One of my most shocking discoveries when studying nutrition is the effect of vitamin C on the common cold. Throughout my childhood, I consumed orange juice at the onset of a cold, convinced it shortened the length of the time I was sick. In fact, the power of vitamin C in terms of protecting the body against the common cold is a myth. Vitamin C does not reduce the risk of contracting the common cold, and taking vitamin C once a cold starts is probably not helpful. I am slightly comforted that regularly consuming vitamin C may reduce the length of the common cold and make cold symptoms milder. But don’t give up on consuming vitamin C; this vitamin offers a host of crucial benefits to the health and wellness of your body!
Vitamin C is essential for aiding in the growth and repair of tissue throughout the body. This tissue growth and repair ability makes it possible for the restoration and maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth, and the healing of wounds and formation of scar tissue to aid in the healing process. This vitamin is also used to form a protein that is used to make skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels.
Perhaps even more interesting is the involvement of vitamin C in the fight against free radicals. Vitamin C is one of many nutrient antioxidants that protect healthy cells from free-radical damage. Free radicals cause the deterioration of cells that may lead to and/or contribute to aging, age-related disease like arthritis and macular degeneration, heart attack, stroke, and cancer. We are constantly exposed to free radicals due to toxins in our environment like tobacco smoke, radiation, and environmental pesticides, and in the food and beverages we consume like pesticide-laced foods and even alcohol. Antioxidants like vitamin C block some of the damage of free radicals. Our increased exposure to free radicals makes the consumption of antioxidants like vitamin C crucial for our overall health.
Vitamin C must be constantly consumed because, as a water-soluble vitamin, it cannot be stored in the body, and instead leftover amounts are excreted through urine. Further, the body cannot make the vitamin, so it must be ingested. When determining your daily consumption of vitamin C, it is best to refer to the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) as a guideline. Various factors including age, gender, living and work environment, and pregnancy and illness should be considered. In general, women (over nineteen years of age) should consume 75 milligrams daily and men (over nineteen years of age) should consume 90 milligrams a day. For further information. see the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C.
Consumption of vitamin C through food is the best and most efficient way to benefit from its properties. Taking a vitamin C supplement is possible; however, the body best metabolizes vitamin C through food, and therefore benefits most from a balanced diet with foods rich in vitamin C.
- Eat vitamin C–rich foods. Add at least one food rich in vitamin C to your daily diet. The most poplar foods with large amounts of vitamin C include red and green peppers, oranges, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, broccoli, kale, and mango. Check out our list of vitamin C-rich foods to add more of these foods to your diet.
- Be cautious of cooking vitamin C–rich foods. Most vitamin C–rich foods lose much of their vitamin C value when cooked. A study in the Journal of Zhejiang University Science revealed that all cooking methods, outside of steaming, significantly reduced the value of vitamin C is nearly all fruits and vegetables. While there was some loss of vitamin C with steaming, this method resulted in the least amount of loss.
- Buy frozen vitamin C–rich foods. While food may lose vitamin C when cooked, more of the vitamin is retained in frozen fruits and vegetables than their fresh counterparts. The reason is most probably due to the fact that vitamin C levels decrease the longer the food is stored. This means foods transported from afar likely have less vitamin C than those picked and sold locally. Fruits and vegetables are typically frozen upon picking, when vitamin C levels are at their highest, and therefore eating them frozen gives you the highest levels of the vitamin.