Vitamin C chemically termed as Ascorbate or Ascorbic Acid is an essential water-soluble vitamin that is required by our body for various metabolic activities. One of the most effective nutrients for treating common cough and cold, vitamin C is naturally synthesized in many animals but in the case of humans, the only way is to consume vitamin C rich foods for reaping its benefits.

It is also an incredible nutrient used for repairing damaged tissue and in the production of vital neurotransmitters which play a key role in proper functioning of the immune system. It is used as a cofactor for the enzyme required in the hydroxylation of lysine and proline in the formation of collagen.

Discovered in the year 1912, this vitamin is ranked on the World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines, as one of the incredible vitamins for its wide range of curative benefits.

Vitamin C rich foods

Functions

A natural antioxidant, vitamin C plays a key role in scavenging free radicals from the body and thereby takes part in reducing damage from inflammation and oxidation and hence is a key component for fighting a multitude of pathological conditions and infections.

Vitamin C is an absolute requirement when it comes to wound healing and collagen synthesis. Vitamin C and its supplements have marked effect on reducing the risks of cancer, cardiac and respiratory diseases. Vitamin C rich foods also play a key role in the production of collagen, a protein found in bones, tissues and blood vessels.

Historical studies suggest, the vitamin C is extremely effective in preventing and treating scurvy – a disease caused due to lack of vitamin C. It is also extremely beneficial for treating tuberculosis, HIV infection, gum disease, bronchitis, asthma, liver damage, inflammation of the urinary bladder and prostate gland, infertility, restless leg syndrome, metal poisoning, gout, tetanus infection, nerve pain and swine flu.

Several studies also suggest the usefulness of vitamin C in treating Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression, autism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, chronic fatigue syndrome, psychoses and Parkinson’s disease.

Additionally, scientific researches have concluded the significance of vitamin C in promoting cardiovascular health. It is used for lowering high blood pressure, high cholesterol, preventing blood coagulation in the veins and arteries, preventing hardening of arteries and normalising irregular heartbeat. Regular intake of the vitamin C also reduces the risk of heart attack and strokes.

Vitamin C is also found beneficial in healing burn wounds, treating cataract, glaucoma, age related macular degeneration, vision defects, constipation, gastritis, stomach ulcer, dysentery, Lyme’s disease, arthritis, back pain, joint inflammation, osteoporosis, heat stroke, hay fever and dental problem.

The antioxidative property of this vitamin is a pivotal element for promoting skin health. It shields the skin from free radical damage thereby reducing damage caused due to the harmful UV-rays and treats skin wrinkling and various signs of aging skin.

Food Sources

Being a potent water-soluble vitamin, vitamin C dissolves in water and performs various bodily functions. Though it is stored in minimal quantity in the body, the maximum of it gets removed via urine. Hence, to maintain an adequate level of vitamin C, you need to include various fruits and veggies loaded with it. Much to our relief, Mother Nature has blessed us with myriad of dietary choices abundant in vitamin C to fulfil our needs.

The various fruits with a rich source of vitamin C include:

Lemon, orange, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, cantaloupe, papaya, watermelon, pineapple, guava, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, cranberry etc.

Vegetables loaded with vitamin C include:

Cauliflower, broccoli, green peppers, brussels sprouts, tomato, green turnip, spinach, cabbage, potato, parsley, thyme, winter squash etc.

Certain cereals and fortified foods also provide moderate content of vitamin C. But it must be kept in mind that a healthy dose of vitamin C can only be garnered from the raw fruits and uncooked veggies. Over storage, cooking, microwaving or steaming of the food sources reduce the vitamin C content in it.

Deficiency

Absence of the C vitamin is fairly common nowadays and may cause reduced production of collagen ultimately leading to breakdown of body tissues, gingivitis, nose bleed, rough, dry, scaly skin, reduced wound healing and reduced potential of the body to prevent infections.

Severe deficiency of this vitamin leads to scurvy, a condition in which the mesenchymal tissues are marked by brown spots on the skin. It further causes oedema, haemorrhage in the skin and various internal organs, lethargy, fatigue, muscular atrophy, rheumatic pain and skin lesions. In several cases, it is noted that people with the absence of vitamin C suffer from swollen and bleeding gums, tooth loss, hysteria, depression etc.

In children and infants, deficiency of this essential vitamin leads to Moeller-Barlow disease identified by severe joint pain, fever, anaemia, dry brownish skin, bleeding gum, haemorrhage, coated tongue and pallor-fetid breath. Children suffering from this malady limp or cannot walk.

As vitamin C is found effective in the absorption of iron, hence the lack of it may lead to severe anaemia.

Toxicity

Vitamin C is a quintessential ingredient for a healthy balanced diet. Being water-soluble, it gets discharged from the body through urine and hence there are moderate chances of any adverse effects. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is 40 mg/day.

Taking this incredible nutrient in higher doses or more than the suggested level can cause diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, heart burn, and headache. Acute toxicity due to over dosage of vitamin C may even cause severe diarrhoea, gastrointestinal problems and kidney stones.

Hence, it is strongly advocated to consume vitamin C through food sources or supplements as per the prescribed amount given by your doctor or health care provider to reap the benefits.