Vitamin C for the immune system, and more. Here are all the benefits of this vitamin for health, the correct dosage and how to supplement it in case of deficiency
Vitamin C has always been linked to the idea of a stronger immune system and considered by most people more than anything else to help in case of colds or flu, so much so that one of the classic grandmother remedies for colds is the 'inevitable orange juice.
And indeed vitamin C plays a key role in maintaining a good immune system. But its beneficial and indispensable function is wider: vitamin C, in fact, is also essential to absorb iron, to keep mucous membranes healthy, to extinguish inflammation, as well as to perform a series of functions – recently discovered – really. surprising.
What is vitamin C
Let's start by specifying that vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin naturally present in some foods and also available in the form of a food supplement.
Being water-soluble, it cannot be accumulated in the body and must be introduced continuously through the diet. Although the excess of vitamin C is eliminated through the urine, it is still important to consider that the maximum tolerated dose in order to avoid gastrointestinal disorders is 2000 mg.
Vitamin C also belongs to the group of thermolabile vitamins: this means that it tends to deteriorate quickly with heat. For this reason, long cooking methods and at high temperatures can cause significant losses of vitamin C from food.
Therefore deteriorating with heat, it is good to take vitamin C by consuming fresh food and working the food as little as possible: some practical examples? A nice freshly squeezed citrus juice or strawberries possibly left whole and eaten fresh, or even lemon juice squeezed directly on the food before consuming it (among other things, did you know that a few drops of lemon on foods containing iron – such as meat, fish, vegetables or legumes – does it help to improve absorption?).
The richest foods and the daily requirement
As for the intake of vitamin C through the diet, there are some top foods for the content of this super vitamin. Among the vegetables richest in vitamin C, we find:
- citrus fruits
- rocket salad
- new potatoes
But how much vitamin C do we need? The ideal need is also calculated by considering the subjective state of health, age, sex and certain stages of life, such as pregnancy.
Let's say that, according to the LARN (i.e. the Reference Intake Levels of Nutrients and Energy for the Italian population indicated by the Italian Society of Human Nutrition), the minimum requirement of vitamin C for an adult is 60 mg per day, an amount that rises up to 90-100 mg / day for pregnant and lactating women.
Vitamin C for the immune system
Vitamin C contributes to the maintenance of a good immune system but does not have specific therapeutic properties to prevent or treat flu and cold.
Certainly, however, maintaining adequate levels of vitamin C helps to shorten the period of the flu episode and promote the recovery of energy and appetite during convalescence.
During a flu phase, you can also take vitamin C through specific supplements or increase its intake in a more natural way through nutrition, with an increase in the consumption of fruit and vegetables.
Vitamin C to promote iron intake
As anticipated, one of the most important functions of vitamin C concerns its ability to transform the iron contained in food into its most absorbable form.
This is why, to increase the levels of iron absorbed by our body, it can be very useful to pay attention to food combinations. For example, it may be indicated to sprinkle the meat with fresh lemon juice, to follow the lentil dish with a strawberry dessert, to complete iron-rich meals with arugula and tomatoes, drink some lemon juice diluted in water while eating or finish the meal with a nice orange.
Vitamin C for healthy skin and mucous membranes
Vitamin C is also essential for the health of the mucous membranes. It is very easy, in fact, that frequent gingivitis or periodic appearance of canker sores are related to a vitamin deficiency, often of vitamin C and B vitamins. Also in this case, it is important to integrate correctly and follow the advice of the attending physician carefully.
Vitamin C is also essential for the biosynthesis of amino acids, collagen and hormones, therefore it is essential to keep the skin healthy.
Vitamin C as an antioxidant
Thanks to its antioxidant action, vitamin C helps to defend the body from damage caused by the harmful action of free radicals, responsible for inflammatory processes and cellular aging, as well as toxic and polluting substances such as pollution and cigarette smoke.
Antitumor Vitamin C?
A very powerful antioxidant, this vitamin has long been at the center of studies concerning the prevention of cancer. Recent studies published in Science Translational Medicine have confirmed an active role of vitamin C as an antitumor substance, in this case mainly linked to melanoma and stomach cancer, in therapeutic doses, however, that cannot be taken through food or over-the-counter supplements.
Vitamin C deficiency: what symptoms?
A diet low in fruit and vegetables can cause a vitamin C deficiency, which can manifest itself with:
- tiredness and fatigue;
- muscle and joint pain;
- increased susceptibility to infections.
In the most severe cases (scurvy), dental problems, bleeding gums, hair loss, dull complexion, anemia and weakening of bones and cartilage can appear.
Changing the diet in a healthier and more balanced way, favoring the consumption of fresh and seasonal vegetables, as well as the intake of specific supplements, is usually sufficient to solve the deficiency, but in the presence of specific conditions it is always essential to take advantage of the advice of the doctor, avoiding do-it-yourself and dangerous overdoses. The latter, in fact, can cause side effects such as stomach upset and headache.