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 basics about vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as “ascorbic acid”, has several functions in the body: it promotes the absorption of iron, has antioxidant properties, and also helps 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 provide it with 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, and
  • bleeding of the gums and nose

Vitamin C 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 fair amount of the following foods:

  • citrus (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, etc.)
  • strawberries
  • cantaloupe
  • kiwi
  • mangos
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • liver
  • etc.

Because it is heat sensitive, cooking destroys 30 to 50% of vitamin C in foods. 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 90 mg a day for a man, and 75 mg a day for a woman. Smokers or individuals who use a nicotine substitute need an additional 35 mg a day. If you think your diet is inadequate, there are vitamin C supplements available. Speak 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. Caution: excessive doses can increase your risk of kidney stones.

The prevention or treatment of colds

Despite the popular belief that vitamin C can treat a cold and reduce its severity, scientific evidence does not support this theory. A review of scientific literature 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 by about a 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 qualities 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 that your appetite has been repleted in a healthy and flavourful way!

Don’t hesitate to speak 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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