a well-balanced diet. (Related: Debunking popular myths about vitamin C.)
Read more articles about vitamin C and other immune-boosting micronutrients at Nutrients.news.