Even though it may not always seem like it, we are very lucky these days. We are living longer than we ever have before! Ever since the 1850’s, we have had a much greater life expectancy than any of our predecessors ever had. One of the biggest reasons for this is better nutrition. Our infant survival rates are a lot better, and that of course directly contributes to overall survival rates. Another huge reason for our longer lives is our ability to fight off infectious diseases. That means that vaccinations and antibiotics have contributed enormously to our increased lifespan.
With that being said, we know that this increased lifespan comes at a cost. The fact is that as we age, we’re going to lose functionality and have an increased risk of exposure to non-communicable diseases. As a result, our society now has a heightened fear for the onset of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, cognitive decline, and frailty.
So when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being the best you can be, it’s not so much about increasing your lifespan as it is increasing your health span (how much of life you are going to be healthy).
Why are diet and lifestyle choices so important?
If we look at some of these non-communicable diseases, and the causes and risk factors for them, we see that some of us just have certain genes that may place us at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease or reveal predispositions for types of cancer.
There seems to be a lot of emphasis placed on genetic dispositions causing disease. The truth is that the contribution of genetics towards chronic diseases is quite small when compared to the bigger contributions of diet and lifestyle.
Chronic diseases are modifiable by diet and lifestyle. Research has shown that starting from 2002 in the US, 70 to 80 percent of colon cancer, stroke, and coronary heart disease cases were preventable. It even showed that 90 percent of type 2 diabetes cases were preventable by diet and lifestyle changes.
What should I include in my healthy diet?
Studies have shown that higher fruit and vegetable intake is associated with decreased risk of chronic diseases as well as an increased lifespan with improved physical and mental health.
The reason why fruits and vegetables are so highly recommended is because of the essential micronutrients they provide. While they may not provide macronutrients (proteins, carbs, fats), what we do get from fruits and vegetables’ micronutrients are 13 vitamins and 14 minerals.
Why are vitamins necessary for our bodies?
Vitamins are things that we cannot make, so we must receive them through other means, like our diet. Some of these vitamins are water-soluble while some are fat-soluble, and they’re not all the same. Vitamin intake is complex because they each have entirely different functions.
Vitamins, in addition to other micronutrients, support so many functions in the body. They support hundreds of enzymes that enable all kinds of biological functions that we need for good health. They support heart health, bone health, energy production, and normal cell metabolism.
We need all of these micronutrients to keep our engine running, and we are able to receive them from fruits and vegetables.
What makes Vitamin C so important?
Most people know that Vitamin C is an essential nutrient and that we need it; however, most people’s understanding of it starts and stops there. So what even is it?
It was discovered a long time ago in response to a long search for the cause of scurvy. In 1753, James Lind discovered that if you gave sailors fruit while out at sea, then they did not die of scurvy. It wasn’t until hundreds of years later that we discovered the molecule responsible: Vitamin C. This discovery was huge because we were beginning to understand how such a small molecule could actually alleviate or prevent such a devastating disease.
What are some of the benefits of Vitamin C?
We’ve learned that Vitamin C is made in most plants and animals and that most animals have livers that make all the Vitamin C that they need. This is not the same for humans, as we are dependent on our intake.
We know that it is a strong reducing agent, which simply means that it is a great antioxidant. It helps our bodies fight against diseases and strengthens our body’s natural defenses.
We’ve learned a lot from measuring the Vitamin C levels of plasma samples from the body. There are strong indicators that the vitamin plays an essential function in our brain cells, adrenal glands, liver, muscles, and tissues.
These are more of the well-known benefits of Vitamin C, but what about the lesser known ones? Why did our parents make sure we got that cup of orange juice every morning growing up?
Besides reducing the risk of chronic diseases and having a role in our essential functions, here are some other health benefits of Vitamin C:
- It can help you manage high blood pressure. Vitamin C can help to relax your blood vessels that carry blood from the heart, and therefore can help you lower your blood pressure.
- It can lower your risk of the global leading cause of death, heart disease.
- It can help prevent iron deficiencies in your body by aiding in the absorption of iron and other minerals that you consume. Indirectly, then, Vitamin C intake can also help reduce the risk of anemia.
- It can boost immunity. You may have seen “immunity shots” at your local hipster acai bowl place or healthy restaurant. These are jam packed with vitamins, including Vitamin C. White blood cells help to protect your body against infections and are your last line of defense. Vitamin C is important in the efficient production and function of these white blood cells.
- It can help to lower the risk of gout and reduce blood uric acid levels.
- It can protect your brain functionality as you age. Oxidative stress near the central nervous system can affect your memory and ability to think, and Vitamin C is a great antioxidant. Because of that, it can protect your ability to retain memories and have a healthy brain.
The list goes on, but these are some of the lesser known benefits of Vitamin C intake to the general population.
What are some common signs of Vitamin C deficiency?
The problem with intaking Vitamin C through our diet comes from its destruction during food preparation. While the vitamin is water-soluble, it does react very quickly to oxygen and heat, which can be a problem in the kitchen. When we cook food, we start to destroy Vitamin C and when we leave it exposed to the air we are also lowering Vitamin C’s activity levels.
Knowing how important and essential Vitamin C is to our body, being deficient in it can cause some issues. Having lower levels of Vitamin C can also be a sign of being deficient in other kinds of vitamins and minerals, which can all contribute to some of these symptoms and should not be ignored or treated lightly.
Some of the most common symptoms you may be experiencing from a Vitamin C deficiency are:
- Bruising easily
- Bleeding/swollen gums
- Dry/split hair
- Poor wound healing
- Wrinkled skin
- Chronic infections
- Weight gain
- Aching joints
Vitamin C is important to your immune system for healing. Most of these symptoms are caused by slow healing to bleeding areas or a lack of nutrients to weak tissues and muscles. Fortunately, many of these symptoms can be easily treated through the right attention to diet and lifestyle, and with the support of treatments similar to IV Vitamin Therapy.
What does this mean for us?
What all this means is that Vitamin C is important in so many ways. It’s important for tissue formation and wound healing, mood/energy, cancer prevention and treatment, immune system function, appetite control, gene function, and our stress responses.
There’s no wonder why it has become the most commonly used supplement in the world. Even though the most advisable way to intake these vitamins is from foods, many people turn to supplements or treatments to meet their needs.
If you are worried about your Vitamin C intake, feel free to talk to your doctor to see if you are a candidate for vitamin therapy treatments or other forms of vitamin supplementation. There are many different reasons for needing vitamin supplementation, whether you are a high-performing athlete needing to replace vitamins at a rapid rate, a young person interested in preserving your youth, or someone who wants to maintain a healthy lifestyle through every stage of life.