Your Food and You: Vitamin C

Over the past few years, we have been blogging on topics to help you better understand the role that food has in our lives. Last year, we focused on where your food comes from. This year, we want to help you better understand what your food does for you. Think about it for a second: why do we eat? To celebrate, to fuel, for energy, for comfort… There are many reasons, but at the most basic level, food allows our bodies to function at its best. Thus, I will be blogging about your food and you at the micronutrient level!

Take a look at your hand – stretch it out as far as you can! Now clench it tight, and take note of your skin, nails, and hairs. Everything we put in our mouths gets broken down and the nutrients are used to create our skin, our nails, our muscles – everything! Micronutrients help aid in these reactions that create the physical body we have and allows it to perform the tasks we want. It is pretty amazing when you think about.

Through this series, we’ll show you what a daily intake looks like to help you determine if you can get the micronutrients through food or to consider a supplement.  Ultimately, we believe in food first, but with shifts in our eating patterns such as eating less organ meat, more processed foods, and less seafood, we are starting to see more micronutrient deficiencies.

Let’s get started with a simple one:

Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin, which means you need to meet the recommended amount daily since your body cannot make it on its own. Any excess intake of vitamin C is excreted due to the body’s limited storage of water-soluble vitamins.

Vitamin C is a powerhouse nutrient as it aids in the formation of collagen – a connective tissue that provides strength and structure by holding together muscle, bone, and other tissues. This vitamin also provides flexibility to blood vessels and capillary walls to prevent bruising.  Not only does Vitamin C help with structure, but it also builds, repairs and maintains red blood cells and many other tissues in the body. Vitamin C also helps the body to absorb iron in the intestine by converting it from an indigestible form to a digestible form. This aids in wound healing, keeping tissue healthy, and keeping our immune system strong by acting as an antioxidant and protecting the body against infection.

If you’re not getting enough… You may experience muscle weakness, swollen and bleeding gums, loss of teeth, bruising, poor wound health, and potentially depression and fatigue.

How to get Vitamin C: You might be thinking, “With a vitamin so important, everyone should probably go on a supplement!” Since this micronutrient is so important, it can be easily obtained through our diet – mainly in citrus fruits and green and red vegetables. Excessive supplementation may cause diarrhea, kidney stones and inhibit copper utilization in the body. The only time I recommend supplementation (500mg per day) is if it’s a time of year where you often get sick, such as the start of the school year. Some research supports supplementation during certain times of the year (with Vitamin E) to help strengthen your immune system. Though, there is limited evidence to suggest that Vitamin C can cure or prevent the common cold, but it may be helpful for reducing the symptoms or duration.

Heat and oxidation can destroy this nutrient, so make sure to get it from raw vegetables (green and red) and citrus fruits!

Who should consider a supplement?

  • If you don’t eat fresh (uncooked) vegetables and fruit daily
  • If you are smoker (your needs increase by 35 mg per day)
  • If you drink alcohol regularly
  • People with pneumonia, tuberculosis, fever, recovering from surgery, burns or large wounds

How much do you need?

Age
(years)
Recommended Dietary Allowance (mg)
Female Male
1-3 13 13
4-8 22 22
9-13 39 39
14-18 56 63
18+ 60 75
Upper Limit 1800 – 2000 1800 – 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

How much is that in terms of food?

Food

Serving size

Iron (mg)

 Guava  ½ cup (125mL) cubed  199
 Hot chili pepper (green or red)  ½ cup (125mL) chopped  192
 Sweet red or yellow pepper  ½ cup (125mL) chopped  130 – 144
 Broccoli stalks  1 stalk  106
 Kale  1 cup (250mL) chopped  85
 Kiwi fruit  1 large fruit  84
 Lemon  1 medium fruit (5.4cm diameter)  83
 Orange  1 medium fruit (7.3cm diameter)  83

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two easy ways to get your recommended daily intake is to add ½ a cup chopped red pepper to a lunchtime salad, or have a kiwi at snack time! However you decide to get it, enjoy your food and the nourishment it is providing you. Happy eating!

For a complete list of foods that contain vitamin C, please go to the Canadian nutrient data file.

January 19, 2015
Revive Wellness