Who knew that one glass of orange juice a day could be very beneficial? With about 97 mg of vitamin C, a glass of orange juice helps make your skin glow and protects from early wrinkles. Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C offer the same benefits and more as they also contain fiber along with other vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is essential for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It plays a role in many body functions, including the formation of collagen, absorption of iron, protecting the immune system, healing wounds and maintaining cartilage, bones and teeth.

According to a recent study done by researcher Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, of the University of Michig`an, vitamin C may offer health benefits in these areas:

Stress. Because vitamin C is one of the nutrients sensitive to stress, and is the first nutrient to be depleted in alcoholics, Hilton smokers and obese individuals, it makes it an ideal marker for overall health.

Colds. There is good evidence that taking vitamin C for colds and flu can reduce the risk of developing further complications, such as pneumonia and lung infections.

Stroke. Although research has been conflicting, one study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those with the highest concentrations of vitamin C in their blood were associated with a 42 percent lower stroke risk than those with a lower concentration. The reasons for this are not completely clear.

Skin Aging. Vitamin C affects cells on the inside and outside of the body. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined links between nutrient intakes and skin aging in 4,025 women aged 40 to 74. It found that higher vitamin C intakes were associated with a lower likelihood of a wrinkled appearance, dryness of the skin and a better skin-aging appearance.

According to Dr. Ahmed Dawood, a physician at Al-Salam Hospital in Madinah, Vitamin C also protects against eye diseases, prenatal health problems such as cancer and cardiovascular disease and immune system deficiencies. “You can say it is the shield to living longer,” he said.

Dawood says that unless one can eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, you may need to take a dietary supplement of vitamin C to gain all the benefits. He suggests taking 500 milligrams a day, in addition to eating more fruits and vegetables.

“It’s sad that only 20 percent of Saudi adults get the recommended nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. I highly recommend people to eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, because you will get a healthy dose of vitamin C. Vitamin C is easily absorbed both in food and in pill form, and it can enhance the absorption of iron when the two are eaten together,” he added.

However, Dawood says there is a downside to taking vitamin supplements. “Some types may irritate the stomach, so I advise taking non-acidic forms. The safe upper limit for vitamin C is 2,000 milligrams a day, and there is a great track record with strong evidence that taking 500 milligrams daily is safe,” he said.

Dawood recommends people who are on diet to include fruits and vegetables that are rich in Vitamin C in every meal to guarantee a healthy diet. “This will increase your metabolism and hence increase your ability to get rid of fat. Furthermore, since dieting usually causes bad mood, which can cause you to go off track, increasing your intake of vitamin C can help you stay on track as it keeps in you a good mood,” he added.

The foods richest in vitamin C are citrus fruits, green peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Other good sources include dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, papaya, mango, watermelon, sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, red peppers, raspberries, blueberries, winter squash and pineapples.

“The level of vitamin C in the body is related to body mass, which means that the more overweight you are, the lower your levels of vitamin C. People that have normal weight tend to have higher levels,” explained Dawood.

Dawood recommends following these steps to get more vitamin C in your diet:

Add grated fruits and vegetables to your daily recipes.

Keep sliced fruits and vegetables on hand so they are ready for a quick snack.

Eat raw vegetables and dip them in hummus, yogurt or salsa.

Try to include vegetables suck as tomatoes, lettuce or broccoli to your sandwich.

Add fresh or dried strawberries, nuts or berries to your cereal for breakfast

Drink tomato juice as an afternoon snack.

“Do your body a favor and make sure you eat your fruits and vegetables every day so that you get enough vitamin C. You probably won’t get sick as often and your body will be healthier and stronger,” said Dawood.