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Everything you need to know about vitamin C
Vitamin C is very much like the silent worker in the office; you don’t realise what it does until you stop having it.
Vitamin C, among other things, helps fight off colds and flu and helps you cope with fatigue. It also strengthens the immune system and boosts your energy.
So, where can it be found and why is it so important to your health?
What is vitamin C?
Ascorbic acid, commonly known as vitamin C, is a water soluble vitamin. It is also sensitive to temperatures above 60° C and to light. This means that when used in cooking, the vitamin C content within the food you eat decreases sharply.
It is certainly the most fragile of all vitamins. Cooking for too long can destroy up to 100% of the vitamin C present in foods.
What is its role?
Vitamin C performs many important roles in our body.
-> Antioxidant: It intervenes in the fight against the ageing of cells and participates in the neutralisation of free radicals (unstable and potentially toxic molecules).
-> Healing: Vitamin C helps heal damaged tissue.
-> Immune system: It fights against viral and bacterial infections by ensuring the proper functioning of the cells within the immune system.
-> Metabolism of iron: Vitamin C enables better absorption of iron through the intestines and aids its transport in the bloodstream. A lack of iron in the body can cause fatigue and dizziness.
-> Regulation of allergic reactions: Vitamin C limits the risk of allergic reactions by your body. It causes a decrease in the sensitivity of the body to histamine, a molecule that plays a key role during an allergic reaction.
-> Skin health: Finally, it also participates in the manufacturing of collagen and elastin and ensures that your skin remains in good health.
Daily vitamin C requirements
ANSES recommends that the average adult consumes 110mg of vitamin C per day.
Women who are either pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as the elderly need to consume a larger amount of vitamin C.
Making sure you have enough vitamin C
Your body does not have the capacity to synthesize or store vitamin C. Consequently, the only way that you can ensure that you are getting enough of it is by consuming it through the food you eat or through vitamin supplements.
All fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C.
In order to get the most out of the fruits and vegetables you eat, it is best to have them raw. This is because once they are cooked or heated, you lose a certain number of the vitamins present within them.
What happens when you lack vitamin C?
Since the body does not have the capacity to store vitamin C, people are more likely to suffer from a deficiency.
The consequences associated with a vitamin C deficiency are dependent on the age of the person affected. In adults, a vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy and in children it can lead to Barlow’s disease (heart failure).
If you are lacking vitamin C then you are also more susceptible to infections, fatigue and headaches.
While vitamin C clearly provides many health benefits, an overconsumption of it can also be detrimental to your health.
Consuming more than 500mg per day can be dangerous. This could lead to kidney stones and accumulation of iron due to excessive absorption.
How to combat a vitamin C deficiency?
The recommended daily vitamin C intake should be more than covered if you consume 400g of vegetables and 300g of fruit a day.
For those who are unable to meet their vitamin C requirements, there are vitamin supplements available.