What Does Vitamin C Actually Do?

By Heide Kennedy, Arizona Farm Bureau Communications Intern

We think of taking more vitamin C during winter and cold and flu season so that we don’t get sick. But is this nutrient really a miracle preventative for getting sick? Read on for a little crash course on vitamin C including what it is, what it’s good for, and if it really helps prevent illness.

So, what exactly is vitamin C? According to registered dietician Devon Peart, vitamin C is an essential nutrient, meaning that it is an important nutrient our bodies need to function properly, but we must get through our diet because our bodies don’t make it themselves.

Some of vitamin C’s main functions include:

  • Protects against free-radical buildup – Too many free radicals can lead to cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
  • Promotes eye health – Specifically it wards off cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Improves iron absorption.
  • Encourages collagen growth.
  • Aids in wound healing.
  • Topical vitamin C promotes skin health.

You might have noticed that the list didn’t include improving our immune systems. That’s because this one needs a little more attention. It’s commonly said that vitamin C helps to prevent us from getting sick, and according to Peart, this isn’t true. Taking vitamin C doesn’t eliminate your risk of getting sick entirely, but it definitely does lessen the severity and duration of your illness.

Since vitamin C is so important to our health, how much of it do we need per day? It’s recommended that we be getting 75 milligrams to 120 milligrams of vitamin C per day, depending on gender, and if pregnant or lactating. Peart says that it’s worth noting that these recommended amounts are the minimum amounts required in order to keep you from being deficient. There is no harm in getting more vitamin C! He says that during times of sickness, taking up to 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C helps to replenish your body after a time of physical stress.

One of the best food sources of vitamin C is citrus! Lucky for us Arizonans, citrus is one of the 5 C’s of Arizona, as we produce lots of it during the winter months. So, look for some Arizona grown citrus especially during the winter, and replenish your body with vitamin C! Check out the Fill Your Plate website for resources on finding locally grown citrus!

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