By Dr G Farmah

Everything you didn’t know about Vitamin C

Let's talk about Vitamin C. What is there to know about this clever vitamin that has been crafted by Mother Nature herself?

As well as Dr Farmah's advice on Vitamin C, you can also check us out on Instagram and use #KnowYourABC for more information on a range of vitamins and minerals.

How does Vitamin C help your body?

Many people think that Vitamin C is mainly used to boost your immune system. In fact, the idea that Vitamin C can be used to prevent colds is a bit of a myth. While large doses can increase your white blood cell count and speed up your recovery time slightly, it won't stop a cold from happening, or make your symptoms any less severe.

Let's take a look at two of the most important ways this nutrient can actually help.

1. Healthy skin

Vitamin C has a vital role in collagen synthesis, which helps to keep our skin and joints healthy.

It also helps to protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation, stops your skin from drying out and can even slow the formation of wrinkles.

Then there's Vitamin C's wound-healing properties. When you're injured, it helps to control the swelling and encourages tissue to grow, speeding up your recovery time.

So, next time you're thinking of buying expensive cosmetics or skin care products, how about buying some oranges instead. They're much cheaper and, trust me, they taste better too!

2. Rich in antioxidants

Another huge area that Vitamin C may play a role in is cardiovascular health, and even cancer prevention. But how?

In your body, there is a constant battle between antioxidants (the Jedi) and free radicals (The Dark Side). When the two sides are equal, there is balance in 'the Force' and your body stays healthy.

When your antioxidant levels fall, the free radicals start to take over and damage healthy cells. This is called oxidative stress, which is thought to play a role in whole host of diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

Vitamin C is a key antioxidant, and without an adequate supply we end up with increased levels of oxidative stress. This may raise your risk of disease.

More to discover

As you can see, the health benefits of Vitamin C are quite broad. It's likely that we don't yet fully understand the full range of its capabilities.

There could be many more advantages of Vitamin C that we haven't discovered yet, but one thing's for certain - we need plenty of it!

How do you know you're getting enough Vitamin C?

The most famous symptom of Vitamin C deficiency can be traced back to the 13th century, when sailors would head out to see for weeks and months.

Without realising it, they deprived themselves of Vitamin C and developed horrific symptoms such as gum disease, poor wound healing and mood swings. Some died from bleeding or infection. The gum disease was named 'scurvy'.

The sailors realised that by taking citrus along for the journey, they could stop these symptoms. It wasn't until much later than the medical community realised that a lack of Vitamin C was to blame.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You don't go off to sea for months at a time, so you don't need to worry about Vitamin C deficiency, right?

Wrong. Actually, the early symptoms are quite broad and can affect people with particular dietary lifestyles. These days, we have hectic lifestyles and convenience is often the first thought when it comes to food. Our culture has once more evolved into somewhere we can easily become nutrient deficient, even if only partially.

The early symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency include:

I wonder how many of us get these symptoms from time to time and just push through? A sign of our busy culture, where we put our work and ambitions above our own health, but that's a topic for another post!

Please note that if you experience any of these symptoms, there could be other factors involved. If you're concerned, please see a doctor.

Where can you get Vitamin C?

A key point about humans as a species is that we cannot produce Vitamin C. We must consume it from natural sources, and luckily for us, we're surrounded by them. Any of us can pop to the local corner shop and stock up on delicious fruit and veg.

It's more than just citrus fruits that can provide you with Vitamin C, too. Here is a list of great natural sources.

  • Sweet pepper
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Snow peas
  • Blackcurrant
  • Strawberry
  • Orange
  • Kiwi
  • Guava
  • Papaya

If you're not currently getting enough Vitamin C in your diet, remember that it's better to make small, sustainable changes than trying to change everything overnight.

Obviously, fruit and vegetables don't stay fresh forever, so I suggest stocking up once a fortnight. You can even chop some fruit up and freeze it to use as a convenient, healthy snack. You can use it as a topping for your yoghurt, or blend lots of different fruits together into a delicious smoothie.

Should you use Vitamin C supplements?

There are some great Vitamin C supplements available, but please note that I always encourage people to get their vitamins naturally where possible.

This is because it encourages a generally healthy lifestyle. Choose food over supplements allows you to benefit from the full range of nutrients fruit and vegetables offer, such as fibre, iron, zinc, folate and magnesium, to name just a few.

As Hippocrates said, let food be thy medicine.

Happy smoothie-making!

Follow Dr Farmah on Instagram @swole.doc.