Are you getting enough Vitamin C?

May 8, 2018

As winter approaches, and you begin dusting off your scarves and jumpers, perhaps it’s a great time to think about whether you’re getting enough Vitamin C.
 
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is involved in many processes in the human body. Our bodies cannot create Vitamin C, so instead, we get it from the foods we eat.
 
Why it is important?
Vitamin C is an antioxidant and is needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body. Vitamin C:

  • acts as a reducing agent, meaning it donates electrons to various processes throughout the body;

  • helps the body produce collagen (the fibrous protein that gives strength to the connective tissue);

  • helps the intestines adsorb iron;

  • helps produce other vital hormones and neurostransmitters, like carnitine (an amino acid derivative) and thyroxine (thyroid hormone); and

  • helps with the body’s immunity.

What foods should I eat?
All fruits and vegetables contain some Vitamin C, but some provide much more than others. Citrus fruits, guavas, kiwis, mangoes, papayas, peaches, strawberries, potatoes, and green vegetables are great sources! If you eat at least the recommended 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, you should have ample Vitamin C. Fresh or lightly cooked foods are the best sources, since Vitamin C is easily lost in processing and cooking.
 
According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, adults need about 45 mg of Vitamin C per day. 
 
What happens when you don’t get enough?
A lack of Vitamin C stops your body from creating normal amounts of collagen, which can impact your body’s connective tissue. The deficiency disease – called scurvy – is often associated with poverty, where people aren’t able to eat foods rich in Vitamin C. Even though scurvy isn’t common in developed countries like Australia, anyone who eats few fruits and vegetables can experience Vitamin C deficiency. Your body's functions and immune system are compromised when you don't get enough.
 
Can I eat too much?
Researches suggest limiting Vitamin C intake to no more than 1,000 mg/day for adults. Eating too much can lead to diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal upsets.
 
Source: Wardlaw, G., Hampl, J. and DiSilvestro, R. 2004. Perspectives in Nutrition, Sixth Edition, pg 352-356.

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