When you hear the words "vitamin C," it comes to mind preventing and treating scurvy and, more recently, the common cold. However, did you know that it can also benefit your overall health? Since this essential micronutrient is not naturally produced by humans (and a few other mammals), it is critical to get it from food sources such as fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons.

Vitamin C is also present in supplement form as Ascorbic Acid. With this in mind, here are the following science-backed reasons why you should take vitamin C supplements regularly:

Manage Effects Of Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is the number one enemy of every skin care fanatic. It causes your body to produce too many free radicals, resulting in skin cell and barrier damage. Oxidative stress also reduces moisture and collagen in your skin and create fine lines and premature aging.

Being a potent antioxidant, vitamin C does the job of reducing the effects of oxidative stress on your body. Vitamin C protects your skin from free radical exposure (such as UV rays and air pollution), slowing down various skin issues, including sun damage, hyperpigmentation and wrinkles.

For optimal benefits, dual board-certified dermatologist Keira Barr suggested supplementing with vitamin C and applying it topically, ensuring that there is enough vitamin C biologically available and active in and on the skin.

"Including vitamin C in your morning routine will help fend off damage from environmental exposures during the day," she noted. "(Applying) it at night will help support skin rejuvenation in the evening."

Support Your Body Tissues

Collagen is not only essential for strong and supple skin, but also gives structure to other connective tissues, which include blood vessels and tendons. However, the usual collagen formation in your body decreases as you get older, leading to thin skin and slow wound healing.

Vitamin C helps slow down this age-related process. "Vitamin C is a key cofactor in the synthesis of collagen and elastin (which helps) give your skin that plump and youthful appearance," Barr said.

By working against collagen-degrading enzymes, vitamin C also protects the collagen your body still has.

Supports Your Immune System

Vitamin C plays a large role in immune function. According to Joanna Foley, registered dietitian and founder of a private holistic health coaching practice, on a cellular level, it neutralizes pathogens and helps immune cells function properly. Vitamin C multiplies lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) in order to fight infections, and also helps neutrophils (another white blood cell type) "eat" and destroy disease-causing microbes.

Vitamin C's antioxidative properties also aid your immune system. Prolonged oxidative stress is linked to a variety of chronic conditions and also stimulates inflammation, which fuels oxidative stress. Together with other antioxidants, getting enough vitamin C ensures that your immune system is strengthened.

Promotes Brain Health

Although omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K are well-known for their role in brain health, vitamin C also does a good job of promoting healthy cognitive function, owing once again to its antioxidative properties. "Free radicals can cause damage to all parts of the body, including the brain and mind," Foley explained. As an antioxidant, vitamin C can help combat free radicals and help support your body against cognitive decline.

Vitamin C is important for healthy nerve cells as well. "It supports the myelin sheath that protects (neurons), allowing for quicker impulse transmissions and quicker signals," Amy Shapiro, registered dietitian, said. One interesting thing about the myelin sheath is that proper formation of it is linked to vitamin-C-dependent collagen production, thus proving our bodies' synergistic nature.

Can Help Manage High Blood Pressure

Vitamin C supplements may help naturally manage high blood pressure. It promotes your body's production of nitric oxide. This molecule dilates or opens up blood vessels.

Vitamin C also causes the kidneys "to remove more sodium and water from the body," Foley said. "This helps relax blood vessel walls and lower blood pressure." It can also maintain or restore flexibility in artery cell walls, decreasing plaque formation and improving blood flow, she added.

Can Support Iron Consumption

There are many factors that affect iron consumption, including iron's form and existing iron stores. It is also influenced by your vitamin C intake. Vitamin C, Shapiro said, turns plant-based non-heme iron into a more absorbable form -- by supporting the iron's solubility in the small intestine. This is important because non-heme iron is not as bioavailable as animal-based heme iron.

"The nutrient can also help reverse the inhibiting effect of other substances that delay iron absorption, such as phytates in certain foods," Foley said. For best results, Shapiro recommended consuming iron and vitamin C at the same meal.

lemon and vitamin c supplements
Vitamin C is bioavailable in certain fruits and vegetables, and also comes in supplement form as Ascorbic Acid. JerzyGorecki / Pixabay