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

  • ½ avocado

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

Reference:

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

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