As we are moving through the third wave of COVID 19 everyone is talking about how to improve our immune systems to prevent us from becoming sick. So we decided that this month will be dedicated to help you find the best food for your immunity. The nutrient on our lips today is vitamin C, keep reading to better understand this wonderful vitamin.
Firstly, it is important to understand that no vitamin or mineral can completely protect you against getting COVID 19. It can only support your immune system to help you better fight infection and diseases. Now that we got that out of the way, lets move on to the good stuff.
What does your immune system do for you?
Your immune system provide protection against infections and toxins and you build up immunity against a specific sickness by being exposed to it. Then the next time you come into contact with the specific sickness your body will recognize it and will know exactly what to do to combat it.
What’s Vitamin C’s role in the body?
Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid and aids in the development and repair of all bodily tissues and it’s necessary for growth. Vitamin C is important for many body functions such as the formation of collage, iron absorption, proper immune system functioning, wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones and teeth.
Why Vitamin C?
Vitamin C forms part of almost all the immune system processes, from supporting various types of white blood cells to supporting the production and activity of antibodies (a protective protein produced in the presence of a harmful/foreign substance). For a list of 20 ways Vitamin C strengthens the immune system, click here.
Vitamin C is also an anti-oxidant, meaning it protects the the body against harmful molecules such as free radicals, toxic chemicals, and pollutants like cigarette smoke. When there is a build up of free radicals in the body it can contribute to the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis.
When someone has a Vitamin C deficiency their immunity is weakened and they’re more vulnerable for infections, in turn infections greatly impacts Vitamin C levels due to higher inflammation and metabolic requirements.
So what now?
How much vitamin C should we have per day, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for children ranges from 15 – 75 mg, adult women need 75 mg and men 90 mg. A pregnant or breastfeeding women needs 85 – 120 mg per day. If you smoke your requirements increase with 35 mg per day.
Now lets talk about foods that are high in vitamin C, so your first thought might be citrus fruits and yes, you’re right, but vitamin C is not limited to only these fruits. It’s also found in red peppers, green peppers, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Just be mindful that vitamin C gets damaged by heat, so it is best to only cook your veg for a short time to prevent destruction of all the nutrients. Lets look at values…
|Food||Portion||Amount of Vitamin C (mg)|
|Orange, fresh||1 cup||96 mg|
|Red peppers||1/2 cup||95 mg|
|Kiwifruit||1/2 cup||64 mg|
|Green peppers||1/2 cup||60 mg|
|Broccoli, cooked||1/2 cup||51 mg|
|Strawberries, fresh||1/2 cup||49 mg|
|Brussels sprouts, cooked||1/2 cup||48 mg|
These are not the only food that contains vitamin C, but they are the ones that contains the most. Mix and match these foods to reach your daily requirements.
Vitamin C supplements are very popular at the moment and most people will encourage you to drink 1 000 mg per day, but did you know that your body can only absorb 500 mg at a time, so if you want to take in 1 000 mg, it is better to drink two 500 mg pills, one in the morning and the other at night. Just beware that too much of a good thing is not good at all, research has shown that taking high doses such as 500 mg or more per day on a regular basis has been shown to cause kidney stones. People who have had kidney stones in the past or has a family history of kidney stones should be especially careful.
Take home message
Eating fruit and vegetables are always the best option when we want to reach any recommended amount of vitamin or mineral, but in times when we are sick and we can’t reach these values or the values are higher, taking a supplement is not a bad idea. Consult with a registered dietitian to evaluate your diet and optimize your health with food, they’ll be able to give you a personal meal plan that fits with your day-to-day life.
Doctor’s Formula. 2021. Vitamin C – Strengthens the immune system in 20 different ways. Available: https://www.doctorsformulas.com/en/category/newsposts/vitamin-c-strengthens-the-immune-system-in-20-different-ways.htm [Date accessed: 8 June 2021]
Carr, A.C. & Maggini, S. 2017. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 3;9(11):1211. doi: 10.3390/nu9111211.
Moore, M. 2021. How Vitamin C Supports a Healthy Immune System. Available: https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/how-vitamin-c-supports-a-healthy-immune-system [Date accessed: 8 June 2021]
Snyder, C. 2019. How Much Vitamin C Should You Take? Available: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-vitamin-c-should-i-take-daily [Date accessed: 8 June 2021]