What is the Importance of Vitamin C for Nutrition?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Many people know the importance of vitamin C for nutrition, but few can explain exactly why it is considered so beneficial. In addition for being touted as an immune system booster, there are many other things that are done by vitamin C for nutrition and total body health. Understanding the importance of vitamin C for nutrition can help people concerned with health work correct doses of the vitamin into a daily diet.

Cauliflower is a source of vitamin C.
Cauliflower is a source of vitamin C.

Sometimes called ascorbic acid, vitamin C is perhaps best recognized as an antioxidant. Antioxidants assist the body by preventing and slowing cell oxidation, a process that can lead to mutation, cell damage, and disease. For many years, people have suggested that vitamin C is an effective treatment in the prevention of colds and minimization from symptoms related to the common cold. Scientific research on this subject has shown that vitamin C does not seem to make colds shorter or less symptomatic, though some studies suggest it may have a mildly beneficial immune-boosting effect when taken daily.

A vitamin C deficiency can cause bleeding gums.
A vitamin C deficiency can cause bleeding gums.

Vitamin C for nutrition is critical for humans in particular, as the human species lacks the capability to produce the substance. Almost all other species are capable of creating their own source of vitamin C within the body, but for humans, capybaras, some apes, and certain fish, it must be ingested as a dietary supplement. Without proper levels of Vitamin C for nutrition, a variety of unpleasant conditions may erupt.

Vitamin supplements are available for vitamin C.
Vitamin supplements are available for vitamin C.

The most well-known illness associated with vitamin C deficiency is scurvy. When deprived of the necessary vitamin, the body loses the ability to produce and process collagen. This leads to characteristic symptoms of scurvy, including dark brown spots on the skin, bleeding gums, weakness, and extreme fatigue. Scurvy was common among sailors, who had little exposure to the fresh fruits and vegetables that provide vitamin C for nutrition. Modern recipes for grog, a drink of hot water, rum, and limes, come from the early cures for scurvy used at sea.

Lemons and other citrus fruits have vitamin C.
Lemons and other citrus fruits have vitamin C.

Sources of vitamin C are thankfully abundant throughout the world. Citrus fruits, berries, and kiwis are excellent fruit-based sources of this important vitamin, while lettuce, cauliflower, and spinach are vegetable options. There are also vitamin supplements that can provide a daily dose, but some experts suggest caution with supplemental use; too much vitamin C has been associated with some health problems in some studies. Getting vitamin C from fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables is generally considered to be the best means of ensuring a healthy nutritional intake.

While a vitamin C deficiency can lead to serious health problems, large doses of vitamin C may cause nausea and headaches.
While a vitamin C deficiency can lead to serious health problems, large doses of vitamin C may cause nausea and headaches.
Kiwis are an excellent source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation.
Kiwis are an excellent source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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