Health and Lifestyle for the over 50s

What You Need to Know About Vitamin C

Posted by The Best of Health
Categories: Diet & Nutrition /

vitamin cYou may know that vitamin C is an important vitamin, but do you know why? Do you know what role it has in your body and how much of it you should be getting? Read on to find out more and why it’s an essential part of your diet.

What Does Vitamin C Do?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, helps to protect cells and keep them healthy. It’s necessary for the production of collagen and the maintenance of healthy connective tissue, which gives support and structure for other tissue and organs. It also helps wounds heal.

Unlike some other vitamins, this one cannot be made by the human body, so it has to be obtained from your diet.

What are the Benefits of Vitamin C?

As well the vital role it plays in keeping cells healthy, vitamin C is associated with several other benefits. Research has linked it to the reduction of wrinkles in ageing skin, a reduced risk of urinary tract infections and a reduced risk of gout. The vitamin is also commonly believed to help prevent or cure the common cold, although research into this effect has so far produced mixed results.

What are the Effects of a Vitamin C Deficiency?

If there isn’t enough vitamin C in your diet, you can develop scurvy. A long-term shortage means collagen can’t be replaced, causing some types of tissue to break down. This leads to symptoms such as:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Tiredness
  • Red dots on the skin
  • Bleeding and swelling of the gums

Scurvy, however, is a rare condition and can easily be avoided with a healthy, balanced diet.

How Much Vitamin C Do You Need?

Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body so it needs to be consumed every day. The recommended intake for adults is 40 milligrams a day. However, some people need more. Smoking depletes vitamin C in the body’s tissue and blood, and some people who have had surgery can benefit from increasing their vitamin C intake as it helps their wounds to heal.

Can You Have Too Much Vitamin C?

Getting too much of the vitamin is only likely if you take vitamin C supplements. If you consume too much – more than 1000mg per day – your body will simply excrete it, and you may experience stomach pains and diarrhoea. These symptoms should disappear once you stop taking the supplements.

Which Foods are Good Sources?

While vitamin supplements are widely available, it’s also best to get the vitamins you need through your diet. The best way to get enough vitamin C is to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Good sources include:

  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Strawberries
  • Blackcurrants
  • Red and green peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Sprouts
  • Potatoes

As long as you make an effort to get the recommended five portions of fruit and veg per day, it will be easy for you to maintain healthy vitamin C levels. If, for any reason, you decide to take supplements, make sure you’re aware of how high a dosage they contain, and take this into account when planning your meals.

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