Vitamin C is the Vitamin of the month
NOVEMBER 2, 2016 by OLIVIA NEELY, RDN, LD
This is a new feature at The Moday Center – Every month we will highlight one vitamin or mineral and tell you why you need it it, how much and where to get it in your diet. Also, who really needs to supplement with it, and in what form. This will hopefully clear up some confusion about what supplements you really need.
This month its VITAMIN C!
It’s the vitamin that’s been touted to help us fight colds and other viruses. This time of the year we see packages of Emergen-C and Airborne crowding the aisles of drug stores. But is it really what it’s cracked up to be? Should you take it? How much do you actually need?
First of all what is it?
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin also known as L-Ascorbic acid. Humans are unable to produce it, therefore we must get it from the foods we eat.
Vitamin C has numerous functions in the human body:
It is a powerful antioxidant, and can help prevent damage to tissue caused by free radicals. Free radicals damage cells and accelerate aging as well contribute to the development of heart disease, cancer, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
Your body uses Vitamin C for wound healing, and maintaining the health of your bones and teeth. It also helps your body absorb iron.
It plays a major role in stress reduction as it helps clear our stress hormone cortisol from the body. People with higher amounts of vitamin C in their diets have been found to be more resilient to stress.
Vitamin C helps produce collagen, improving your skin. It is involved in the metabolism of cholesterol and can help prevent gallstones.
The role of Vitamin C in our immune system is well known, reducing the incidence of colds and shortening their duration by helping our immune cells engulf bacteria and viruses, as well as make T-cells (white blood cells).
So how much to I actually need?
The RDA for vitamin C is woefully outdated.
“The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C for adult nonsmoking men and women is 60 mg/d, which is based on a mean requirement of 46 mg/d to prevent the deficiency disease scurvy.”
Obviously this tiny amount does not allow for optimum health and will not give you all the health benefits listed above. In fact it barely prevents the fatal disease Scurvy that used to plague sailors who were at sea fro months back in the 18th century!
Recommendations for daily vitamin C range greatly from just covering your bases to mega doses greater than 10 grams a day.
The truth lies probably somewhere between 1500 mg and 3000 mg daily, and possibly more depending upon your situation.
Vitamin C is only found in vegetable and fruit sources- so if you are a mainly meat and potato only eater, you are missing a major source of natural C.
Some of the richest sources are peppers, kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, citrus fruits, kiwi, papaya, mango and strawberries.
But many people don’t even get close to a optimum dose of vitamin C through their diet.
Take into consideration that vitamin C is pretty unstable and is destroyed by cooking, heat and radiation. Also, if you are under under a lot of stress , smoke or drink alcohol regularly, you need more vitamin C.
So this is where supplements can be really helpful in closing the gap, but there are a variety of forms of vitamin C out there and range of supplement qualities. Its hard to know what to pick!
So Ascorbic Acid (aka Vitamin C) comes in mineral ascorbate forms- the most common being sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, potassium and magnesium ascorbate or a mixture. Calcium ascorbate is “buffered” and easier on the stomach for some people.There is also a liposomal version of vitamin C which is basically bonded to lecithin and therefore fat soluble. This has high absorbability in the GI tract.
Vitamin C is often combined with bioflavonoids which are naturally occurring in nature. Some doctors attest that this improves the absorption health benefits of the vitamin C. All of these supplements are “synthetic” or man made.
Lastly, there are some so-called natural supplement sources of vitamin C, which some health specialists believe are superior, although this has never been proven. They also tend to be more expensive.
Regardless of the form that you take there are some guidelines that you should follow:
1. Avoid the vitamin C packets which contain all the extra sugars, preservatives, artificial coloring and flavors. These may taste good but all this junk is not beneficial fro your health. For example one popular brand contains : Fructose and Maltodextrin (aka corn syrup) as some of its main ingredients.
2. Make sure that you divide your doses throughout the day as you can only absorb so much at once. This will maintain your blood levels. If you take one big dose per day your kidneys will excrete whatever you cannot absorb. You may also experience diarrhea.
I like to use a powdered vitamin C that dissolves in water, is easily titratable and easily absorbed like Perque Potent C Guard
In the end, Vitamin C supplements are not a replacement for a good diet full of fresh fruits and veggies every day. However if you don’t always attain that goal, have a decent amount of stress, have any GI issues, exposure to excess toxins, or get sick frequently, a dose of vitamin C around 500 mg 3 times a day is a good place to start.