By Anja Springthorpe

It is well known that vitamin C is found predominantly in plant foods such as fruits and vegetables.  What is less known is that some living organisms can in fact produce their own vitamin C.  Because of evolution, we humans and a few other mammals, along with some fishes and birds have lost this ability, therefore we must ensure adequate intake of dietary vitamin C. 

Vitamin C is essential for health.  Without it, immune cells work less efficiently, increasing the risk of viral or bacterial infections.  It is needed to produce collagen, the structural component of skin and connective tissue.  Lack of sufficient collagen results in loss of skin elasticity and firmness, the main culprits for wrinkles and premature aging.  Vitamin C also is a major antioxidant, providing protection from free radicals.  Toxins, chemicals and other environmental pollution can lead to high levels of free radicals causing damage to skin cells and other tissues.  Researchers found that protection from free radicals reduces the risk of chronic diseases, cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

It does not stop there.  Vitamin C also has been associated with weight loss.  Vitamin C-rich foods are generally low in calories but high in fiber—vital for weight loss and to produce the amino acid carnitine which enables burning of stored fat for energy production. 

Vitamin C deficiency is more common than you think.  It’s usually caused by a lack of adequate dietary intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Smoking and alcohol consumption also significantly reduces vitamin C levels.  Signs of vitamin C deficiency include easy bruising, frequent infections, gum disease, slow wound healing or low resistance to stress.

Experts suggest a daily intake of 70-90 mgs of vitamin C per day.  This is the equivalent of half a cup of sliced bell pepper, one large orange, two kiwi fruits or one cup of fresh strawberries.  While fresh food is always superior, supplements are readily available at relatively low costs.  However, keep in mind that some digestive systems can be sensitive to vitamin C supplements.  Choose a buffered vitamin C product.  These are gentler on the stomach, reducing the risk of diarrhea or nausea.

Vitamin C-rich foods are generally low in calories but high in fiber—vital for weight loss.

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