Although the it felt like the dog days of summer would never end, the fall season officially starts today.
An important nutrient that is often either ignored or over consumed is vitamin C. Having easy access to endless supplements has eased nutrient issues for some and created health detriments for others. So, what is vitamin C and how much of it do we really need? Is it more beneficial to get it from foods?
Vitamin C plays vital roles in bone formation and maintenance. In addition, it is important for healthy skin, blood vessels, and serves as an antioxidant. We have long heard of the immunity boosting properties of this nutrient as well.
Vitamin C is water soluble meaning the body does not store it. This means it is important to eat vitamin C rich foods daily to meet your body’s needs. Being water soluble allows this nutrient to flush from the body with fluid intakes. Your body needs adequate amounts to produce collagen, L-carnitine and some neurotransmitters. Vitamin C is also essential for iron absorption to avoid anemia. The antioxidant properties work to neutralize “free radicals” that lead to oxidative stress and cell damage.
Additional benefit is seen in vitamin C aiding wound healing. Also, your cardiovascular system receives several benefits from this vitamin. Research has shown positive effect in helping to widen blood cells, improve nitric oxide production and reduce plaque instability in atherosclerosis. Interestingly, people who smoke tend to have lower levels of vitamin C than non-smokers. It is recommended smokers consume at least an extra 35 mg of vitamin C daily — above recommended daily requirements.
However, for most of us, there are dangers associated with too much vitamin C. High doses (especially in supplement form) can cause GI discomfort and diarrhea. While some is needed for iron absorption, too much C can impair iron absorption. Too high of vitamin C can lead to tissue damage and kidney stones. Please note these issues are associated with high dose supplements, not vitamin C rich foods.
Foods rich in vitamin C include fruits and vegetables. Some of the best sources are red bell peppers, tomatoes, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, pineapple, papaya, cauliflower, grapefruit, leafy greens, bananas, mangoes — think red, orange, yellow or green and it has vitamin C!
So how much do you really need daily? About 100 mg daily for adults will cover your body’s basic needs. How does that translate to food? About one cup of strawberries, of a cantaloupe or a cup of cooked broccoli would do the trick. Most of the more popular fruits and veggies contain at least half your daily needs per serving. Some, like papaya, contain a full day’s need.
Grabbing that piece of fruit or serving of veggies will not only provide you with needed vitamin C but also provide additional health benefits from other nutrients. If you do choose to take supplements instead, please hold it to no more than 1,000 mg daily to avoid chronic liver or kidney conditions. In higher amounts, there is risk of diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, gastritis, fatigue, flushing, headache and insomnia. Not to mention more serious anemia, kidney stones and malabsorption in bone health.
Dr. Dianna Richardson has been serving Jefferson City and the surrounding communities for more than 22 years. She has worked in the field of health and nutrition as a wellness practitioner for more than 30 years. Core to her practice remains use of nutrition to improve health, vitality and quality of life. Richardson holds a doctorate in naturopathy, along with degrees in nutrition and a master’s degree in public health education. She may be found at the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center, LLC on Dix Road in Jefferson City.
FRESH TOMATO PEACH CAPRESE SALAD
Makes: 6 servings
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh peaches cut into 1-inch pieces
2 lbs. fresh tomatoes cut in bite size pieces
4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
8 oz. mozzarella (or cheese substitute)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, garlic, sugar, olive oil and salt until fully incorporated.
Add the peaches, tomatoes and the basil and toss with the dressing.
Mix in mozzarella.
Sprinkle with fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.