Most of us will know that consuming enough vitamin C is vital for fighting pesky coughs and colds. However, eating oranges, lemons and other foods packed with vitamin C are vital for supporting the skin and maintaining good gum health too. It’s also a particularly useful vitamin if you’re a vegetarian.
So what exactly is Vitamin C? Also known as ascorbic acid, it’s a nutrient which we all need to protect our cells from damaging free radicals and to build healthy connective tissue such as collagen. It’s water-soluble, which means the body cannot store it, and it’s easily destroyed by cooking so you need to steam or stir-fry your veg to get the most out of it.
The richest sources of vitamin C are actually blackcurrants and peppers – not oranges. Eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg means you’re getting a wide range of other vitamins too.
If you don’t get enough vitamin C every day, you could be missing out on these surprising health benefits:
It helps care for your teeth
Scurvy, caused by low vitamin C levels, used to be associated with sailors but there are reports the disease is making a comeback due to our poor diets and high rates of smoking which destroys vitamin C.
The first sign of scurvy is bleeding gums as there isn’t enough collagen to help keep gum cells together. This allows the bacteria responsible for gum disease to take hold more easily and could lead to tooth loss.
Ultimately upping your vitamin C intake can help keep gums healthy, protecting you against gaining a toothless smile.
It helps absorb iron if you’re veggie or vegan
Going veggie can be a good move but there are some unique health issues linked to cutting out meat, including not getting enough iron. A lack of iron can lead to fatigue, anaemia and a weakened immune system.
The iron available in vegetarian sources, such as beans, lentils and dried fruit, is harder for the body to extract from food. Luckily vitamin C helps you absorb them more easily so why not try adding a small, brightly coloured salad to your meals, or having a glass of orange juice with dinner?
It can help tackle wrinkles
If you’re getting enough vitamin C, you could chuck out your anti-wrinkle cream. It’s essential for making the protein collagen which provides the skin’s elasticity, making it a very effective weapon against ageing.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition even concluded those eating a diet rich in vitamin C had fewer wrinkles than those not getting enough of the vital nutrient.
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This article has been adapted from longer features appearing in Healthy, the Holland & Barrett magazine. Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.