Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is one of the most talked about vitamins. The nutrient is getting particular buzz for its immune-boosting potential. But mentioning vitamin C’s ability to shorten the duration of a cold only scratches the surface of its role in the body.
This antioxidant is not produced naturally by the body, so it is crucial to get it from Crich vitamin foods, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Vitamin C is found in a variety of foods, including red and green peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes, and Brussels sprouts, says Tamar Samuels, RDN, founder of Culina Health in New York City.
Adult women need 75 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day, and adult men need 90 mg, according to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements. Most Americans typically get enough nutrients through diet alone.
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Read more about the seven most important health benefits of vitamin C.
1. Vitamin C stimulates collagen synthesis
The body depends on vitamin C for the synthesis of collagen, which is found in the connective tissue around the body, according to the NIH. Adequate levels of vitamin C are essential for collagen production, says Samuels. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and plays a critical role in connective tissues such as our organs and of course our hair, skin and nails.
You may know collagen as an anti-aging skin savior, as described by some health and beauty experts. One study found that applying vitamin C topically to the skin resulted in increased collagen production and younger-looking skin. According to Oregon State University, increased collagen synthesis also means vitamin C helps wounds heal.
2. Vitamin C combined with iron leads to better absorption
Another benefit of vitamin C is how it interacts with other vitamins and minerals in the body, such as iron. Iron supports proper growth and development, helps the body’s ability to deliver oxygen throughout the body, and helps make certain hormones, according to the NIH. Nonheme iron, which is a type of iron found in plants, can be difficult for the body to absorb, but eating vitamin C (and preferably heme iron, which is commonly found in meat and seafood) along with nonheme iron leads to better absorption, according to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
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3. It plays a role in enhanced brain function
Vitamin C also plays a role in neurotransmitter synthesis and cognitive function, says Samuels. According to the University of Queensland in Australia, neurotransmitters are important in sending messages from the brain to the rest of the body. And more vitamin C may be associated with increased brain activity. Systematic review in Nutrients found higher levels of vitamin C in cognitively intact study participants compared to those with impaired cognition.
4. Its antioxidant properties help protect against chronic diseases
Many of the benefits of vitamin C are due to its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which are volatile and harmful substances produced in the body that damage cells and tissues, says Samuels. According to the Mayo Clinic, antioxidants can protect against the development of serious health conditions such as cancer or heart disease. According to Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health, more studies, especially studies involving humans, are needed to show whether vitamin C can specifically prevent cancer or cardiovascular disease.
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5. Vitamin C strengthens the immune system
Perhaps the most well-known benefit of vitamin C is its positive effect on the immune system. In a research review, vitamin C was found to support the immune system by protecting against oxidative stress, helping to kill microbes, and reducing the chance of tissue damage. A deficiency of this vitamin has been shown to increase the number of infections. Supplementing with vitamin C when you first start sniffling is unlikely to prevent you from catching the flu, but it may help you recover faster, according to another review.
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