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Depression. It's more than feeling a little fuzzy, blue or just plain off during the day. It's the chronic feeling of tiredness, the struggle to complete what used to seem like easy tasks and the lack of motivation to do activities that used to excite you. Some people will try to brush off the feelings and blame it on the blue weather or the change in season, but it's often more than that. Statistics from Stat Canada show that “one in four (25%) Canadians aged 18 and older screened positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in spring 2021, up from one in five (21%) in fall 2020.” The number of individuals struggling with mental health is increasing consistently year over year. Although there are more resources now than ever, it is far more common for individuals to experience these feelings and challenges. In today’s blog post, we are going to dive into one of the factors we do have some control over when it comes to depression and cognitive function - our diets. We’re talking about the role which Vitamin C plays when it comes to protecting our mental health and wellbeing.
One small study of young male students linked higher levels of Vitamin C with an improved overall mood and lower levels of Vitamin C with increased depression, anger, and confusion. Other factors such as stress, pregnancy, and breastfeeding also increase the body's need for vitamin C. As we are learning, Vitamin C is helpful for so much more than just a strong immune system or to be reserved for when you’re sick - there are daily benefits to ensuring your diet contains enough Vitamin C.
Now you might be thinking, “if it is so important, why wouldn’t our bodies make it?” In fact, most other animals do make large quantities of their own Vitamin C! It is a water-soluble nutrient that needs to be replenished regularly, yet the human body doesn't produce it the way most other animals do. When combined with other vitamins (such as Vitamin A and E - all found in each sachet of Ener-C Multivitamin Drink Mix) it serves as an antioxidant, working to protect our cells against free radicals which we are exposed to on a daily basis. Free radicals also occur when our bodies break down food or are exposed to radiation from the sun or artificial lighting, x-rays or smoke. Without antioxidants working to combat free radicals, we are more susceptible to developing heart disease, cancer and other life-threatening diseases and illnesses. Our bodies also work hard to deliver nutrient-rich blood and oxygen to the muscles and organs that demand it.
Vitamin C is also a crucial antioxidant that helps to strengthen our immune system and works to reduce inflammation. By decreasing inflammation, Vitamin C works to support our body’s adaptive immune system and immunity. When it's not supporting our immune system, mood, decreasing inflammation or feeding our muscles, Vitamin C also plays a crucial role in the development and function of our central nervous system including neuronal differentiation, maturation and nerve conduction - does this super-hero vitamin ever rest?
Vitamin C also helps to reduce both the physical and psychological effects of stress on people. Studies have recently shown that, when exposed to the same stressors, those with higher levels of vitamin C in their bodies were less susceptible to the detrimental physical and psychological effects. They bounced back from stressful situations faster than people with low levels of vitamin C in their blood.
What does all of this mean? We are all susceptible to stress and mood swings. The loads on our plates are, and will forever be changing. We might not be able to choose the circumstances of the stressful situations we are put in, but what we can do is learn healthy habits to manage our stress, eat nutritionally dense foods and supplement to fill in the gaps. That’s where Vitamin C-rich foods come into play.
Best Vitamin C-rich Foods:
At the end of a long day when you are exhausted, feeling run down or are feeling “off,” take a moment to prepare yourself a Vitamin C-rich snack or beverage. The effects are not instantaneous, but they do compound over time, and you’ll notice that the days get easier, your mood gets better and tasks that used to exhaust you and more achievable. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to our health. Every day we have an opportunity to build new healthy habits. Today, and every day, take your first step to a newer, healthier and better you!
By Lindsay Mustard. Lindsay is a Holistic Nutritionist, foodie and firefighter-in-training with a burning passion for health and fitness. In her nutrition practice, Lindsay works with clients to craft a unique plan that is tailored to their specific health goals using a natural, whole food and supplement approach.