Vitamin C is perhaps best known for its ability to prevent cold. It has a remarkable role in building and maintaining tissue health and fight off the diseases. It is a water soluble vitamin which means it is not stored in the body and it has to be provided to the body from the food that we eat.
Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is known to humans since many centuries. Its deficiency disease, scurvy is one of the oldest ailments known to mankind. Vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat and alkalies such as sodium bicarbonate. Faulty cooking habits, inadequate intake of fresh vegetables and fruits are the major cause of dietary deficiency.
Vitamin C from the food is absorbed from the small intestine. Its concentration is much higher in adrenal and pituitary glands, blood cells etc. Excess of vitamin C is excreted from the urine. A satisfactory daily allowance of vitamin C is 30 mg.
Deficiency of this vitamin gives rise to number of health problems such as bleeding gums, tiny red patches of blood on the skin surface called petechiea and purpura, joint pain and collection of fluid in joint space. Fatigue, depression and hysteria are characteristic clinical features of vitamin C deficiency. In infants and children vitamin C deficiency manifests as tenderness of lower extremities. Its deficiency also delays wound healing.
Natural Sources Of Vitamin C Or Ascorbic Acid
Unlike most animals, humans are unable to produce their own vitamin C and need its regular intake from food. Vitamin C is unstable vitamin and gets easily destroyed by oxidation, exposure to sunlight or high temperature. The best source therefore is fresh raw fruits and vegetables. Certain fruits have high concentration of vitamin C such as lemons, strawberry, oranges, black-currant, Kiwi fruit, peppers, and guava.
There are two fruits which have extremely high amount of vitamin C and they are kakadu plum and camu camu fruit. The normal requirement of vitamin C is 40mg in a day. This can be provided by eating one small orange, one kiwi fruit or one large peach.
Vegetable source of vitamin C are green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, lettuce, dandelion, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery roots, raw tomatoes, cabbage, radish, asparagus, beans, spinach etc. Animal source of vitamin C is negligible. Some minor amount of it is found in fish.
Cereals are not good source of vitamin C when they are dry. However, they become good source of vitamin C once they are soaked in water for one day and they germinate. They form a good source of vitamin C.
If a person eats 3 helpings of fruits and vegetables in a day, it provides the required amount of ascorbic acid to the body.
What Are The Main Function Of Vitamin C?
Vitamin C has indispensable role for maintaining good health.
- It participates in the formation of collagen. Collagen is a substance found throughout the body and helps to maintain the structure of tissues. This includes skin, bones, muscles, blood vessels and gums. Depletion of collagen results in scurvy. In scurvy the blood vessels become weak. It results in bleeding from various sites such as bleeding from gums, nose, easy bruising. The bones too become weak and there is great risk of recurrent fracture. Collagen is necessary for quick wound healing therefore body should have it in optimum quantity.
- Iron is necessary for formation of hemoglobin. Iron is absorbed properly from the gut in presence of vitamin C. It is needed for buoyant health, vitality, and endurance.
- Vitamin C reduces the duration of colds. Several studies have shown alleviation in the severity of symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and sniffling. It encourages the immune system to fight against the viruses responsible for colds.
- Ascorbic acid is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants kill the circulating free radicals in the body which are known to cause tissue damage. It slows down the aging process and wrinkling of skin.
- Vitamin C prevents or at least slows down formation of bed sores in bed ridden people.
- Ascorbic acid prevents clumping of sperm cells which is the main cause of infertility in men. Low intake of vitamin C may also increase genetic damage in the germ cells which would lead to birth defects.
- It protects the immune system and keeps it healthy strong to fight against diseases.