Why do you take vitamin C? If you’re like most people, you probably suffer through at least a couple runny noses or bouts of congestion each year. And like most people, you probably pop a vitamin C along with the cold medicine.
But can vitamin C supplementation prevent or cure a cold? Well… it’s not going to do much if you are already in throes of sickness. However, some studies have shown that supplementing regularly with vitamin C may speed up your recovery by a day or two.
So if vitamin C isn’t the cure-all we once believed it to be, why does it still get so much attention?
Beyond the Cold and Flu: Five Other Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is not only one of the safest nutrients, it is more importantly a vital nutrient for your health. From protection against immune system deficiencies and heart disease, vitamin C also helps form and maintain healthy skin and bones. Here are five very convincing reasons to make sure you’re getting enough of that vitamin C.
1. Helps wounds heal quicker
Vitamin C plays an important role in skin health. And that includes helping the skin repair itself. Clinical studies have shown that vitamin C supplementation in individuals not deficient in vitamin C can significantly accelerate healing time.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is 60mg. The researchers studied doses of 500mg to 3,000mg, which is 8 to 50 times the RDA. They found that the greater the dosage, the more accelerated the healing time.
2. Helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels
For the average adult, you want your blood pressure reading to be between 90/60 mmHG and 120/80 mmHG (that’s systolic over diastolic). What might seem like an insignificant increase —between 120/80 and 140/90 — can double your risk of heart disease. About that, the risk quadruples compare with people in the normal range.
So, how can vitamin C help? A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that taking a high dose vitamin C daily (500mg or 8 times the RDA) can drop blood pressure roughly 4-5 mmHG. Pair that with regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
3. Helps muscles recover
Get swole with vitamin C supplementation! Okay, that’s hyperbole. Vitamin C won’t necessarily help you build muscle, but it can help muscles recover by aiding in flushing out lactic acid.
You’re probably familiar with cortisol, the stress hormone that makes you gain weight. Excess cortisol works counter to testosterone, halting tissue growth and reducing protein synthesis. High levels of vitamin C, on the other hand, help suppress the overproduction of cortisol — helping you keep your gains.
4. Scurvy treatment
You might think only sailors get scurvy and that it’s a thing of the past. It’s not. Now, we just know it by a different name. Scurvy, or vitamin C deficiency, is rare, but still a problem. Restrictive diets, anorexia and difficulty with digestion all can cause scurvy. Symptoms include anemia, edema, extreme exhaustion and ulceration of the gums or teeth. Treatment for scurvy is, you guessed it, vitamin C supplementation.
5. Helps keep skin “young”
High levels of vitamin C are found in the dermis and epidermis of your skin. Two very good reasons why vitamin C is good for your skin:
- Vitamin C stimulates collagen production
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps fight free radicals
The levels of vitamin C in our decreases with age, and one consequence is reduced elasticity and firmness (read: wrinkles). Then there are environmental stressors like UV rays or pollution that can do damage to our skin. As little as 10mg of vitamin C a day can help stimulate collagen production and fight free radicals to help reverse the damage and signs of aging.
Natural Sources of Vitamin C
Now that you know the benefits of vitamin C, where can you find your recommended daily dose? Unlike many other essential vitamins, vitamin C cannot be synthesized in the human body. Fortunately, many of the foods we eat are good natural sources of vitamin C. For those trying to up their daily dose, supplements are an option, too. Here is a list of the top five foods richest in vitamin C and their percentage of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI):
- Papaya – 224%
- Bell peppers – 157%
- Broccoli – 135%
- Brussel sprouts – 129%
- Strawberries – 113%
Surprised not to see a citrus fruit on the list? Oranges only rank 7th. Although still good for you, oranges only provide 93% of the DRI. To get your fix of vitamin C, try incorporating one of the five foods from our list into your daily diet.
Vitamin C Supplementation Tip
Try adding a nightly vitamin C serum and a supplement with 60-200mg of vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid.