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Vitamin C and Our Health

How did Vitamin C Come to Exist?

Vitamin C has a long history dating back to the 1700s when the disease “scurvy” came into existence. This disease was a result of prolonged Vitamin C deficiency, an essential nutrient not naturally produced by the body. Scurvy was a common problem in the world's navies and is estimated to have affected 2 million sailors. James Lind conducted a trial in 1747 that consisted of lemons and oranges. These turned out to be the only two remedies that seemed to be effective in treating the disease. 

Have you ever wondered why some people get sick very often and tend to be more prone to catching a cold or viral infection? During the flu and cold season, many of your peers might get sick but some will overcome certain illnesses and viral infections or not get sick at all, even when everyone in their home or the people they are around are sick with the flu. A major factor in this scenario is our body’s immune system and how well it is functioning for us. The immune system is the first line of defense our body has against any foreign pathogen that enters the body.

The stronger your immune system, the less chance you have of contracting any illnesses, especially during this season and even more so, with the current novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. But then again, having a strong immune system doesn’t necessarily  make you invincible. Practicing the necessary personal hygiene steps of regular hand washing and keeping hands away from face are essential in protecting ourselves from contracting certain pathogens. In addition, there are certain vitamins known to support our immune system as well.

Vitamin C is one of the secret ingredients to maintaining a healthy immune system. Let’s dive into how vitamin c can be beneficial to your overall health.

How much Vitamin C Should I Consume?

If you want the benefits of Vitamin C, you’ll need to consume it everyday and not just when you start to feel symptomatic with the cold or the flu.

The best way to consume Vitamin C is through your food, since you will be consuming other important nutrients your body needs to maintain a healthy immune system and support an overall healthy body and mindset. The FDA’s recommended daily value for vitamin c is 90 mg/day, which is not hard to consume when following a whole food, plant-rich diet.

However, to take steps to prevent contracting a cold or the flu, or if you’ve already begun experiencing symptoms, then it is important to increase your intake. For example, many functional and alternative medical doctors and practitioners are recommending taking up to 3,000 mg/day, split between three 1,000 mg doses to help protect our immune system against covid-19 and other viruses. Taking too much at once can cause digestive distress and diarrhea in some individuals. So just remember to take it in doses of 1,000 mg at a time or less.

These are the best foods containing vitamin c to incorporate into your diet if you haven’t already:

  • Red Bell Peppers: 128mg per 100g
  • Kale: 120mg per 100g
  • Broccoli: 89mg per 100g
  • Brussel Sprouts: 85mg per 100g
  • Kiwi: 93mg per 100g
  • Strawberries: 59mg per 100g
  • Orange: 53.2mg per 100g

What Health Conditions does Vitamin C Help with?

Vitamin C is often said to be a natural cold remedy and is an antioxidant that can strengthen your body's defenses. Let’s take a look at how this vitamin can benefit more than just our immune system.

  • Reduces Chronic Diseases

As mentioned before, antioxidants strengthen your body’s natural defenses. Antioxidants are molecules that can donate an electron to a free radical without making themselves unstable. This causes the free radical to stabilize and become less reactive.

When free radicals begin to accumulate, the body goes into a state of oxidative stress. Consuming more Vitamin C helps increase your antioxidant levels to combat the free radicals and prevent inflammation. Since all forms of chronic disease arise from chronic inflammation, sufficient levels of vitamin c can help prevent the development of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

  • Manages High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is the leading cause of death globally and increases your risk for heart disease. 

Studies have shown that Vitamin C may help lower blood pressure in both those with and without high blood pressure. Moreover, a study showed that taking a Vitamin C supplement helped relax the blood vessels that trace back to the heart, as well as reduced blood pressure levels.

However, it is not yet proven whether or not Vitamin C is beneficial for long term use in high blood pressure.  

  • Helps Prevent Iron Deficiencies

Iron is an essential mineral involved in a number of bodily functions, including the production of red blood cells which transport oxygen to the body. It’s also involved in energy production, regulating body temperature, gastrointestinal health and immune function. When iron levels are low, the body produces insufficient oxygen levels, which can lead to fatigue and conditions such as iron deficiency anemia.

Vitamin C supplements can help improve the absorption of iron in your diet. It assists in converting iron that is poorly absorbed, such as plant-based sources of iron, into a form that is easier for the body to use.

Vitamin C is especially helpful for someone who is on a plant-based diet, since meat is a huge source of bioavailable iron. Simply consuming 100mg of Vitamin C can boost iron levels by 67%.

Foods rich in Vitamin C or even a supplement can increase iron levels, reducing the risk of anemia caused by iron deficiency.

  • Boosts Immunity

The main reason why Vitamin C is consumed is to strengthen the immune system. Vitamin C encourages the production of white blood cells, which help fight the body against infection. It is an essential part of the body’s skin defense system. What this means is that it can act as an antioxidant, help strengthen your skin's barriers, and ultimately may help shorten the amount of time it takes for a wound to heal.

In addition, people suffering from pneumonia have been linked to having low levels of Vitamin C. By increasing Vitamin C levels, it has been shown that their recovery time can be shortened. 

Wrapping it up: Vitamin C and Our Health

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that the body does not make on its own, and must be obtained from your diet and/or supplements. It has been linked to many impressive health benefits since it was “discovered” back in the 1700s where prolonged Vitamin C deficiencies led to scurvy. 

Since then, Vitamin C has been proven to benefit the human body in other ways and address underlying health conditions; such as boosting antioxidant levels, lowering blood pressure, improving iron absorption, boosting immunity, and reducing the chance of heart disease. Overall, Vitamin C supplements are a simple way to boost your Vitamin C intake if you struggle to get enough from your diet or require a need for enhanced immune support.

About the Author: Lisa Jubilee

Lisa Jubilee

Lisa Jubilee is a New York State Certified Dietician-Nutritionist, who has been counseling individuals on sustainable weight management and disease prevention for over 20 years. Her mission is to empower individuals to obtain healthy food relationships and to clearly understand the concept of food as medicine. Lisa chose to create a functional nutrition practice where what, why and how we eat are all part of the conversation. There is no One-Size-Fits-All dietary approach, but Ms Jubilee has experienced great success utilizing specific dietary protocols such as intermittent fasting, time restricted eating, low carb/ketogenic dietary regimens and AIP (autoimmune protocol) in her practice. In 2006, Lisa co-founded Living Proof Nutrition Strength Pilates, a private nutrition, HIST (high intensity strength training) and Pilates studio, located in midtown Manhattan.

As of March 2020, in order to continue to service her clients and the public at large during the Covid-19 pandemic, Lisa has begun offering all of her nutrition counseling and support services remotely. Feel free to contact Lisa with any questions: Lisa@livingproofnyc.com