Why Your Body Needs Vitamin C

You may have heard that vitamin C cures colds, protects your skin from aging and even prevents heart disease. Unfortunately, years of scientific research have not been able to confirm any of these benefits. What vitamin C does do, however, is work hand-in-hand with other nutrients to enhance your health by strengthening your bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood vessels. It is necessary for wound healing and the proper functioning of nerve cells. In short, vitamin C helps keep your body's support system healthy and functioning at its very best.

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, which means it helps the body deal with oxidative stress from substances known as free radicals that form as a result of pollution, toxins and even normal metabolism. Free radicals damage and destroy body cells, opening the door to disease. It is in this role, as one of many antioxidants working together in the body, that vitamin C protects and strengthens body tissues. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron from the diet. This is an important job, because the type of iron found in many foods is not easily absorbed on its own.

If you have a vitamin C deficiency, the symptoms include very dry hair and skin, inflamed and bleeding gums, unexplained bruising and nosebleeds and slow-healing wounds. You are more susceptible to infections if you don't get enough C, and you may be at higher risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure), gallbladder disease and atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) that could lead to heart attack or stroke.  Getting enough vitamin C on a regular basis may help protect against these conditions but there is no reason to believe that taking extra doses will prevent or cure them. The reason for that is simple: Vitamin C is just one of many factors that play a role in the development and prevention of these diseases.

The recommended daily intake of vitamin C for adult women is 75 milligrams (mg); for men, 90 mg.  If you smoke, the recommended intake is 110 for women and 125 for men because smokers need more antioxidant vitamins to fight off increased levels of free radicals and other damaging substances from cigarette smoke. Fresh fruits and vegetables  and fresh juices are the best natural sources of vitamin C. Some of the best include:

Orange juice (fresh), 1 cup 124 mg
Grapefruit juice, 1 cup 94 mg
Strawberries, 1 cup 86 mg
Orange, navel, 1 medium 75 mg
Kiwi, 1 medium 74 mg
Sweet red pepper, 1/2 cup 71 mg
Cantaloupe, 1 cup 68 mg
Mango, 1 medium 57 mg
Grapefruit, 1/2 39 mg
Broccoli, 1/2 cup 37 mg
Brussels sprouts, 1/2 cup 35 mg
Green pepper, 1/2 cup 33 mg
Tomato, fresh, 1 medium 32 mg



Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C

Medline Plus: Vitamin C

University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin C

Northwestern University/Department of Preventive Medicine: Nutrition Fact Sheet: Vitamin C