In our Vitamin Guide series, we are taking you through your ABC’s and pointing out how each vitamin works with our bodies to keep us fighting fit. Here, we tackle the most famous of all the vitamins, our faithful friend, Vitamin C.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid as it is known scientifically, is a compound essential for our health and vitality. It is involved in a hugely wide-ranging variety of processes in our body, from wound healing to collagen production, and without it we develop a very serious disease called scurvy.
Vitamin C is widely considered the safest vitamin, since our bodies are not capable of storing it; if we take too much, the excess is simply excreted from our bodies. Interestingly, humans are one of the few animals that don’t produce their own vitamin C! In those that do, a good indicator of how important vitamin C is for health can be seen by its levels in the blood- when an animal is injured or ill, it will produce up to ten times the normal daily amount!
What are the Health Benefits of Vitamin C?
- Antioxidant Power! Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which are superb at limiting the damage that free radicals can cause to our bodies. What this means in practical terms for our health, is a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease, and greater protection for our skin, so we can look younger for longer. In fact, studies have shown that people with a higher vitamin C intake were likely to have a less wrinkled complexion!
- Healthy Skin: Because it is so intrinsically involved in the production of collagen, vitamin C is great at helping to keep skin looking supple and young. Not only that, but vitamin C also encourages skin repair, and the growth of new cells; so that healthy glow you have may just be vitamin C doing its job!
- Heart Protection: Your heart is perhaps your hardest working organ, beating over 100000 times a day! Vitamin C can help keep your heart in top shape, and protect is from potential disease.
- Stroke Prevention: Research has shown that people with a high vitamin C intake are 42% less likely to suffer from a stroke than people with a low intake; definitely a reason for eating your fruit and veg!
How Much Vitamin C Do You Need?
Test show that levels of vitamin C higher than those recommended as the daily dosage are actually the most effective in producing health benefits- this is abut 500 milligrams a day. However, we would never recommend taking more of a supplement than the RDA states, as it could cause stomach upsets.
We would, on the other hand, suggest eating as much vitamin C-rich fruit and vegetables as possible, as well as taking a daily supplement. Forget eating your 5 pieces of fruit and veg a day- try NINE! It seems like a challenge, but that is the optimum amount for keeping your diet as healthy and vitamin-fuelled as possible.
How to Get Vitamin C Into Your Diet
It’s hard enough making it to 5 pieces of fruit and veg a day, how can we possibly manage any more? Well, a few neat tricks may be all it takes to boost your vitamin C levels:
- Add salad to any sandwich you make
- Put a bit of fruit into your morning cereal
- Have cut up fruit next to you on your desk as you work- you’ll be surprised how quickly you get through it.
- Go for a breakfast juice- making your own juice from several different fruits is a great way to quickly and easily bump up your daily fruit intake.
- Make a hearty soup- soups are so easy to make, and a brilliant way of cramming in as many vegetables as you like.
How Do You Know If You’re Deficient in Vitamin C?
There are a number of symptoms that are associated with a lack of vitamin C in the diet. These are:
- Fatigue- This is often the first recognizable symptom of a vitamin C deficiency.
- Weight Loss- This would happen suddenly in the case of a vitamin C deficiency.
- Mood Swings- Look especially for periods of irritability.
- Dental Problems- An advanced vitamin C deficiency will cause the deterioration of the gums, and potentially tooth loss.
- Bruising- An inability to heal wounds and tiny vessels in the body will cause excessive bruising.
Are There Any Side Effects of Vitamin C?
Before you start any supplement, have a talk to your doctor about how it could affect you negatively- this is particularly important if you suffer from any pre-existing medical conditions, or are pregnant. However, vitamin C, when taken at the RDA, is generally very safe. If high levels of vitamin C are taken that exceed the RDA, side effects can include stomach upsets and diarrhea.
What the Papers Say:
What People On The Web Say:
My sinuses are my weak point, and I usually battle colds and coughs several times during the winter. Started taking these a few months ago…and I haven’t been sick once, even with an 18 month-old daughter in daycare!
I turn to vitamin C every time I feel under the weather, and I’m convinced that it helps me keep the bugs away. It’s one supplement that I would not be without.
My 8 year old Daughter had 2 colds back to back in September, right after she started School. At that time she wasn’t on any supplements at all. She’s an extremely picky eater and I knew for a fact she was missing a lot of nutrients from her diet, especially Vitamin C. I did some research on various supplements and saw the good reviews with these, so I started her on them around the beginning of October.
The verdict – she hasn’t had ONE cold since! She started a few times with the sniffles here and there, and I thought, oh no, here comes a cold, but it never turned into anything more than that, and I attribute her better immunity partly to these wonderful vitamins.