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Getting the Right Amount of Vitamin C

By: Sharon Edge - Updated: 18 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Vitamin C immune System scurvy

Vitamins are molecules that the body needs in order to carry out certain reactions and because your body can’t create vitamin molecules for itself, you have to get them via food and drink. So to stay fit, healthy and strong, the human body needs to eat and drink a wide variety of vitamins every day. But there’s no doubt that some vitamins seem to get more of the spotlight than others. Probably the vitamin you’ve heard most about is vitamin C. So why is it so important?

The Functions of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for the smooth running of a variety of functions in the body. It helps with metabolic functions, promotes healthy cells and blood vessels, extends the life of cells, helps with the healing of wounds, and may help boost our immune system and protect us from viral infections and bacteria. It even acts as a natural laxative.

Getting Your Vitamin C Every Day

Vitamin C is important to many animals, but unlike most other creatures, we human beings can’t make vitamin C for ourselves, we have to get it from our food and drink. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and, as such, we can’t store it in our bodies either. So it’s no good eating well in fits and starts and thinking you have a ‘bank’ of vitamin C – you don’t. You have to replenish your vitamin C supplies every day to get the health benefits it provides. Signs of vitamin C deficiency include tiredness, bleeding gums and wounds that are slow to heal. Lack of vitamin C can also ultimately lead to the debilitating disease known as scurvy.

Vitamin C as an Antioxidant

One reason that vitamin C is so well known and is so often taken as a supplement, is that it’s an antioxidant. As we age, cells in our bodies break down, causing everything from wrinkles to cancer. But what causes our bodies to break down in this way?

One of the key factors is the presence in our bodies of free radicals. The human body naturally produces free radicals, and we tend to make more of them when we’re subjected to stress, when we eat poorly, or when we’re exposed to pollution or cigarette smoke. These free radicals damage our cells and contribute to the ageing of our organs, the visible ageing of our skin and can even trigger disease.

So where does vitamin C come in? Antioxidants destroy free radicals, and vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. So getting enough vitamin C in your diet may help you to stay looking and feeling younger for longer.

Vitamin C and the Immune System

No doubt you’ve heard people talking about upping their intake of vitamin C as winter draws in, with the intention of helping to keep coughs and colds at bay. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C are believed, by many, to help boost the immune system. But the scientific jury is still out on this.

Nonetheless, as long as you’re planning to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables and drink more lovely fresh juices, you’re not going to do yourself any harm anyway, so eat up! High dose vitamin C supplements on the other hand should be treated with caution.

How Much Vitamin C Do I Need?

The recommended daily amount of vitamin C for adults is 40mg. If you’re interested in nutrition and like to read up on latest theories and research, you will probably realise though, that experts disagree on the ideal amount of vitamin C we should all be eating. It’s best to eat a wide variety of the right fruits and vegetables to get a good supply of vitamin C.

But if you do decide to take a supplement, don’t take it on an empty stomach. As a water-soluble vitamin, if taken without food, the vitamin C will go straight into your urine without doing you any good. Beware of overdoing the vitamin C – as a natural laxative you could end up with flatulence, stomachache and diarrhoea.

Getting Vitamin C From Food

There are loads of delicious ways to make sure you get enough vitamin C in your diet. Great sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits and juices, kiwi fruit, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes and peppers. But remember that boiling and heat destroy vitamin C. So for maximum health benefits try to eat your fruits and vegetables raw, or lightly steamed whenever possible.

C the Difference!

Making sure you get plenty of vitamin C from your daily diet should have you reaping the health and fitness benefits. So throw a few strawberries over your cereal, take a glass of orange juice instead of a fizzy soft drink, eat a piece of fruit at lunch time, and stack your dinner plate with delicious fresh vegetables, and see if you can tell the difference in the way you look and feel.

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