Vitamin C is among the most important nutrients for the human body. It is an antioxidant, aids many biological functions, and is a natural defense against some infections. Because of these traits, vitamin C has numerous benefits. While most experts recommend getting vitamin C from foods, supplements can also help people meet their daily needs.

Absorb More Iron

Iron is an important mineral that helps create red blood cells and transport oxygen through the body. Certain plants, such as spinach, deliver non-heme iron that is extremely difficult for the body to absorb compared to the heme iron found in animal sources. Vitamin C helps convert non-heme iron into a form that is easier for the body to make use of. While this is most helpful for people who avoid meat in their diet, it can help anyone absorb more iron from their food.

iron plant foods Lecic / Getty Images


Protect Cognitive Ability

Over 35 million people around the world have dementia and experience some level of cognitive decline. Some studies suggest that oxidative stress and inflammation contribute to these issues. Because vitamin C is an antioxidant, it helps combat oxidative stress by protecting cells from free radicals. People with dementia also often have lower levels of vitamin C in their system. Research shows that low vitamin C levels could impair memory recall and cognitive ability.

sticky notes dementia memory MonicaNinker / Getty Images


Avoid Gout

While breaking down certain foods, the body produces uric acid, a waste product. At high levels, uric acid can crystallize and deposit in the joints, leading to a form of arthritis called gout. People with gout experience swelling and extreme pain, often in their big toes. Multiple studies indicate that vitamin C may lower the risk of developing gout due to a direct link between it and uric acid levels. One study suggests that vitamin C supplements reduce the risk of gout by 44%.

gout swelling joints Jan-Otto / Getty Images


Manage High Blood Pressure

Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, a major health risk. One study showed that vitamin C can help lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by preventing unnecessary blood vessel dilation. While it is not a replacement for treatment, vitamin C could reduce the risk of high blood pressure complications.

blood pressure doctor Zinkevych / Getty Images


Help Bowel Disease

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two major forms of irritable bowel disease or IBD. Both conditions involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract that some studies suggest is the result of oxidative stress. Individuals with bowel diseases often have vitamin C deficiencies, even while maintaining a healthy diet. This causes additional fatigue and inflammation. By consuming more vitamin C, people with these conditions can prevent deficiency while potentially improving bowel disease symptoms.

doctor patient discussion Drazen Zigic / Getty Images


Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death. Some studies assert that vitamin C improves heart health and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. While this is a point of some debate, vitamin C deficiency does have ties to a higher risk of mortality from heart disease. Additionally, vitamin C’s beneficial effects on blood pressure and inflammation improve overall health. To ensure proper cardiovascular health, eat a diet full of vitamin C and other nutrients, and exercise regularly.

doctor stethoscope heart wutwhanfoto / Getty Images


Shorter Illnesses

Despite popular belief, it is unlikely that vitamin C prevents infections like the common cold. However, multiple studies show that vitamin C can dramatically reduce the duration of the common cold and other diseases by encouraging the production of lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help fight infections. Taking vitamin C supplements just before or after getting sick doesn't produce this effect, however. A person must regularly consume high levels of vitamin C.

common cold duration woman BartekSzewczyk / Getty Images


Promote Eye Health

Macular degeneration is a medical condition that results in blindness or blurry images in the center of the visual field. The condition steadily progresses, and there is no cure. Taking vitamin C supplements alongside other vitamins and minerals may prevent age-related macular degeneration from worsening. Some studies also state that people with vitamin C-rich diets have a lower chance of developing cataracts.

eye health exam seb_ra / Getty Images


No Scurvy

Scurvy or severe vitamin C deficiency is a dangerous condition primarily affecting populations that lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables. While many people think it is rare, it may be more prevalent in developed nations than most realize. Notably, many people with bowel diseases or restrictive diets are at risk for scurvy. Preventing scurvy is relatively simple and only takes the addition of vitamin C into the diet.

vitamin c oranges citrus ljubaphoto / Getty Images


Where to Get Vitamin C

Citrus fruits such as oranges, limes, and lemons are among the most popular sources of vitamin C. However, many fruits and vegetables contain even more. Other foods rich in vitamin C include

  • Pineapples and mangoes
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Most melons
  • Raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries
  • Leafy greens, such as kale or spinach

Supplements are also effective in boosting vitamin C levels, though they are less effective for people who already have vitamin C-rich diets.

vitamin sources fruits vegetables MillefloreImages / Getty Images


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