Vitamin C: What it is and why we need it

The importance of vitamin C

Of the 13 recognised vitamins in the world, vitamin C is probably one of the best known. Even without knowing intricate details, most people know that this vitamin is essential for boosting our immunity. They will direct you towards citrus fruits to get your fix of it. And then there are always over-the-counter vitamin C tablets.

When the pandemic came fully into our lives, leading to a renewed interest in health, vitamin C supplements took centre stage in our efforts to boost our body's natural defence system. But how well do we really know vitamins in general and vitamin C in particular?

Let's start with vitamins

Vitamins are defined as "any of a group of organic compounds which are essential for normal growth and nutrition". While our bodies need vitamins in small quantities, they are either incapable of producing them on their own or produce far too little of them. This is why we rely more on external sources to get the requisite amount of vitamins. These sources are mainly the food we eat and also supplements that are available in pharmacies

As mentioned earlier, there are 13 types of vitamins known today. These are vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, C, D, E and K.

Putting the spotlight on vitamin C The chemical name of this important vitamin is 'ascorbic acid'. It is a water-soluble vitamin which means that it is washed out of our bodies and is not easily stored there. All B vitamins are also water-soluble while the remainder are fat-soluble meaning they remain in our bodies for longer.

Vitamin C has many important functions to perform in our body. It is known to -

- Help build collagen
- Support our immune system
- Protect our cells
- Ensure healthy skin, bone and cartilage
- Help with healing wounds

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant known to help neutralize the damage caused by free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells and are linked to aging and illness).

What happens when we don't get enough Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy. This results in poor dental health like bleeding gums along with poor tissue growth, weakness, anaemia and easy bruising.

Vitamin C and moods

Another effect of lower vitamin C levels in our body is an increased feeling of weakness. According to an article in Mayo Clinic, some studies showed that people with less than normal levels of vitamin C in their bodies experienced an improvement in their moods once they got more vitamin C.

Sources of vitamin C

Vitamin C is most commonly found in fruits and vegetables. Some foods rich in this important vitamin are citrus fruits, tomatoes, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, dark leafy greens, papaya, mango, watermelon, cauliflower, cabbage and red peppers.

However, it is important to note that high heat cooking or long cooking times destroys vitamin C. So, opt for quick stir-fried or blanched vegetables to get the maximum benefit. As for fruits, they have the maximum source of vitamin C at the point of peak ripeness. So, if you're eating fruits for your vitamin C dose, make sure you eat it then and eat it raw.

Other sources of vitamin C

Many people also rely on additional supplements and pills to meet their vitamin requirements. Healthy energy drinks can also do the deed here. For instance, consider Prolyte. It is enriched with vitamin C, electrolytes, and just the right amount of glucose that helps your body fight the effects of exhaustion and fatigue. Make it a part of a healthy lifestyle that includes the right diet and exercise to derive the maximum benefit out of it.

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Vitamin C: What it is and why we need it