So you thought the #1 role of vitamin C in your diet is to help prevent or cure the common cold?

This time of year is cold season and many of us turn to Vitamin C to help prevent the common cold. I will be the first to admit that I have over used the antioxidant vitamin C, thinking it would cure my cold or help prevent one. Over the years, vitamin C has been believed to prevent or cure the common cold; however, studies have shown that at best, vitamin C may slightly reduce  the duration of a cold in people exposed to brief periods of severe physical exercise or cold environments.

Although most animals manufacture their own vitamin C, humans do not, making it an essential vitamin that must be obtained from our diets. 

  • Dietary Recommendations for Vitamin C

The RDA for adults age 19 and older is 90 milligrams per day for men and 75 milligrams per day for women. Pregnant women’s requirements for vitamin C increases to 85 milligrams per day and increases even more during lactation to 120 milligrams. Studies have shown that people who smoke have a reduced amounts of vitamin C in the body, therefore, increasing the RDA for smokers to 35 milligrams more per day. Conversely, the tolerable upper intake level for vitamin C is 2,000 milligrams. Excess vitamin C may cause kidney stones in people with kidney disease. Taking more that 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C per day, for a prolonged period of time may lead to nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and nosebleeds

  • Functions of Vitamin C 

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps the body to fight off inflammation and toxins, it plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Vitamin C also plays an important role in the formation of collagen, a protein that supports connective tissues that holds together the structure of the body. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and the main fibrous component of our skin, bones, tendons, teeth and connective tissue. 

Another main function of vitamin C in the diet, is that it enhances the absorption of non-heme iron, which comes mainly form plant based foods. (See my previous blog on iron absorption)

  • Sources of Vitamin C

Eating foods rich in vitamin C may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as, heart disease, certain forms of cancer, and cataracts. Vitamin C is mainly found in fruits and vegetable. Most fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, low is saturated and trans fat and low in sodium. The below list shows some foods that provides vitamin C.

  • Red pepper, fresh – 1 cup – 149g
  • Spinach, cooked – 1 cup – 180g
  • Blueberries, raw – 1 cup – 145g 
  • Soybeans, cooked – 1 cup – 180g 
  • Orange juice – 1 cup – 248g 
  • Broccoli, cooked – 1 cup – 156g
  • Brussel sprouts, cooked – 1 cup – 156g  

Red peppers, blueberries, spinach, carrots and lemon all provide vitamin C.

Bell peppers are high in vitamin C and aids in the absorption of the iron in the black beans.
  • Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency
  • Dry damaged skin 
  • Bleeding of the gum
  • Tooth loss
  • Bright red spots around hair follicles 
  • Re-opening of previously healed wounds 
  • Easy bruising 
  • Swollen and aching joints 
  • Chronic inflammation 

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NASM: Nutrition – Fourth Edition.

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