Almost everyone has heard of vitamin C and knows how important it is for our health, but do you know why? Hearing about all the brilliant benefits of vitamin C may have you opting for a glass of OJ more often or scouring the beauty isle for vitamin-C enriched skin goodies!
Are you ready to see what vitamin C can do for you? Discover some of the best benefits vitamin C has to offer in this handy guide.
What is vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an essential vitamin that you can find in lots of fresh fruits (especially the citrus variety) and veggies. Our bodies can’t make or store it, so we need to make sure we are getting enough in our diets or by taking supplements.
As you will discover, this useful vitamin is very important for a variety of body functions, from supporting our immune system to helping to reduce the appearance of those fine lines and wrinkles and so much more!
Top 10 vitamin C benefits:
Let’s find out what vitamin C is good for!
1. Supports energy-yielding metabolism
Our bodies need vitamin C in order to efficiently convert the food and drinks we consume into energy. It also helps us to absorb other vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients to keep our bodies ticking over nicely.1
Need a boost? Healthy plant sugars meet vitamin C goodness with this vitamin C-rich ice lolly to keep you energised in more ways than one!
2. Helps maintain psychological function
When your body is very deficient in vitamin C, you are at high risk for scurvy. Depression, personality changes, listlessness and general malaise are some of the symptoms of scurvy, making vitamin C vital for normal mental health.
Vitamin C also helps our body cells communicate with each other and contributes to the synthesis of some hormones (noradrenaline and adrenaline).2 These hormones help to regulate your mood and ability to concentrate. They also work with other hormones to help the body respond to exercise and stress.3
3. Supports the immune system
Our immune system is responsible for keeping us healthy – and the stronger it is, the better. Everyone’s immune system needs vitamin C to function normally, so keep it topped up!4
Researchers from the University of Helsinki found that taking a vitamin C supplement could reduce the rate of colds in active people by 50%.5
Want to support your immune system while making your taste buds happy? Here’s a tasty way to up your vitamin C.
4. Helps maintain bones and cartilage
Vitamin C plays a big part in keeping our cartilage and bones strong by helping our bodies to make collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies and acts as a scaffold to provide structure and strength. About 90% of the matrix proteins in our bones are collagen, so it makes sense that it is good for our bones and cartilage.
Some research suggests that higher vitamin C intake appears to be associated with higher bone mass density and lower bone loss. Very high vitamin C levels have also been seen to help protect against hip and other bone fractures.6
Another micronutrient needed for strong and healthy bones is calcium, so try this calcium and vitamin C recipe for a double whammy of bone support.
5. Improves skin appearance
If you feel like your skin needs a boost – vitamin C could help! Do you ever wonder why we get those fine lines and wrinkles as we age? The decline in elasticity and ‘plumpness’ in our skin is due, for the most part, to our natural collagen levels decreasing as we age.
There are two main options in using vitamin C to help your skin:
- Dietary: getting enough vitamin C through your diet or by taking supplements will support your body’s natural collagen production – helping to fight the signs of aging from the inside out.
- Topically: you have probably seen a lot of beauty products that have been enriched with vitamin C. Applying vitamin C-rich skin products can help to promote normal levels of collagen production and reduce the appearance of ageing skin, according to New York dermatologist Howard Sobel. It can also help to tackle blemishes and brown spots.7
6. Reduces tiredness and fatigue
Feeling tired and fatigued sometimes is normal – especially if you lead a busy lifestyle or exercise a lot. However, if you’re feeling exhausted all the time is a sure sign that your body is struggling to convert the energy you give it into action. If you are fuelling your body with the food and drink it needs and still feeling the fatigue, it could mean that your body is lacking in certain micronutrients, like vitamin C.
Weakness and fatigue are among the symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough. A cause and effect relationship has been established between the intake of adequate levels of vitamin C and reduced tiredness and fatigue.8
7. Helps create vitamin E
When our bodies perform certain tasks, e.g. fat oxidisation, by-products get left behind. Some of these by-products can be upcycled with the help of vitamin C to make a reduced form of vitamin E. Clever eh! It’s hard for the body to ‘scavenge’ them if too many accumulate, creating oxidative stress, so vitamin C is important to reduce the chance of this happening.9
8. Helps iron absorption
Not only does vitamin C do a good job on its own, it can help other micronutrients do their job too! Vitamin C helps our bodies to absorb iron – one of the most important minerals for health. Iron is an important component of haemoglobin, which is found in our red blood cells and carries oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our bodies.
When we don’t consume enough iron – or it isn’t being absorbed properly in our bodies – it can have detrimental effects on our health. So it’s important to not let your iron go to waste – make sure you have enough vitamin C for your body to put it to good use.
9. It’s a potent antioxidant
Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant. Antioxidants help the body to protect its DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage caused by rogue particles in our bodies called free radicals.10 Free radical build up in the body can be detrimental to health, so the more protection we can get, the better.
10. Supports gum and teeth health
Although a lack of vitamin C may not cause gum disease, research suggests that it can support healthy gums. A 2003 study on patients with periodontitis (a common type of gum disease) found that they had lower levels of vitamin C in their blood.11
How much vitamin C do I need?
Now we’ve covered the function of vitamin c in our bodies and all its wonderful benefit health, let’s find out how much you need to stay healthy.
If you consume a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, you will probably be getting enough vitamin C. However, our bodies cannot make or store vitamin C. Of you don’t hit your 5-a-day target as much as you’d like, you may need to reconsider your diet or start taking a supplement. Try tracking your food for a few days to see if you’re hitting the recommended vitamin C targets below:
- Male – need a minimum of 90mg of vitamin C a day
- Female – need a minimum of 75mg of vitamin C a day
- 1-10 years – 30mg of vitamin C a day
- 11-14 years – 35mg of vitamin C a day
- 15 years and older – 40mg of vitamin C a day
What are the signs you’re not getting enough vitamin C?
It can be hard to know if you’re getting enough vitamin C in your diet, especially if you’re a smoker as this can affect how your body absorbs this helpful vitamin. If you are suffering from a combination of the below symptoms, you may be deficient in vitamin C:
- Bruising easily
- Bleeding gums
- Not healing quickly
- Dry and splitting hair
Please consult a medical professional if you think you or a member of your family may be experiencing vitamin C deficiency. If untreated it can cause a multitude of health problems.
Last updated: 7 July 2020