Food & Nutrition
Oh Say Can You “C:” Your Guide to the Vitamin
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a nutrient also classified as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances that protect against free radical molecules that are produced during the breakdown of foods or by exposure to tobacco smoke and radiation.
The human body is unable to produce or store vitamin C, so you must consume the nutrient on a regular basis in order to stay healthy. Click through the slideshow to learn about the many benefits of this essential vitamin.
The Role of Vitamin C
The primary function of vitamin C is to produce and nourish collagen, a supportive component found in your skin, ligaments, and blood vessels. Collagen helps maintain your cartilage, teeth, and bones. It also helps to heal injuries and form scar tissue.
Because vitamin C is an antioxidant, it can also help block damage caused by free radicals, which are thought to contribute to heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
Combat a Cold?
Vitamin C is often associated with easing common cold and flu symptoms. However, it’s debatable just how effective it is. The Mayo Clinic notes that vitamin C may have a “modest effect” guarding against the common cold, while the NIH reports that vitamin C hasn’t been proven to reduce your risk of catching a cold.
What taking vitamin C supplements can do is make your symptoms milder and your cold go away more quickly.
The Mayo Clinic reports that infants meet their recommended intake of vitamin C through breast milk or baby formula. Children under the age of 13 should consume between 15 and 45 mg of the vitamin daily, while teens and adults require 65 to 90 mg daily.
However, all smokers and women who are pregnant or nursing need more vitamin C, and should boost their intake to between 80 and 120 mg daily.
Don’t Go Overboard
Vitamin C is an extremely tolerable nutrient and generally doesn’t produce adverse effects unless consumed in large doses (more than 2000 mg daily). Your body will flush out vitamin C that it doesn’t need.
The Mayo Clinic states that the upper limit of intake should never exceed 2,000 milligrams each day in either men or women over 18 years old, including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The most common signs of toxicity are diarrhea and upset stomach.
Vitamin C is fairly easy to consume through diet alone for most people. Fruit is a major dietary source of the nutrient, including:
Other food sources that contain vitamin C and are easy to integrate into your weekly meal plan include:
- red bell peppers
If you’re not eating enough vitamin C-rich food or start to feel run down and sniffly, boost your vitamin C intake through supplementation under your doctor’s supervision.
Vitamin C supplements are available in a wide variety, including chewable tablets, capsules, and drops that are similar to hard candy. Stash a bottle or bag of vitamin C supplements in your medicine cabinet, purse, or desk drawer and pop a couple when you feel cold symptoms coming on.
Take Your C!
Everyone needs vitamin C in order to remain healthy. Vitamin C deficiency, called scurvy, is marked with symptoms such as:
- an increased tendency to bruise or bleed
- swelling of the joints
- hair loss
- a receding of the gums that can lead to tooth loss and gum disease
To avoid this condition, be sure to take your daily C! Many breakfast cereals and other foods and beverages are specially fortified with the vitamin, so be sure to check the label.