March 31, 2016

Are You Getting These Nutrients? - Part 4

Probably the most well known vitamin, vitamin C performs many functions in our bodies, from helping to make neurotransmitters in our brains to protecting our cells from damage, to building connective tissue. Vitamin C is easily degraded during storage and cooking. Keep your produce cool, and don't overcook it. Aim for at least 90 mg daily for adult males, 75 mg for females.

Low-Carb Sources of Vitamin C
Red Bell Pepper, 1/2 cup raw - 95 mg vitamin C, 3 grams net carb
Green Bell Pepper, 1/2 cup raw - 60 mg vitamin C,
Brussels sprouts, 1/2 cup cooked - 48 mg vitamin C, 3 grams net carb
Broccoli, 1/2 cup cooked - 51 mg vitamin C, 3 grams net carb
Strawberries, 1/2 cup sliced - 49 mg vitamin C, 4 grams net carb
Cauliflower, 1/2 cup cooked - 44 mg vitamin C, 2 grams net carb
Grapefruit, 1/2 medium - 44 mg vitamin C, 9 grams net carb
Cabbage, 1 cup, raw, chopped - 33 mg vitamin C, 3 grams net carb

Also: kale and other greens, raspberries, green beans, cantaloupe are good sources of vitamin C. Almost all fruits and vegetables have some vitamin C. Do not consume grapefruit if you take medications for cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart problems as it can cause some of these medications to become toxic. Talk to your doctor if you like grapefruit as sometimes medications can be changed to avoid this problem.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that your body doesn't store it. You have to get what you need from food, including citrus fruits, broccoli, and tomatoes.

You need vitamin C for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. It helps the body make collagen, an important protein used to make skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C is needed for healing wounds, and for repairing and maintaining bones and teeth. It also helps the body absorb iron from nonheme sources.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, along with vitamin E, beta-carotene, and many other plant-based nutrients. Antioxidants block some of the damage caused by free radicals, substances that damage DNA. The build up of free radicals over time may contribute to the aging process and the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.

It’s rare to be seriously deficient in vitamin C, although evidence suggests that many people may have low levels of vitamin C. Smoking cigarettes lowers the amount of vitamin C in the body, so smokers are at a higher risk of deficiency.

Signs of vitamin deficiency include dry and splitting hair; gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and bleeding gums; rough, dry, scaly skin; decreased wound-healing rate, easy bruising; nosebleeds; and a decreased ability to ward off infection. A severe form of vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy.

Low levels of vitamin C have been associated with a number of conditions, including high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, stroke, some cancers, and atherosclerosis, the build up of plaque in blood vessels that can lead to heart attack and stroke. Getting enough vitamin C from your diet, by eating lots of fruit and vegetables, may help reduce the risk of developing some of these conditions. There is no conclusive evidence that taking vitamin C supplements will help or prevent any of these conditions.

Excellent sources of vitamin C include oranges, green peppers, watermelon, papaya, grapefruit, cantaloupe, strawberries, kiwi, mango, broccoli, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and citrus juices or juices fortified with vitamin C. Raw and cooked leafy greens (turnip greens, spinach), red and green peppers, canned and fresh tomatoes, winter squash, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and pineapple are also rich sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is sensitive to light, air, and heat, so you'll get the most vitamin C if you eat fruits and vegetables raw or lightly cooked.

You can purchase either natural or synthetic vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, in a variety of forms. Tablets, capsules, and chewables are probably the most popular forms, but vitamin C also comes in powdered crystalline, effervescent, and liquid forms. Vitamin C comes in doses ranging from 25 - 1,000 mg.

"Buffered" vitamin C is also available if you find that regular ascorbic acid upsets your stomach. An esterified form of vitamin C is also available, which may be easier on the stomach for those who are prone to heartburn.

The best way to take vitamin C supplements is 2 or 3 times per day, with meals, depending on the dosage. Some studies suggest that adults should take 250 - 500 mg twice a day for any benefit. Talk to your doctor before taking more than 1,000 mg of vitamin C on a daily basis and before giving vitamin C to a child.

Daily intake of dietary vitamin C (according to the National Academy of Sciences) is listed below.
  • Men over 18 years: 90 mg
  • Women over 18 years: 75 mg
  • Pregnant women 14 - 18 years: 80 mg
  • Pregnant women over 18 years: 85 mg
  • Breastfeeding women 14 - 18 years: 115 mg
  • Breastfeeding women over 18 years: 120 mg
Because smoking depletes vitamin C, people who smoke may need an additional 35 mg per day.

Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a knowledgeable doctor. Vitamin C supplements have a diuretic effect, meaning the help the body get rid of excess fluid. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids when taking them.

Most commercial vitamin C is made from corn. People sensitive to corn should look for alternative sources, such as sago palm.

Vitamin C increases the amount of iron absorbed from foods. People with hemochromatosis, an inherited condition where too much iron builds up in the body, should not take vitamin C supplements.

Vitamin C is generally considered safe because your body gets rid of what it does not use. But at high doses (more than 2,000 mg daily) it can cause diarrhea, gas, or stomach upset. If you experience these side effects, lower the dose of vitamin C.

People with kidney problems should talk to their doctor before taking vitamin C.
People who smoke or use nicotine patches may need more vitamin C because nicotine makes vitamin C less effective in the body.

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