The ABCs of vitamin C

Vitamins are essential to the body’s proper functioning, and vitamin C is no exception. Find out more about the vitamin with a Florida flavour!

A few notions about vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as “ascorbic acid”, has several functions in your body: it promotes the absorption of iron, has antioxidant properties, and also contributes to the production of collagen. Collagen is a protein in the skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. By ensuing that your body gets an adequate intake of vitamin C, you give it what is necessary for:

  • wound healing
  • dental health
  • gum health
  • bone health
  • etc

Our ancestors learned it at their own expense. The poor quality of their diet during the long voyage across the Atlantic was the cause of several vitamin deficiencies, including vitamin C. Severe vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, which affected many sailors upon their arrival in New France. Soft gums, tooth loss, joint pain, and stunted bone growth are examples of the consequences of scurvy. This certainly didn’t help our forebears to face the cold harsh winters of Quebec! But rest assured, today, a severe vitamin C deficiency is extremely rare.

A more moderate vitamin C deficiency can cause:

  • brittle bones
  • a tendency to bruise easily
  • dry skin and hair
  • bleeding of the gums and nose

Vitamin is “water-soluble”, which means that excess amounts are eliminated by the kidneys, through urine. So, it is necessary to include it in your daily diet because it isn’t possible for your body to store it.

Sources of vitamin C

Do you want to fill up on vitamin C? Then your plate should contain a good number of the following foods:

  • citrus (orange, lemon, grapefruit, etc.)
  • strawberries
  • cantaloupe
  • kiwi
  • mango
  • tomato
  • potato
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • spinach, and
  • liver

Because it is sensitive to heat, cooking destroys 30% to 50% of vitamin C. Therefore, it is preferable to eat raw fruits and vegetables if you want to maximize your vitamin C intake.

The recommended nutritional intake for an adult is of 90 mg per day for a man and of 75 mg per day for a woman. Smokers or individuals who use a nicotine substitute need 35 mg more per day. If you think your diet is inadequate, there are vitamin C supplements available. Talk to your pharmacist who will be able to give you advice on the formulations available according to your age and your needs.

It could be a beneficial to consider taking a supplement containing a variety of vitamins and minerals. Most of them contain adequate amounts of vitamin C to meet daily requirements. Warning: excessive doses can increase your risk of kidney stones.

Prevention or treatment of colds

Despite popular belief that vitamin C can treat a cold and reduce its severity, scientific evidence does not support this theory. A scientific literature journal published in 2013 showed that only individuals who take vitamin C on a regular basis (and not only at the start of a cold) could hope to see a shorter duration of their symptoms of about one day. There seemed to be improved effectiveness and prevention in one specific group, individuals who rigorously train and in extreme cases, such as marathon runners, skiers and soldiers deployed in the Arctic.

It should be noted that current available studies do not show that taking vitamin C reduces the chances of catching an infection such as a cold or the flu.

Although the preventive virtues of vitamin C are not miraculous, nothing should stop you from savouring a delicious grapefruit or a bowl of strawberries. Short of treating your cold, you will at least have the satisfaction of having fulfilled your appetite in a healthy and flavourful way!

Don’t hesitate to talk to your pharmacist for additional information about vitamins and other supplements.

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The ABCs of vitamin C

Vitamins are essential to the body’s proper functioning, and vitamin C is no exception. Find out more about the vitamin with a Florida flavour!
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