Vitamin C is like that friendly neighbor you’ve known for years but don’t really know. It's familiar, but do we know its favorite song? Its go to pizza topping? You get the point. The truth is, vitamin C is super important to your body in so many ways. Let's get to know this powerhouse a little better:
Meet Vitamin C
On the daily, our bodies need vitamin C for growth, development, and repair. It’s involved in the formation of collagen, stimulating white blood cell activity in the immune system, wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that research has found can actually neutralize free radicals–which, by the way, can lead to cancer, heart disease, and arthritis when left to build up inside our bodies. Vitamin C can also help boost absorption of the type of iron found in leafy greens. Mixed greens salad with a lemony salad dressing, anyone?
Vitamin C is easy for our bodies to absorb; however, it doesn’t store well in our bodies so we need to be sure to consume it every day. Good news is, this should be relatively easy if you get enough fruits and veggies. While not a complete list, here are yummy and familiar foods packed with vitamin C:
- Citrus (oranges, lemon, grapefruit)
- Bell peppers
- Chili peppers
- Cruciferous vegetables (brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower)
- White potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Parsley & Thyme
In most developed countries, low vitamin C is not a major health issue as we have access to many foods that give us enough. But, because you know we love a fun fact: even before its discovery in 1932, nutrition experts recognized that something in citrus fruits could prevent scurvy, which killed as many as two million sailors between 1500 and 1800.
Thankfully the threats of scurvy no longer keep us up at night, but in order to keep your body firing on all cylinders (that collagen needs to be made one way or another!) it is important to get enough vitamin C. Luckily for us that is relatively easy for most of us to do through diet, and in times when it is not, vitamin C supplements are widely available and are generally well absorbed by the body.
Does Vitamin C Really Help Fight Colds?
From a clinical standpoint, the research and verdict(s) on supplementing vitamin C to fight off disease are a bit confusing. Reports from the Mayo Clinic and Harvard stop at calling vitamin C effective against cardiovascular disease, cancer, eye disease, and cold prevention, although they do point out some small studies show that megadosing vitamin C can help lessen the severity of cold symptoms for some people.
But that doesn't seem to be the entire story here. This study points out that in times of illness, vitamin C concentrations in your blood do decline, so supplementing can be helpful to your immune system in lessening the severity of symptoms in a variety of illnesses. Further, this study looked at 100+ studies over 10 years and revealed a growing list of benefits of vitamin C. In fact, one of the researchers on the study, Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, of the University of Michigan, went as far as to say higher blood levels of vitamin C “may be the ideal nutrition marker for overall health.” Woah. Bold statement! Moyad also added that the ideal dosage may be higher than the current RDA, which is 75-90 milligrams for most adults. Moyad and his team studied vitamin C at a 500 milligram dosage, which he recommends as a daily dosage as most adults don’t get the recommended 9 servings of fruits and veggies per day.
Wading through who-said-what about vitamin C aside, keep this in mind: in order for your immune system to function efficiently, your body needs proper amounts of many things, including essential amino acids, linoleic acid, vitamin A, folate, vitamin B6 and B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc. No one exists in a vacuum--all forms of immunity can be affected by deficiencies in any of these areas, so a well rounded diet that includes lots of fruits and veggies is the most important step to maintaining a strong immune system.
And we're thinking vitamin C's go-to pizza topping has to be bell peppers, right?