What is vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also commonly known as l-ascorbic acid, is a key vitamin for humans, animals and even plants! Known for its antioxidant properties, it is in fact one of the most important water-soluble vitamins needed for a range of vital functions in the body. You’re probably already familiar with some of the benefits of vitamin C, but if you’re looking for more ways to boost your intake or would like to learn more about this multifunctional vitamin, we’ve got you covered. Nutritionist Riya Lakhani has answered some of the most Googled vitamin C questions to help you level up your vitamin C game.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that it dissolves in water (making its absorption into cells a little challenging). As the body cannot make this vitamin and is unable to store it for future use, vitamin C is an essential vitamin that needs to be consumed through the diet each day to provide the body with a continuous supply!
Why is vitamin C so important?
The body requires vitamin C for a range of different functions. As an antioxidant, it helps to protect the body from harmful substances such as free radicals that can damage cells, tissue, DNA, proteins and lipids in the body. Research indicates that vitamin C can increase your blood antioxidant levels by up to 30%!
Vitamin C also plays an important role in stimulating and strengthening the immune system in a number of different ways. Vitamin C primarily boosts the production of white blood cells which fight off illness-causing viruses and bacteria. It also helps to stimulate the production of antibodies, which are proteins that your immune system creates to attack foreign invaders if they re-enter the body in the future.
Vitamin C is really important for the normal production of collagen. In fact, it's involved in every step of the manufacturing process and ultimately helps the body synthesise the collagen needed to help maintain bones and cartilage, as well as promoting the health of our hair, nails and skin.
Vitamin C also helps wounds heal faster, boosts the absorption of iron from the intestines to keep iron levels healthy, reduces tiredness and fatigue and helps our body efficiently convert the food and drinks we consume into energy.
How can I increase my vitamin C intake?
Firstly, you should aim to eat plenty of vitamin C-rich foods, like bell peppers, strawberries, citrus fruits, papaya, broccoli, kale, kiwi, pineapple and mustard spinach. It’s easy to pack some of these delicious foods into smoothies and salads! Since vitamin C is both water-soluble and temperature-sensitive, it’s easily drawn out of vegetables when boiled, so it’s recommended that you try to eat your fruits and veggies raw when possible.
Studies also suggest that smoking can deplete vitamin C levels in the body, so those who smoke should aim to consume a further 35 mg of vitamin C per day. In addition to following a balanced diet rich in vitamin C foods, you can also boost your vitamin C intake with the help of supplementation.
Do I need more vitamin C during pregnancy?
Yes, during pregnancy and when breastfeeding, vitamin C requirements increase to at least 50 mg per day. This is because vitamin C is needed to make the collagen that helps with the healthy growth and development of the baby’s body.
What happens if you don’t get enough vitamin C?
If you’re not getting enough vitamin C, initial symptoms of a deficiency include fatigue,inflammationof the gums, poor wound healing, bruising more easily, irritability and dry skin and hair. If you’re deficient in vitamin C for at least 3 months, you could be at risk of developing scurvy, the most severe form of a vitamin C deficiency. Symptoms include coiled hair, fatigue, rash, muscle weakness and bleeding gums. These symptoms can be easily be avoided by increasing your vitamin C intake.
Can vitamin C help with weight loss?
It appears that vitamin C might help with weight loss! A study conducted in 2005 found that those with a healthy vitamin C status are able to oxidise up to 30% more fat during a moderate exercise session, suggesting that an increased vitamin C intake can help support weight management to some degree.