Are you getting enough vitamin C?
Do you remember getting colds and sore throats in childhood, and being encouraged to drink orange juice to help give you a boost and recover more quickly? This was specifically to increase your exposure to vitamin C.
Arguably the most well-known vitamin, vitamin C offers many more health benefits than just assisting when you get sick. While it does play an important role to help you avoid catching a cold and get better sooner, it also offers an array of important benefits from immune regulation to heart health and much more.
What is Vitamin C and why is it Important?
More formally known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an essential nutrient and antioxidant. It is a water-soluble vitamin.
Vitamin C helps protect the cells in the body from harmful molecules called free radicals. These are produced during the breakdown of food and when you are exposed to toxins like tobacco smoke and pollution. Free radicals are also produced by exposure to UV radiation from the sun and x-rays, as well as radiation from other sources (e.g., when you fly in a plane).
Free radicals play a role in the development of cancer, heart disease, and other diseases.
Your body needs vitamin C to:
ü Strengthen the immune system
ü Heal and recover from illness and injury
ü Lower your blood pressure
ü Build blood vessels
ü Build cartilage
ü Build muscle
ü Form collagen in bones
ü Build and maintain healthy teeth
ü Maintain nerve and brain health
ü Maintain skin integrity
ü Absorb and store iron
Unlike a lot of other important nutrients, the body does not produce vitamin C. This means that it must be consumed in your diet or via an oral supplement. This can be in the form of vitamin C tablets, capsules, chewable tablets, or in a drinkable powder form.
Which Foods are Rich in Vitamin C?
ü Citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, mandarins, cumquats, etc)
ü Capsicums (Bell Peppers)
ü Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts)
ü White potatoes
ü Rockmelon (cantaloupe)
ü Kakadu Plums – extremely high in Vitamin C
ü Rose Hip
Vitamin C Deficiency
If you don’t eat enough vitamin C-rich foods, you may experience vitamin C deficiency. This condition is more common in people who:
- Smoke or who are passive smokers (i.e., frequently exposed to second-hand smoke), despite dietary intake
- Have a limited diet without enough vegetables and fruits
- Have certain types of cancer
- Have certain non-cancerous gastrointestinal conditions
Signs of vitamin C deficiency include:
- Bleeding gums
- Frequent infections and illnesses
- Compromised wound healing
- Frequent bruising
- Anaemia (low levels of iron in the blood)
Benefits of Taking Vitamin C Supplements
The recommended daily intake of vitamin C for adults is 90mg for men and 75 mg for women. This is from all sources.
Medical researchers and experts have found that it is more effective to get your vitamin C from dietary sources. So, should you be regularly taking Vitamin C tablets?
Often dietary intake is just not enough. While taking supplements does not negate the need to consume a healthy variety of vitamin C-rich foods, they can offer definite benefits for many people.
There are several benefits of taking vitamin C supplements:
- Oral vitamin C supplements may help boost immunity and reduce the symptoms and duration of the common cold. A strong immune system is also essential for everything from cancer prevention to wound healing.
- Vitamin C can strengthen your natural defences to fight inflammation and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease. It may also help manage high blood pressure.
- Vitamin C may help reduce blood levels of uric acid and prevent gout attacks.
- The body needs vitamin C to absorb iron, which is necessary for a wide variety of functions including healthy blood formation. Vitamin C supplements can help, especially in the absorption of plant-based iron, and may help prevent iron deficiency.
- The right combination of vitamin C and other specific vitamins and minerals may help prevent the development and worsening of age-related macular degeneration.
- Research suggests that people with a higher dietary intake of vitamin C demonstrate a lower risk of developing cataracts.
- Healthy levels of vitamin C in the long term may help preserve memory and cognitive function and prevent dementia and other nervous system diseases.
While most people with a healthy, well-rounded diet have adequate vitamin C intake, many may benefit from taking a high-quality vitamin C supplement from a reputable manufacturer.
Taking too much vitamin C can have some side effects, including nausea, diarrhoea, cramps and bloating, headache, flushing, fatigue, heartburn, and insomnia. Long term, taking too much vitamin C can cause kidney stones.
Vitamin C can also interact with certain medicines including chemotherapy drugs, oestrogen, statins, warfarin, some antivirals, and others. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist first.
When taken according to the instructions (and per professional advice from your doctor or pharmacist), vitamin C supplements are considered safe and beneficial for most people.