Believe it or not, vitamin C has benefits that extend far beyond simply boosting your immune system. In fact, it should take a permanent place in your supplement arsenal and can help you prep for bringing out your sexy side in time for Spring. Here are four great reasons to take it daily that will help you handle stress, shed stomach fat, and spike your stamina.
Handle Stress Better: Vitamin C is naturally highest in our adrenal glands, and research suggests stress can deplete our vitamin C stores. So supplementation is a wise choice for extra protection during trying times. Alabama researchers put laboratory rats under stress by immobilizing them for one hour a day over a three-week period. To check whether vitamin C would reduce the production of stress hormones, the rats were fed 200 milligrams a day, the equivalent of several grams a day for humans. The study showed that vitamin C reduced the levels of stress hormones in the blood-and also reduced other typical indicators of physical and emotional stress. A German study subjected participants to stressors such as public speaking and math problems (certainly an acute stress for many!). They found that cortisol and high blood pressure were significantly greater in those who did not receive the vitamin supplement.
Slim down Stomach Fat: Vitamin C is one of the most widely used supplements today, but many of us don't realize that it plays a key role in our blood sugar levels. A study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research looked at 84 patients with type 2 diabetes who randomly received either 500 mg or 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily for 6 weeks. The researchers discovered that the group supplementing with 1,000 mg of vitamin C experienced a significant decrease in fasting blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol (LDL) and insulin levels. The dose of 500 mg of vitamin C, however, did not produce any significant changes. Vitamin C is manufactured directly from glucose in the body and actually has a similar structure.
Insulin is known to increase the cellular uptake of vitamin C. But if we know that vitamin C and glucose have similar chemical structures, what happens when glucose levels go up? They compete with one another to enter the cells -- and if there is more glucose around, less vitamin C will be allowed in.
Surprisingly, it does not take much glucose to create this cellular deficiency so not only is it important to keep your C levels up, it's just as crucial to keep your blood sugar levels stable with a low glycemic diet. And it certainly doesn't hurt your waistline.
Keep Your Heart Healthy: Research from University of California, Berkeley, adds to the evidence that vitamin C supplements can lower concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP), a central biomarker of inflammation that has been shown to be a powerful predictor of heart disease and diabetes. For healthy, non-smoking adults with an elevated level of CRP, a daily dose of vitamin C lowered levels of the inflammation biomarker after two months, compared with those who took a placebo. According to the researchers, the improvement is comparable to many other studies of cholesterol lowering drugs. In fact, larger statin trials lowered CRP levels by about 0.2 milligrams per litre; and in this study, vitamin C lowered CRP by 0.25 milligrams per litre. While further research is needed, it's certainly another good reason to keep your vitamin C in your supplement stash.
Spike Your Stamina: Vitamin C is required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body, making it a great idea to keep a bottle in your gym bag for pre- and post- workout. One study from the University of Wisconsin found that 500mg of vitamin C can offset workout fatique. Participants performed 60 minutes of exercise at the intensity of 50% of predicted maximal oxygen consumption. The vitamin C-supplemented group had significantly lower heart rates during exercise, compared to the non-supplemented group. In addition, perceived exertion and fatigue were both significantly reduced in the vitamin C group.
One small papaya (about 157 grams) has <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2406" target="_hplink">95.6 milligrams</a> of vitamin C. A cup of mashed papaya has a whopping 140 milligrams. More bang for your buck? Papaya is also high in <a href="http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1985/2" target="_hplink">vitamin A, folate and dietary fiber</a>, according to Self Nutrition Data.
One cup of raw, chopped red bell pepper packs an impressive <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2406" target="_hplink">190.3 milligrams of vitamin C</a>. The same amount of a green pepper has <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3136" target="_hplink">119.8 milligrams</a>.
Need <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/03/breast-cancer-vegetables_n_1400294.html" target="_hplink">yet another</a></em> healthy reason to eat your broccoli? Try this: One serving (148 grams) of chopped broccoli adds up to <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2939" target="_hplink">132 milligrams of vitamin C</a>.
Hungry for a salad? Try kale. Just two cups of this veggie, chopped, offers 160.8 milligrams of vitamin C. This superfood is also rich in vitamins A, C and K, as well as phytonutrients and fiber, <a href="http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-kale" target="_hplink">according to WebMD</a>.
Here's sweet news: one serving (147 grams) of strawberries has 86.5 milligrams of vitamin C. (And just this week, a study linked two servings of the red fruit a week to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/cognitive-impairment-study-berries_n_1453557.html" target="_hplink">slowed cognitive degeneration</a>.)
One serving of kiwi offers <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2353" target="_hplink">137.2 milligrams of vitamin C</a>.
One small head of cauliflower (with a four-inch diameter) has 127.7 milligrams of vitamin C (and just 66 calories).
They may not beat an orange, but a cup of Brussels sprouts still has a solid 48.4 milligrams of vitamin C. And the <a href="http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2362/2" target="_hplink">veggie is also rich</a> in riboflavin, iron, magnesium, dietary fiber and vitamin A, among others.
Another orange food to add to the list (even though it doesn't have more C than an actual orange) are sweet potatoes. One large sweet potato has <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3274?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=Abridged&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=sweet+potatoe" target="_hplink">35.3 milligrams</a>.
Again, this one doesn't have quite as much vitamin C as an orange, but one serving does offer <a href="http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2372" target="_hplink">49.2 milligrams</a>.
Follow Natasha Turner, ND on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drnatasha