In a world that gets distracted by all things fresh and flashy, we frequently forget about the tried-and-true. That’s unfortunate, because the simplest choice is often the right one when it comes to being proactive with your health. Take Vitamin C, for example. Vitamin C and is an effective antioxidant that helps to protect proteins, lipids, carbohydrates from damage by free radicals that occur both during normal cell metabolism and through exposure to toxins. This nutrient can also regenerate other antioxidants, including Vitamin E and glutathione. More than half a century of research has unveiled the power of vitamin C to support various aspects of the immune system, particularly immune cell function. Here are some good reasons to stock up on Vitamin C as we head into the colder months.
On the surface
While we often forget about it, the skin is an important part of the immune system. As a barrier, healthy, intact skin helps to block entry to pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and toxins. Vitamin C is important because we need it to make collagen. We also see the importance of this nutrient when we consider the Vitamin C deficiency disease scurvy. Symptoms of scurvy include bleeding gums, bruising and impaired wound healing. While regular hand-washing will protect your health, Vitamin C will help protect your skin!
Vitamin C also shines when it comes to keeping your immune cells in top shape. For example, white blood cells help to fight infection by killing microbes, through programmed death of damaged or spent white blood cells, and in the subsequent clean-up activities. White blood cells hoard Vitamin C, possibly as protection against free radical damage. In other words, Vitamin C may not be all that flashy, but it is an important foundation vitamin to support your immune system.
Are you getting enough?
Although Vitamin C is plentiful in fruits and vegetables, studies suggest that many people in North America don’t consume an adequate amount of this nutrient to meet their needs. Especially in colder months when fresh produce is scarce, insufficient intake might be part of the reason. Another possible explanation for deficiencies is that, as a water-soluble nutrient, our bodies can’t store Vitamin C to save for a rainy day. Instead, we need to be sure to consume enough of it daily. Complicating matters, factors such as cigarette smoking, environmental pollution, infection or low-level chronic inflammation can easily use up dietary Vitamin C.
Vitamin C may not come with bells and whistles, but it does have an impressive research pedigree when it comes to supporting immune system health – which might explain why you’ve heard about it a lot more lately. Be sure to add Vitamin C-rich citrus, peppers and seasonings like paprika to the menu. To help you and your family get through the coming months when fresh produce is but a distant memory, be sure to add supplemental Vitamin C to your daily health routine. Fads come and go, but Vitamin C has staying power.
Carr, A., & Maggini, S. (2017). Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients, 9(11), 1211–. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9111211
Douglas, R., & Hemilä, H. (2005). Vitamin C for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold. PLoS Medicine, 2(6), e168–. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0020168 ( Annu Rev Biochem 32: 1–14).