Vitamin C is probably one of the best-known nutrients. ESP’s Wellbeing columnist Karen Devine shines a light on its enormous range of benefits other than just supporting our immune system…
Ascorbic acid is the chemical name for Vitamin C, when we exclude fruits and vegetables from our diet we are neglecting the intake of Vitamin C as those are the exact foods direct from Nature needed to support our health. If you have a poor diet and smoke then the risk of ill health is increased as Vitamin C (along with many other nutrients) is needed to detoxify and clear nicotine and other chemicals via the liver.
Sailors set out to sail centuries ago would fall ill with Scurvy (loose teeth, bleeding gums, weakness & fatigue, joint pains, leg pain, fever and more). It wasn’t until mid 1700’s that they found lemons, oranges and limes would prevent these symptoms over periods of months at a time. It took many centuries later to understand that the compounds within these fruits was ascorbic acid or Vitamin C. Most mammals can manufacturer their own Vitamin C but we humans can’t (nor can guinea pigs) so it must come from our diet.
Most of us know that boosting our diet with Vitamin C rich foods or a supplement may help shorten a cold by boosting our lymphocytes (immune cells). In recent months, we’ve seen sales of Vitamin C fly off the shelves to help with immunity over the recent virus, but it is not only helpful for immunity, here are some other ways Vitamin C supports us:
- Under stress – the discovery of ascorbic acid in the adrenal glands in the early 1900’s indicates that these glands of stress have a higher need for Vitamin C
- Bone health – helps to produce cells that create bone
- Cholesterol – may help in lowering cholesterol
- Collagen production for healthy skin, joint and tissue support
- Oral health – helps to prevent periodontal disease and helps support healthy teeth and gums
- Detoxification – supports detoxification via pathways in the liver and helps to recycle other antioxidants
- Heavy metal excess such as copper and mercury – Vitamin C can help to lower these toxic metals when high
- Exercise – hopefully when we exercise we are also focused on a healthy diet of fruit and veg that can deliver good levels of Vitamin C, but for longer more excessive exercise we produce lots of free radical chemicals. Vitamin C is an antioxidant so is used to mop up those free radicals in the body. Vitamin C can also support adrenal function and energy production.
- Brain health – Vitamin C helps to produce neurotransmitters which are the signalling chemicals that send information to the nervous system. One such neurotransmitter is serotonin which is dependent on Vitamin C for its production.
- Helps absorb iron
- Seasonal allergies… and more
We deplete Vitamin C when we cook our veggies (and fruits) as it is water soluble, so slightly steam them to prevent its loss and eat some raw veggies and fruits during the day if you’re able. Other lifestyle habits deplete Vitamin C including:
- Poor diet with very little fruits and veg – the need for more antioxidants is higher
- Injury… and more
The most valuable sources of Vitamin C are found in our plant kingdom (think fruits and vegetables), heat and oxygen can damage Vitamin C so eating them in their raw state and/or slightly steamed such as veggies will deliver the best amount from our whole foods. After the plant is picked it starts to lose Vitamin C so fresh fruits and veggies will be more beneficial than those sitting around for too long. Freezing vegetables can retain some, but fresh will always be best where possible.
Here are some of the foods rich in Vitamin C:
- Papaya and so many more…
If you need an extra boost then often you will find Vitamin C supplements in various forms but the most gentle on the gut (pure ascorbate can irritate and cause loose stools etc), are those found in the buffered with magnesium or calcium form. Vitamin C with added bioflavonoids are often found in some supplements which aid in the absorption of Vitamin C, another delivery system which is newer on the market is found in liquid Vitamin C which contains very small particles called liposomes which are lipid (fat) in nature, Vitamin C is bound in this lipid layer which are very tiny and can allow for better absorption into the cells. It’s more expensive but very effective.
Enjoy those fresh fruits and veggies.