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What Is Vitamin C? - Benefits, Foods & Deficiency Symptoms

Instructor: Donna Ricketts

Donna Ricketts is a health educator with 15 years of professional experience designing health and wellness programs for adults and children.

Explore vitamin C and its many health benefits via this lesson. You will be introduced to foods rich in vitamin C and discover specific deficiency symptoms and health problems one could experience due to insufficient amounts of vitamin C.

Definition

Vitamin C may be the most well known of all the vitamins. At the very first sign of a cold, many people load up on vitamin C. (Though, contrary to popular belief, there is very little evidence that vitamin C actually helps ward off the common cold.) So what exactly is this vitamin and where can you get it?

Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means your body doesn't store it. You have to get what you need from food, like citrus fruits, tomatoes and broccoli. Your body takes what is required and any extra will be flushed out through your urine.

Benefits

Vitamin C has many health benefits. One such benefit is improved wound healing. From cuts and burns to broken bones and surgical wounds, vitamin C helps abrasions heal faster and better. Vitamin C aids in the formation of collagen - a protein that helps support tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. It also keeps the skin and other organs healthy.

As an antioxidant, vitamin C may help to prevent heart disease by preventing free radicals from damaging artery walls, which could lead to plaque formation. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron from plant-based foods and strengthens your immune system, protecting you from diseases.

Foods

Fruits and vegetables are the best food sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is diminished when fresh fruits and vegetables are exposed to air or heat, so consuming them uncooked or raw is best. Here are some examples of produce that are considered high in vitamin C.

Fruits high in vitamin C:

Kiwii Fruit
Kiwi fruit

• Watermelon

• Honeydew melon

• Cantaloupe

• Papaya

• Citrus fruits, such as orange, tangerine and grapefruit

• Kiwi fruit

• Mango

• Pineapple

• Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries

Vegetables high in vitamin C:

Colorful Vegetables
Vegetables

• Broccoli and Brussels sprouts

• Cauliflower

• Green and red peppers

• Radishes

• Spinach, cabbage, collard greens, and other leafy greens

• Sweet and white potatoes

• Summer squash

• Tomatoes

Deficiency Symptoms

Consuming a diet that consists mainly of processed foods with an insufficient amount of fruits and vegetables may result in a vitamin C deficiency. Though uncommon, severe deficiency can result in developing scurvy. Scurvy can cause weakness, depression, inflammation of the gums and impaired wound healing. Not getting sufficient amounts of vitamin C every day (about 75 to 90 milligrams) can lead to any of these health problems:

• bleeding gums

• bruising easily

• slow wound healing

• dry hair with split ends

• nose bleeds

• fatigue

• weakened immune system

• rough dry skin

• joint pain

• damaged tooth enamel

Lesson Summary

In summary, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which needs to be replenished daily. Fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits, watermelon and broccoli are the best sources of vitamin C. Acting as an antioxidant, vitamin C protects your cells from free radicals as well as helps your body absorb iron and your wounds heal better.

Vitamin C Overview

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