Should I take a vitamin C supplement?
Do you have vitamin C supplements at home in preparation for cold season? Or maybe a sachet of vitamin C powder for that day when you can totally feel that cold coming.
If you said yes, how much vitamin C do you actually need? Are vitamin C supplements needed to meet that need? And most importantly, do they help stave off colds? This blog will help answer all these questions for you.
What does vitamin C do for you?
Vitamin C has many important jobs!
Helps with the absorption of iron
Helps produce important bodily tissues including collagen, which helps with the healing of cuts and wounds
It helps with the formation and repair of blood, bones, and other tissues
It is a powerful antioxidant (helping protect our cells from oxidative damage). It's strong antioxidant properties have been associated with cancer and heart disease prevention.
How much vitamin C do you need?
Men and women typically need 75-90 mg/day, some adults need more (e.g. during pregnancy or if smoking) and children need approximately 15-45 mg/day depending on their age. We are capable of consuming the recommended amounts of vitamin C through food alone.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, our bodies do not store large amounts of it. Any extra vitamin C is removed through our urine. Because our bodies don't store vitamin C, it is important to consume foods rich in vitamin C on a daily basis.
There is such thing as too much of a good thing. For most people, the recommendation is to stay below the 2000mg/day, as high doses of vitamin C may cause digestive problems. However, in some cases having high doses of vitamin C may be beneficial. It is always best to check with your health care professional before starting something new in order to get individualized recommendations.
Are vitamin C supplements needed to meet your daily requirements?
Most healthy individuals do not need to take a vitamin C supplement. Maintaining a well balanced diet that contains fruits and vegetables should help ensure you are eating all the vitamin C your body needs, as the best sources of vitamin C are found in fruits and vegetables.
Tip: try to include at least 1 fruit or vegetable with every meal you eat. Aiming to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables is always a great way to get vitamin C, along with many other important antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
Here are some examples of serving sizes that will help meet your daily vitamin C needs:
1 cup of strawberries
1 cup of pineapple
1 cup of sliced mangos
1 cup of papaya
½ cup raw peppers (red, yellow)
¾ cup cooked broccoli
You can incorporate these foods into your everyday meals by:
Adding strawberries to your salad, yogurt, oatmeal, or cereals
Adding bell peppers to your pasta sauces, stews, chili, and salads
Adding mango or pineapple to yogurt, oatmeal, or smoothies
Adding avocado to a salad, sandwich, smoothies or enjoying it spread on bread
Adding dark leafy greens to soups, stir-frys or eggs
I use a food based approach, meaning I believe its best to get the nutrients your body needs from foods first. Supplements are meant to supplement what you are lacking in your diet. The types of supplements I recommend would vary between individuals based on their regular diets and lifestyle.
Do vitamin C supplements help stave off colds or boost immunity?
It is commonly believed that taking vitamin C supplements can help prevent a cold. However, research on vitamin C supplements has not shown that it helps prevent colds or boosts immunity any more than a healthy diet does.
Bottom line: no it doesn't.
However, research has found that taking at least 200mg of vitamin C daily seemed to lessen the duration of symptoms associated with colds (8% in adults and 14% in children) (Harvard Health Letter, 2017). This means that individuals taking vitamin C may experience shorter periods of cold and flu symptoms compared to those who don't.
Bottom line: you can get all the vitamin C you need in your diet by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. Doing this can help you stay healthy over the winter months. Taking a supplement may help reduce the length of your cold and flu symptoms (but it is not necessary).
I hope you enjoy some vitamin C rich foods this week and stay warm!
Cheers to happy and healthy eating! :)
Until next time,
Eat Right Feel Right - Benish and Angela XO
Harvard Health Publishing (2017). Can vitamin C prevent a cold? Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/cold-and-flu/can-vitamin-c-prevent-a-cold