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Vitamins are essential for your health and well-being, and Vitamin C is one of the best-known of them all. But how much do you really know about this powerful compound and how it functions in your body?
Why Do You Need Vitamin C?
Ascorbic acid (usually referred to as Vitamin C) is a micronutrient and a vital part of your diet. Micronutrients are so-called because you only need to ingest a tiny amount to reap their benefits.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that has many different functions in the body but is especially important for supporting the immune system. It can help to repair tissue and regenerate cells as well as protecting against heart disease.
Vitamin C can also help to increase the uptake of other nutrients such as iron. For that reason, squeezing lemon juice over iron-rich food like spinach can improve the rate of absorption.
You need to have a regular dietary supply of Vitamin C because the body is unable to manufacture it by itself. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means the kidneys will get rid of any surplus amount. This is another reason why it’s important to consume Vitamin C regularly.
Where Can I Get Vitamin C?
Vitamin C can be readily obtained from food, and it’s available in a wide selection. Fruit and vegetables are the best sources of Vitamin C. Brightly-colored produce tend to have the highest Vitamin C levels.
Some of the best food containing Vitamin C include:
- Oranges and other citrus fruit
- Red and green bell peppers (particularly red bell peppers)
- Fresh strawberries
- Brussel sprouts
There are many other fruit and vegetables which contain Vitamin C. The key to maximum nutrition is reducing the amount of time it’s cooked in water (especially boiled). Wherever possible, eat your fruit and vegetables raw or lightly steamed to retain the full nutritional value.
As with other vitamins, there are different types of Vitamin C. If you’re not familiar with the technical names, you may not recognize them on the list of ingredients.
The type of vitamin C that is normally found in food is called “ascorbic acid.” While ascorbic acid has a decent level of bioavailability, it may not be the best option for those who are sensitive to acidic foods.
Calcium and magnesium ascorbate are mineral ascorbates that are often referred to as “buffered Vitamin C.” This is gentler on the stomach and can be a good solution for those who find it difficult to tolerate ascorbic acid. There are also many other types of Vitamin C mineral ascorbates.
Bioflavonoids are sometimes added to Vitamin C compounds. Made from plants, they complement Vitamin C by increasing bioavailability and boosting the immune system further.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all dose for Vitamin C. The amount you should take depends on your sex and age, plus other factors. However, as a general rule of thumb, the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) is as follows:
- 1-3 yrs old: 15mg
- 4-8 yrs old: 25mg
- 9-13 yrs old: 45mg
- 14-18 yrs old female: 65mg
- 14-18yrs old male: 75mg
- Adult woman: 75mg
- Adult man: 90mg
- Pregnant woman: 85mg
- Lactating (breastfeeding) woman: 120mg
The above RDA are the guidelines currently in use but research suggests that there may be times when extra amounts of Vitamin C would be beneficial. For example, athletes who take part in intense exercise for short periods, such as marathon runners and skiers, may slash their risk of getting the common cold by increasing their dose. Increasing the dose of Vitamin C to 200mg or more may also be useful in cutting back the duration of the common cold.
However, due to the possibility of overdose, it’s important to get medical advice before deviating from the RDA.
Vitamin C Deficiency
Acute vitamin C deficiency won’t go unnoticed as the effects are unpleasant. Most people have heard the tales of sailors suffering from scurvy, which occurs as a result of Vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy causes extreme fatigue, joint pain, depression, poor healing, and bleeding gums – and that’s what can happen if you don’t get enough Vitamin C in your diet.
Although the potential effects of deficiency are shocking, the majority of people in developed countries will get the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C in their diet to stave off this kind of problem.
There are people who require higher amounts of vitamin C. Smoking increases the volume of free radicals in the body, which damage the cells. While Vitamin C works hard to repair this damage, and in doing so, levels are quickly depleted. For this reason, smokers are three times as likely to be deficient in Vitamin C . As per current guidelines. they need 35 mg more vitamin C per day than nonsmokers. Individuals who have a limited variety of foods, the elderly, those with digestive problems, end-stage kidney diseases, or cancer are at higher risk to develop vitamin C deficiency.
Vitamin C Overdose
Vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble, and Vitamin C belongs to the latter group. This means it can be absorbed very easily into the body and can circulate readily in the bloodstream. The kidneys monitor the amount of Vitamin C and will normally excrete whatever isn’t needed. However, it is possible to consume so much that your kidneys are unable to keep up.
In general, the body can only use and maintain around 200-250mg of Vitamin C, and you will lose the rest through urine. If your intake of Vitamin C is particularly high, you may notice some uncomfortable effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and stomach upset. Over time, overdosing on vitamin C may also contribute to the development of kidney stones.
It’s therefore important not to exceed the upper limit for Vitamin C – which is considered 2000 mg daily for adults over 19 years of age– but to calculate this you need to include all sources. For example, if you are taking a multivitamin and a Vitamin C supplement, don’t forget to count them both.
You’ll find lots of brands of Vitamin C available on Amazon. Remember when you’re buying to check the strength; one brand may seem cheaper, but this may be because the dose is smaller.
Some of the top-selling brands of Vitamin C include:
- Vitron-C (iron and Vitamin C combined)
- Nature’s Bounty
- Amazon Elements
- Airborne Original