The 15 Best-Ever Vitamin C Benefits for Your Health
There's more to vitamin C benefits than you might think: From warding off colds to healing faster from surgery, this vitamin can nearly do it all.
Your colds won’t last as long
“Vitamin C makes the best impact when taken at the start of cold symptoms,” explains Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, associate professor emeritus of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and the former director of the Nutrition Clinic at the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center. As soon as you develop even a hint of a cold, he says, that’s the sign to “double down” on your vitamin C intake. Be on the lookout for these crazy cold symptoms you probably didn’t know about.
Encourages you to eat a variety of foods
Lisa Garcia, RDN at Food Coach, LLC in Laconia, New Hampshire, explains that you can get vitamin C in more foods than just oranges. “Vitamin C is really delicious, easy to get, and fun to eat—and it’s in all kinds of fruits and vegetables,” she says. From kiwi and bell peppers to tomatoes and frozen peaches, she encourages everyone to eat the wide variety of these vitamin-C rich foods. Make sure you know these 14 simple ways to make vitamins more effective.
Boosts your immune system
A stronger immunity protects against more than pesky colds, points out Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. Gorin says early research suggests an association between vitamin C plus Concord grape polyphenols—both powerful antioxidants—and a healthy immune system. To get her vitamin C benefits, she reaches for 100 percent grape juice made with Concord grapes. “It’s packed with vitamin C, offering 120 percent of the daily value per 8-ounce serving,” she says.
Can help kids stay healthy
Ayoob says that adults aren’t the only ones who can reap vitamin C benefits. He explains that children, who have “immature immune systems,” also need to ingest the nutrient. “Along with getting enough rest, getting plenty of vitamin C is a good way to strengthen immune systems—for everyone, but especially for kids,” he says.
Protects your eyesight
The American Optometric Association notes that vitamin C benefits include slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—the number one cause of blindness as we get older—and preserving sharp vision. According to optometrist Randall McLaughlin, associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, protection often comes from vitamin C in conjunction with antioxidants, such as lutein; that’s why it’s so important to get it from healthy produce like kale and spinach—they contain both nutrients.
Keeps your waistline in shape
Whether you’re trying to shed a few pounds or maintain your weight, vitamin C can help, says Gorin. Seedless mandarin oranges are one of her favorite snacks: They’re an excellent source of vitamin C, and they set you back a mere 50 calories per orange. She points out that they’re also an ideal addition to smoothies or healthy vegetable sauces. (Find out the signs you’re running low on vitamins.)
Could help improve tuberculosis treatment
Taking vitamin C in conjunction with anti-tuberculosis medications may reduce the time it takes to blast the problematic pathogen, according to a study published in the American Society for Microbiology. The principal investigator, William R. Jacobs, Jr, PhD, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, stated that “… the addition of vitamin C to TB drug treatment potentiates the killing of Mtb and could shorten TB chemotherapy.”
May keep your ticker going strong
Want to keep your heart in shape? Consider therapy based on the late Linus Pauling’s research. He found that doses of vitamin C and the amino acid lysine may help keep heart disease at bay. Together, they strengthen arteries and help prevent plaque build-up. But don’t start mega-dosing on your own; both Ayoob and Garcia say that it’s always best to speak with a health practitioner first to best determine your body’s needs and any detrimental issues that may arise from significantly altering vitamin intake.
May play a role in fighting cancer
Researchers from the University of Salford, U.K. discovered that the antibiotic doxycycline, followed by doses of vitamin C, were helpful in killing cancer stem cells. This recent finding could someday help prevent cancer cells from becoming treatment-resistant. At the very least, the researchers say, it underscores the potential for combination therapies in managing cancer.
Helps alleviate anemia
If you’re anemic, then you know how important iron is. Garcia explains that vitamin C helps your body absorb iron—and other key nutrients. “Vitamin C can help liberate the iron in plant foods,” says Ayoob. He suggests you pair orange slices on a salad (greens have iron), or eat peppers with beans (another good source of iron). Gorin likes pairing tomatoes with iron-rich spinach.
May help with diabetes management
Vitamin C may help with the circulatory issues that come with type 2 diabetes. Research suggests the vitamin can boost blood flow; it may also help protect arteries from the damage induced by high blood sugar. Check out these seven simple tricks for living well with type 2 diabetes.
Sluggish and often feeling down? The Mayo Clinic says studies show that people with lower than normal vitamin C levels noticed mood improvements after receiving the vitamin. In early research, even people with normal vitamin C levels may benefit from extra, according to the Mayo Clinic experts. Here are eight more foods that can put you in a good mood.
Helps prevent free radical formation
Free radicals run amok, damaging cells. “Vitamin C puts a stop to that,”Ayoob says. “It neutralizes free radicals, which can damage DNA.” Ounce for ounce, he says, tomato juice packs an antioxidant punch; however, eating a variety of vitamin-C filled foods, like strawberries, papaya, cabbage, tomatoes, and even potatoes, does a better job of protecting you.
Keeps your body taut
Ayoob explains that without enough vitamin C, your body can’t make collagen—it helps keep your skin plump and youthful. Vitamin C also boosts connective tissue production, and that helps keep your joints and muscles healthy. Ayoob adds that “sexier” or trending foods and supplements may generate more attention, but vitamin C shouldn’t be overlooked. “Vitamin C may not be in the news as much, but it’s important to be in your body,” he says. Just make sure you’re not falling for these dangerous vitamin myths.
Pre- and post-op benefits
In very high doses, vitamin C may be therapeutic when taken in tandem with other treatments, says Ayoob. He says that it may be used pre-operatively in the case of cardiac surgery or organ transplants: It helps improve circulation and protect muscle tissue. Researchers have also found positive post-operative effects, suggesting the potential for vitamin C benefits among cardiac surgery patients; findings point to a possible reduction in post-op atrial fibrillation.
A word on food preparation
You’re most likely to get vitamin C benefits from raw foods—or ones that were cooked quickly, according to Garcia. Vitamin C is heat sensitive, she warns; snacking on bell peppers directly from the fridge, for example, gives you more vitamin C. But while time and temperature can be enemies of vitamin C, neither renders the food entirely void of the nutrient, she says. Note: Be careful to never, ever eat these nine foods raw.
Thoughts on supplements
While it may seem tempting to grab a bottle of supplements, Garcia recommends you think twice. She points to studies indicating that vitamin C supplementation may do more harm than good. As she says, quoting Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine.” If you are curious about supplements, check with your health-care provider first, she says, and your pharmacist second: Vitamin C supplements can interact badly with some medications and conditions. On that note, find out which supplements are a waste of money—and which could even be dangerous.