Vitamin C is an essential vitamin, meaning your body can’t produce it. Yet, it has many roles and has been linked to impressive health benefits. It’s water-soluble and found in many fruits and vegetables, including oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, and spinach. The recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men .
1. May reduce your risk of chronic disease
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can strengthen your body’s natural defenses. Antioxidants are molecules that boost the immune system. They do so by protecting cells from harmful molecules called free radicals. When free radicals accumulate, they can promote a state known as oxidative stress, which has been linked to many chronic diseases (Trusted Source). Studies show that consuming more vitamin C can increase your blood antioxidant levels by up to 30%. This helps the body’s natural defenses fight inflammation. Trusted Sources
2. May help manage high blood pressure
Approximately, one-third of American adults have high blood pressure. High blood pressure puts you at risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death globally (Trusted Source. Studies have shown that vitamin C may help lower blood pressure in both those with and without high blood pressure. An animal study found that taking a vitamin C supplement helped relax the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart, which helped reduce blood pressure levels (Trusted Source ).
Moreover, an analysis of 29 human studies found that taking a vitamin C supplement reduced systolic blood pressure (the upper value) by 3.8 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (the lower value) by 1.5 mmHg, on average, in healthy adults. In adults with high blood pressure, vitamin C supplements reduced systolic blood pressure by 4.9 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.7 mmHg, on average (Trusted Source). While these results are promising, it’s not clear whether the effects on blood pressure are long term. Moreover, people with high blood pressure should not rely on vitamin C alone for treatment. Studies show that consuming more vitamin C can increase your blood antioxidant levels by up to 30%. This helps the body’s natural defenses fight inflammation
3. May lower your risk of heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide (Trusted Source). Many factors increase the risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, high triglyceride or LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Vitamin C may help reduce these risk factors, which may reduce heart disease risk. For example, an analysis of 9 studies with a combined 293,172 participants found that after 10 years, people who took at least 700 mg of vitamin C daily had a 25% lower risk of heart disease than those who did not take a vitamin C supplement (Trusted Source). Interestingly, another analysis of 15 studies found that consuming vitamin C from foods — not supplements — was linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
However, scientists were unsure whether people who consumed vitamin-C-rich foods also followed a healthier lifestyle than people who took a supplement. Thus, it remains unclear whether the differences were due to vitamin C or other aspects of their diet (Trusted Source ). Another analysis of 13 studies looked at the effects of taking at least 500 mg of vitamin C daily on risk factors for heart disease, such as blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The analysis found that taking a vitamin C supplement significantly reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol by approximately 7.9 mg/dL and blood triglycerides by 20.1 mg/dL (Trusted Source – . In short, it seems that taking or consuming at least 500 mg of vitamin C daily may reduce the risk of heart disease. However, if you already consume a vitamin-C-rich diet, then supplements may not provide additional heart health benefits.
4. Helps prevent iron deficiency
Iron is an important nutrient that has a variety of functions in the body. It’s essential for making red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body. Vitamin C supplements can help improve the absorption of iron from the diet. Vitamin C assists in converting iron that is poorly absorbed, such as plant-based sources of iron, into a form that is easier to absorb (Trusted Source) This is especially useful for people on a meat-free diet, as meat is a major source of iron. In fact, simply consuming 100 mg of vitamin C may improve iron absorption by 67% (Trusted Source). As a result, vitamin C may help reduce the risk of anemia among people prone to iron deficiency.
In one study, 65 children with mild iron deficiency anemia were given a vitamin C supplement. Researchers found that the supplement alone helped control their anemia (Trusted Source). If you have low iron levels, consuming more vitamin-C-rich foods or taking a vitamin C supplement may help improve your blood iron levels.
5. Boosts immunity
One of the main reasons people take vitamin C supplements is to boost their immunity, as vitamin C is involved in many parts of the immune system. First, vitamin C helps encourage the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infection (Trusted Source).
Secondly, vitamin C helps these white blood cells function more effectively while protecting them from damage by potentially harmful molecules, such as free radicals. Third, vitamin C is an essential part of the skin’s defense system. It’s actively transported to the skin, where it can act as an antioxidant and help strengthen the skin’s barriers (Trusted Source).Studies have also shown that taking vitamin C may shorten wound healing time (Trusted Source) What’s more, low vitamin C levels have been linked to poor health outcomes. For example, people who have pneumonia tend to have lower vitamin C levels, and vitamin C supplements have been shown to shorten the recovery time (Trusted Source).
By Dr. Keyna