You probably don’t need reminding that vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is good for your health. The water-soluble vitamin is important for your metabolism and collagen production—and also offers powerful antioxidant properties, thus helping your body ward off free radical damage that can contribute to chronic disease and other health issues.
Vitamin C is found in all sorts of fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, kiwis, bell peppers, berries, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, and Brussels sprouts—which further reinforces how vital it is for our health and well-being.
What you might not know about this awesome antioxidant, though, is that it offers a whole host of health benefits beyond those it’s most famous for. Let’s discuss.
1. It’s good for your gut
Considering 70 percent of our immune system resides in our gut, it’s no surprise that vitamin C does a digestive system good. “Research suggests that vitamin C might protect against small intestinal bacterial overgrowth,” says dietitian Erin Kenney, M.S., R.D., CEO of Nutrition Rewired. “Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when there is an abnormal increase in the overall bacterial population in the small intestine,” she continues. These bacteria can damage the lining of your small intestine, “making it more permeable or ‘leaky,’ allowing toxins to pass through the gut into the bloodstream,” she says. The result: major digestive imbalance.
2. It helps you absorb iron
“Vitamin C has the unique ability to enhance the absorption of iron, specifically non-heme iron,” says Trista K. Best, M.P.H., R.D., L.D.N., at Balance One. “This is especially important for those following a plant-based diet, as iron from plants is non-heme. When consumed together, vitamin C helps the iron from plant sources be used by the body more efficiently.”
Some of her favorite power pairings: strawberries and tofu on salads, bell peppers and lentils in stews, orange juice with iron-fortified cereal, dark leafy greens with oranges or strawberries in salads, and bell pepper slices with hummus.
3. It helps you age gracefully
Research suggests that vitamin C offers multiple aging-related benefits. In fact, according to naturopathic doctor Sandra El Hajj, M.S., N.M.D, D.H.S., “it can prevent oxidative stress and ward off excessive secretion of inflammatory factors.”
Additionally, topical vitamin C works against premature skin aging caused by too much UV exposure from the sun and/or artificial UV sources (like tanning beds). Excess exposure causes free radical skin damage, which the antioxidant then combats, adds dietitian Mary Wirtz, M.S., R.D., nutritional consultant for MomLovesBest.
Case in point: One small study of 60 people found that a topical vitamin C solution helped to enhance skin thickness, an indicator of healthy collagen production, which is an important factor in warding off the appearance of wrinkles and maintaining a youthful complexion.
4. It Supports your Heart
According to Wirtz, vitamin C also plays a pretty notable role in keeping your heart (and entire cardiovascular system, for that matter) functioning properly. Since the antioxidant is a key player in the production of collagen, it’s a must for your heart and arteries, which are made up of collagen-containing tissue.
5. It promotes wound healing
The Band-Aid of the vitamin universe, vitamin C has been shown to assist in wound healing. “Vitamin C promotes wound healing through its role in collagen synthesis and by antioxidant properties,” says dietitian Delacey Foster, R.D., M.S.
6. It Supports bone health
Consuming ample C also helps you maintain healthy bones, which can otherwise become weak and brittle over time. “Vitamin C stimulates the production of osteoclasts that enable new bone growth through bone resorption,” Foster says. “Inadequate levels have been associated and linked with the development of osteoporosis.”