Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is a complex organic compound in crystalline form with white colour and an acidic taste. Like all Vitamins, it is not composed by the body and therefore must be obtained from food on a daily basis. This is because it is highly water soluble and is not stored in the body but is easily excreted.
This means that it binds the free radicals that cause oxidative stress, protecting the cells of the body. At the same time, it contributes to multiple processes that are necessary for the good functioning of the body.
Collagen is the main ingredient of our skin, bones, tendons, cartilage, blood vessels and teeth and is characterised by its ability to form insoluble fibres that are highly resistant to damage. Without the presence of ascorbic acid, collagen decomposes and cannot form proper fibres, leading to skin damage and the formation of fragile blood vessels. The bones and teeth suffer as well.
This means that it enhances the body’s defence against infections.
Vitamin C reacts with iron from plants, which is available in a form that is hard to absorb by the body, and transforms it into a more easily absorbable form.
More precisely, it protects from macular degeneration and cataract.
Due to its potent antioxidant action and its role in collagen synthesis, vitamin C is beneficial for skin health when applied locally. It nourishes the skin, smoothes out wrinkles and fine lines, reduces spots and dark circles, increases skin brightness and preserves the skin’s texture and firmness.
The most important sources of vitamin C are fresh fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers, raspberries, spinach, potatoes, melons, apples, kiwis and pineapples. Certain herbs like thyme and basil are also good sources of vitamin C.
The recommended daily intake is 75mg for women and 90mg for men. For example, a glass of fresh orange juice or a portion of strawberries provides the body with the amount of vitamin C it needs every day. In general, a balanced diet is sufficient to cover the body’s daily needs. Smokers, however, have to consume 35 mg of additional vitamin C every day.
A severe lack of vitamin C causes scurvy, a disease that leads to sore gums, loss of teeth, muscle weakness, bleeding, tiredness, depression and anaemia. In the past, scurvy was experienced mainly by seamen who spent long periods of time at sea during which it was not possible to preserve stocks of fruits and vegetables on board. From the middle of the 18th century, it was observed that lemonade protected seamen from scurvy. The responsible substance that protected from this disease was named vitamin C or ascorbic acid.
Vitamin C is highly water soluble and easily destroyed with cooking. Therefore, it is better to opt for raw fruits and vegetables.
In addition, it oxidises easily when it is exposed to air. When you cut fruits or prepare juices, make sure to consume them immediately. If you want to consume them later, store them in the fridge, as temperature accelerates oxidation.
Remember to add to plant-based sources of iron, such as lentils and spinach, foods with a high content of vitamin C, such as lemon, in order to increase the absorbance of iron.
Vitamin C is also available in form of food supplements, but it is preferable to consume fruits and vegetables, as they contain other substances that act in combination with vitamin C.
Christina Sakellariou, Chemist - HR Manager at Cosmetia
Also published on Thrive Global Greece:https://www.thriveglobal.gr/arthra/vitamini-c-enas-ischyros-symmachos-gia-tin-ygeia/