What can vitamin C do for your health?
Vitamin C is one of the safest and most effective nutrients, experts say. It may not be the cure for the common cold (though it's thought to help prevent more serious complications). But the benefits of vitamin C may include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.
High vitamin C foods include:
Guavas, bell peppers, kiwifruit, strawberries, oranges, papayas, broccoli, tomatoes, kale, and snow peas. The current daily value (% DV) for vitamin C is 90mg.
How Much Do You Need?
If you eat a balanced diet, it's pretty easy to get enough. Adult women (who aren't pregnant or breastfeeding) need 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day; men, 90 milligrams. A mere 1/2 cup of raw red bell pepper or 3/4 cup of orange juice will do it, while 1/2 cup cooked broccoli gets you at least halfway there. Your body doesn't make or store vitamin C, so you have to eat it every day.
While a cup of orange juice or a half-cup of red pepper would be enough to meet your RDA for Vitamin C, here are all the foods and beverages you'd need to consume to reach 500 milligrams (mg):
- Cantaloupe, 1 cup (8 ounces): 59mg
- Orange juice, 1 cup: 97mg
- Broccoli, cooked, 1 cup: 74mg
- Red cabbage, 1/2 cup: 40mg
- Green pepper, 1/2 cup, 60mg
- Red pepper, 1/2 cup, 95mg
- Kiwi, 1 medium: 70mg
- Tomato juice, 1 cup: 45mg.
How to Get More Vitamin C in Your Diet
This antioxidant super-nutrient is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Yet, according to dietary intake data and the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines, most adults don't get enough vitamin C in their diets.
Here are eight easy ways to work more fruits and veggies into your diet each day:
- Add pureed or grated fruits and veggies to recipes for muffins, meatloaf, and soups.
- Keep cut-up fruits and veggies on hand so they are ready for a quick snack.
- Frozen fruit slices make a cool summer treat.
- Include dark lettuce, tomatoes, and shredded broccoli slaw on all your sandwiches and wraps.
- Eat raw veggies with hummus, low-fat dips, and salsas.
- Add fresh or frozen berries to muffins, pancakes, cereal, and salads.
- Throw a handful of dried fruit on top of your cereal or in a baggie with nuts for an easy snack.
- Enjoy a glass of vegetable juice as a filling and low-calorie mid-afternoon snack.
Signs You're Low on Vitamin C
Slow Wound Healing
When you get hurt, levels of vitamin C in your blood and tissue go down. Your body needs it to make collagen, a protein that plays a role in each stage of repairing the skin. And vitamin C helps neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that fights off infection, work well.
Bleeding Gums, Nosebleeds, Bruises
Vitamin C keeps your blood vessels healthy, and it helps your blood clot. Collagen is also essential for healthy teeth and gums. One study found that people with gum disease who ate grapefruit for 2 weeks noticed their gums didn't bleed as much.
Early research has found a link between low levels of vitamin C and higher amounts of body fat, especially belly fat. This vitamin may also play a role in how well your body burns fat for energy.
Dry, Wrinkled Skin
People who eat a healthy diet with plenty of vitamin C may have smoother, softer skin. One possible reason: Because vitamin C is an antioxidant, it can help protect your skin from free radicals. These break down oils, proteins, and even DNA.
Tired and Cranky
In a very small study, 6 of the 7 men who had low levels of vitamin C said they felt tired and irritable. That suggests a link, though other things could be playing a role. Another study of 141 office workers found that giving them vitamin C made them feel less tired within 2 hours, especially if their level was lower to start with. Then the effect lasted for the rest of the day.
Since vitamin C has several jobs related to your immune system, it shouldn't surprise you to learn you're more likely to get sick and may have a harder time recovering. There's some evidence that vitamin C can help protect you from illness such as pneumonia and bladder infections. It may even lower your odds of heart disease and some types of cancer.
If you have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), it may get worse faster without vitamin C and other antioxidants and certain minerals. Getting enough vitamin C from foods might help prevent cataracts, but we need more research to understand that relationship better.
Before the 1700s, this potentially deadly disease used to be a huge problem for sailors. Today, it's relatively rare but possible if you get only 10 mg/day of vitamin C or less. People with scurvy also have problems such as loose teeth, cracked fingernails, joint pain, brittle bones, and corkscrew body hair. When you boost vitamin C, symptoms start getting better in a day, and usually it's cured within 3 months