• Sumo

As I go about writing up nutrition facts every day about fruits and vegetables, one vitamin keeps cropping up again and again: vitamin C. It appears that every fruit under the sun has high amounts of this all-important vitamin, and yet we tend to forget exactly what it does that makes it so vital. You may know where to find it, but do you know why you need it, other than your mother telling you it keeps a body going? Let’s spend some time getting more familiar with our friend vitamin C and figure out why we need him in our lives.

We keep tossing around the word “antioxidant” like it’s a baseball or something because food labels love a fancy buzz word and antioxidant is just one of those buzz words. Most produce contains it in some form or another, partly because vitamin C just so happens to be an antioxidant. As an antioxidant, it goes about and protects the body from free radicals, which as you know are the little nasty bits of cancer-producing waste that remain after our bodies convert things into energy. Therefore, yup, vitamin C is believed to help reduce the risk of cancer in some form or another.

Furthermore, vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid (because vitamin C was too simple of a name), creates collagen in your body, a vital protein that goes about healing wounds. Well, it’s doesn’t necessarily heal wounds by itself, but it’s an integral part of the process. Essentially, vitamin C is good when you’ve cut yourself pretty good and want to heal quicker. It also helps with the absorption of iron, which is important to a strong sense of physical health and energy.

Of course, we all know that vitamin C is one of the biggest proponents of a strong immune system, so the old wisdom of downing a bunch of orange juice when you feel a cold coming on seems to do the trick. Except…actually we’ve learned that the common cold is a bit tricky since the reaction our bodies have to it isn’t actually the virus itself affecting us but rather our bodies overreacting to the virus. What this means is that vitamin C does make our bodies more effectively fight a common cold…which means our bodies bring an army to a drugstore robbery. Translation: our immune systems go overboard and cause all the common cold symptoms. Strange how that works.

Regardless of illness, vitamin C has a role to play and it does so with gusto. Gladly, we’re almost never at risk of being at a vitamin C deficiency as so many foods have so much of it in a readily-absorbable format. It’s actually been quite a while since anyone had any significant problem as a result of being deficient, which people may remember was a time when scurvy was more rampant. Well, that’s simply not a problem anymore. However, some people do need more vitamin C than others, specifically smokers, infants drinking evaporated or boiled cow’s milk, and people dealing with certain medical conditions.

But besides just playing a role in healthy bodies, vitamin C has some other bit of power that- actually now that I think of it this all relates to healthy bodies again so never mind that build up. We already know that because it’s an antioxidant, vitamin C can help lover the risk of lung, breast, and colon cancer, but it also does the same thing with cardiovascular disease, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration or AMD for short.

And yet, there must still be someone out there who is worried that too much vitamin C can be harmful. The good news is that in most people, you’ll end up just peeing out the excess vitamins. Other times though you’ll experience diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps, though that’s after you’ve had a lot of the stuff. Also, though with hemochromatosis, a condition which causes the body to store too much iron, adding vitamin C (which helps iron get absorbed easier) to the diet only strengthens the problem. Strange how that works.

Vitamin C is just one of those things that you can’t escape, not unless you’re actively trying to. Your body will find a way to get a hold of it as long as you’re eating regular fruits and vegetables, though if you happen to live exclusively off of processed foods, well you may have a lot more problems than just vitamin C deficiency. Otherwise, stay happy, stay healthy, and trust in the power of vitamin C!