Cold and Flu : 5 Things to Know About Vitamin C

1. The immune system cannot function properly without vitamin C. It stimulates both the production and function of white blood cells, the body's main defense against bacteria and viruses. It also increases the production of antibodies, proteins the immune system releases to fight disease, and it helps to coordinate the cellular immune response. Although vitamin C may not cure a cold, researchers note that taking vitamin C supplements regularly while you're healthy may lessen the severity of your symptoms when you do catch a cold. It may also speed your recovery time

2. Vitamin C is key for healthy bones. Calcium and vitamin D get lots of attention for their critical roles in bone health, but the body also needs vitamin C to build and maintain strong bones. Collagen is the main protein in bone, and vitamin C is necessary for collagen synthesis. Vitamin C is important for the bone building process, and research suggests that it may help prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women.

3. It also protects against heart disease. Scientific evidence suggests vitamin C may protect the arteries against damage by slowing the progression of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. In addition, people who have low levels of vitamin C may be more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or peripheral artery disease. It may also help maintain healthy blood pressure.

4. Vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat. And because it's water soluble, this vitamin can be drained off in liquids used in food preparation. To ensure that you're getting the full vitamin C value in foods like broccoli, grapefruit, kale, lemons, mangos, oranges, peppers, spinach, strawberries, and tomatoes, it's best to eat them raw or minimally processed.

5. Supplemental vitamin C is available in a variety of forms. Capsules, tablets, and chewables are among the most popular. If you find that ascorbic acid upsets your stomach, look for "buffered" vitamin C. Esterified vitamin C may also be easier on the stomach if you're prone to heartburn.

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