We all know good old vitamin C as our immune system's best friend, especially when those pesky cold symptoms start to pop up. It helps us to fight off the common cold because it is one of the most potent antioxidants, also helping to protect us from cell damage caused by harmful free radicals.
In addition, vitamin C is needed for the production of collagen, an important component of tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and bones. This nutrient is also known to play key roles in the prevention of coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, cataracts, diabetes, and gout [I]. Breast cancer is often treated with vitamin C because it has a tumoricidal effect and acts as an oxidizing agent.
Vitamin C Deficiency
The most severe form of vitamin C is known as scurvy. Symptoms include poor wound healing, ease of bruising, hair loss and joint pain. This illness was most common in the 1700s amongst men in the navy with restricted food sources, before they realized that citrus fruits could help one avoid these symptoms. While we don't have to worry as much about this illness today, if you suffer from chronic fatigue, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or if you bruise easily, you may want to increase your vitamin C intake.
Supplemental Vitamin C
I can't help but say, time and time again, that it's always best to get your nutrients from food whenever possible, as most supplements are synthetic and it's hard to say how they really impact the body. Many supplements have been heralded as "wonder" supplements, only to find out later that they may cause more harm than good. While Vitamin C supplementation can definitely be valuable during times of stress on the body, be weary of quality and dosage. Speak with your healthcare provider for personalized recommendations.
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
Men, 90 mg/day
Men who smoke, 125 mg/day
Women, 75 mg/day
Women who smoke, 10 mg/day
Pregnant women 18 years and younger, 80 mg/day
Pregnant women 19 years and older, 85 mg/day
Breastfeeding women 18 years and younger, 115 mg/day
Breastfeeding women 19 years and older, 120 mg/day
Upper Level (UL), 2000 mg/day
Food Sources of Vitamin C
Animal sources: liver
3.5 oz chicken livers— 27.9 mg
3.5 oz corned beef brisket— 27.9 mg
Plant sources: fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, red and green peppers, kiwi, oranges, and strawberries
1 raw yellow sweet pepper— 341 mg
3.5 oz sautéed sweet green pepper— 177 mg
1 cup chopped kale— 80.4 mg
1 cup raw broccoli flowerets— 66.2 mg
1 cup raw Brussels sprouts— 74.8 mg
1 cup chopped mustard greens— 39.2 mg
1 orange— 113 mg
1 small papaya— 93.9 mg
1 cup pineapple chunk— 93.1 mg
1 cup strawberry halves— 89.4 mg
1 large kiwi— 84.4 mg
1 lemon— 83.2 mg
1 oz sun dried tomato— 28.5 mg
1 tablespoon cilantro— 9.9 mg
1 cup Japanese dried chestnuts— 95 mg
As you can see, one sweet pepper, papaya, orange, or kiwi is all you need to fulfill your daily vitamin C requirement. Another good way to get this nutrient is to squeeze a lemon into water. This is a very cleansing tonic for the liver and is especially helpful for those who like to drink coffee and alcohol, or eat processed foods. Drinking this in the morning before consume anything else helps to start your day off on the right foot!
[I] Higdon, Jane. "Micronutrient Information Center: Vitamin C". Linus Pauling Institute, January 2014. Web. June. 2016. <http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C>.