Vitamin C: Not just for preventing colds
Although Vitamin C is known for preventing colds and infection during the winter, don't overlook the other benefits of this superstar nutrient. It does a lot more for your body than keep the sniffles away!
So, you want a supplement that will help lessen wrinkles, lower your blood pressure and boost your energy? Look no further than the zesty benefits you can find in sunshiny citrus fruit: vitamin C!
This highly beneficial nutrient is found naturally in oranges, lemons and grapefruit, as well as in vegetables like cabbage, peppers, broccoli and other veggies. But since Vitamin C dissolves in water, it is often difficult to retain this valuable nutrient without taking it as a supplement.
Here are some of its many benefits
- Antioxidant properties: Vitamin C is a powerful and effective antioxidant that protects from free radicals that cause oxidative stress. This type of cellular stress can lead to medical conditions such as hardening of the arteries (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.
- Energy booster: Your body uses vitamin C to make a nutrient called L-carnitine. L-carnitine helps you burn fat for energy. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health reported that fatigue was one of the first signs of vitamin C depletion. In one study, 44 workers received 6 grams of vitamin C daily. After two weeks, their fatigue had decreased by almost one-third.
- Eye health: The human eye requires vitamin C to function properly, and a deficiency can lead to cataracts (a condition that causes blurry vision). Taking higher levels of vitamin C has been shown to fight cataracts by increasing the amount of blood flow to the eye.
- Hypertension reducer: Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure, as well as serious health problems associated with this condition, such as cardiovascular disease.
- Smoother skin, stronger bones: You need vitamin C to make collagen, the predominant protein in the body. Collagen forms part of your skin, organs, cartilage and bone. Some research has found that lotions containing vitamin C can improve skin tone and reduce fine wrinkles. Another study reported that vitamin C reduces the risk of bone fractures.
- Mood booster: Vitamin C is crucial in several important mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, including dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. Given this role, it's not surprising that one of the first signs of vitamin C deficiency is irritability. In a recent study, taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily led to significant reductions in anger, anxiety and depression.
- Infection protection: Vitamin C can reduce the symptoms and length of the common cold by about one-third.
- Cancer therapy: Considerable research now indicates that large doses of vitamin C are helpful as an adjunct therapy for cancer patients. Under these circumstances, the ideal method of administration is intravenous, but oral vitamin C can help too.
How much vitamin C should you take?
Although vitamin C has many health benefits, it appears that you can really get too much of a good thing.
Too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea, nausea and stomach cramps. The National Institutes of Health suggest that adult women consume no more than 120 mg of the vitamin each day.
What form should you take?
If you want to boost your vitamin C intake with pills or powders, Purdue University researchers recommend storing it someplace else besides the bathroom or in the kitchen. That's because vitamin C will dissolve in water and near steamy places. Exposure to that environment will also reduce the strength of this vitamin in as little as one week, even if stored in a sealed container.
Try also getting part of your daily dose by eating citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, peppers, strawberries and cantaloupe, which are all good natural sources of vitamin C. However, storage and cooking of fresh fruits and vegetables can also reduce the potency of nutrients.
To ensure you get the vitamin C you need from food, the National Institutes of Health recommend eating your fruits and vegetables when they are very fresh and raw.
When it comes to catching a bug (and hopefully getting rid of it) this cold season, it’s probably best to listen to the classic recommendations. Although vitamin C can help lessen the amount of time you will have a cold, you'll also need to keep your hands clean, get lots of sleep and yes, even cook up some of Mom's chicken soup.