Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient that is vital to all creatures. Vitamin C is perhaps best known for its ability to strengthen the immune system. But this potent nutrient also has many other important roles that control significant aspects of our health.
Along with its immune functions that fight against bacteria, viruses, and infection, vitamin C also serves as an effective antihistamine that will lessen the unpleasant effects of the common cold, including inflammation, stuffy nose and aches. It is also necessary for collagen, the main structural protein found in connective tissue. A healthy dose of vitamin C will protect your body from infection and maintain healthy bones and teeth, as well as quicken the body's ability to repair wounds.
Vitamin C is a powerful and effective antioxidant that protects our bodies from free radicals that cause oxidative stress. Excessive oxidative stress can lead to a host of severe medical conditions, such as atherosclerosis that can cause both heart disease and stroke, and is associated with many different types of cancer, including lung, mouth, throat, colon, stomach and esophagus. Vitamin C also helps to regenerate your supply of vitamin E and helps your body absorb iron.
Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure, lessening the probability of hypertension, as well as the serious health problems that follow, such as cardiovascular disease. Along with lowering your blood pressure, vitamin C ensures proper dilation of blood vessels, which can prevent such diseases as atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, and angina pectoris.
Vitamin C dramatically lowers your blood lead level. This is especially important for children living in urban areas, as studies have shown that lead toxicity can lead to behavioral and developmental problems, such as learning disabilities and lowered IQ. Adults, moreover, may suffer from kidney damage and high blood pressure.
The lens of the human eye requires vitamin C to function properly, and a deficiency can lead to cataracts (a condition in which the lens becomes increasingly opaque, causing blurry vision). A higher intake of vitamin C has been shown to fight cataracts by increasing the amount of blood flow to the eye.
Recent research suggests another potential use for vitamin C. In a study of hospitalized patients, who often have lower than normal vitamin C levels, researchers observed an improvement in mood after they received vitamin C. The link between vitamin C and mood may seem surprising, but it's not so far-fetched. People who have vitamin C deficiency often feel fatigued or depressed.
One reason why we fall so short is that our diet simply does not consist of nearly enough raw fruits and vegetables. Another reason is that the RDA of 90 mg for vitamin C is set much too low, which is the same problem we see with vitamin D. Such a low RDA leads people into a false sense of security that they are meeting their daily requirements. It also makes them wary of taking the much higher dosages that are required for good health.
Because your body doesn't produce or store vitamin C, it's important to include vitamin C in your diet. The amount depends on many variables such as diet, age, stress level, amount of exposure to pollutants, amount of medications we take, and overall health. A generic amount is around 1-4 grams per day for a healthy individual. People with serious illnesses will need much, much more.
Foods that are especially rich in vitamin C are parsley, broccoli, bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, lemon juice, papaya, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens and Brussels sprouts. Rose hips are commonly used to make supplements.
As far as supplements are concerned, natural vitamin C complexes are much more potent than the common and less expensive ascorbate forms. However, someone that needs a lot of vitamin C will find that the natural complexes can be cost prohibitive. Mineral ascorbates and ascorbic acid are acceptable forms to take for reaping all of vitamin C's many health benefits. Just be sure to look for vitamin C supplements that are non-GMO, as the vast majority of these supplements come from GMO corn.
When we get enough in our diets, vitamin C helps detoxify our bodies, promotes healing of all of our cells, and allows us to better deal with stress. It also supports the good bacteria in our gut, destroys detrimental bacteria and viruses, neutralizes harmful free radicals, removes heavy metals, protects us from pollution, and much more.