Do You Need More Vitamin C In the Winter?
Your mum probably told you to take vitamin C if you have a winter cold, but how good is that advice? The truth is that vitamin C isn’t going to cure a common cold, but it is still one of the healthiest and safest nutrients around. Studies show that vitamin C, in the right dose, improves your overall health and may lower your risk of chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease. A better question is how much vitamin C do you need every day and why.
What Is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also called l-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble essential nutrient. Essential nutrients are necessary for good health but are only available through diet. In other words, your body doesn’t produce vitamin C – it absorbs it from food.
Vitamin C gets a lot of attention, especially during the cold months, because people believe it will help fight off respiratory infections. There is no proof that this is true, but taking vitamin C may reduce your risk of further complications, which is just a small part of the overall benefits you get from this supplement.
How Does the Body Use Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a critical for the formation of:
- Blood vessels
Some researchers also believe that it is also beneficial in the prevention of:
- Certain kinds of cancer
People with an inadequate supply of this nutrient have difficulty healing, develop gum disease and may even have weak bones that bend under their body weight. Just a little vitamin C each day is enough to counteract the deficiency and improve your health, though.
Vitamin C as an Antioxidant
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. The combination of normal ageing and environmental stressors create what’s called free radical molecules, or molecules with an odd number of electrons. Once a molecule becomes a free radical, it starts stripping the neighbouring molecules of electrons trying to stabilise itself, causing tissue damage.
Free radicals are at the heart of ageing and certain disease processes, but antioxidants like vitamin C offer a solution. They provide an electron for the free radical molecule to use, so it will stop trying to rob its neighbours. By taking a vitamin C supplement or eating foods rich in this nutrient, you reduce your risk of tissue damage from the environment and also slow down ageing.
Vitamin C for Serotonin
Vitamin C is also essential for brain health because it is a necessary ingredient for key neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Serotonin plays a role in most body functions and is responsible for making you feel happy. Without it, you may have difficulty sleeping, develop a mood disorder like depression or have problems managing stress.
What About Vitamin C and the Common Cold?
It doesn’t cure a cold or help prevent them, but taking a vitamin C supplement once you get sick can keep you from getting even sicker. Colds can sometimes turn into pneumonia or a more serious lung infection, so it’s okay to follow mum’s advice and take vitamin C if you get a cold or the flu. It is also beneficial when you are overly stressed or if you are at risk of a stroke.
How Much Vitamin C Do You Need?
The National Health Service recommends adults get at least 40 mg of vitamin C per day. Your body can’t store Vitamin C either, so you need to make sure you get some every day, and that is where a dietary supplement comes in handy. Any excess is excreted naturally, but if you take over 2,000 mg you might experience some unpleasant side effects like diarrhoea.
Ideally, you would get the recommended amount of vitamin C from food. Foods rich in this nutrient include:
- Oranges and other citrus fruits
- Red cabbage
- Green pepper
- Red pepper
- Tomato juice
Instead of worrying about taking vitamin C to avoid getting sick during winter, plan on adding more to your diet and taking a supplement all year, because the health benefits do extend beyond the common cold.
Livescience, Does Vitamin C Really Help Colds, Lauren Cox, December 2011
Whfoods.org, Vitamin C
WebMD, The Benefits of Vitamin C, Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD. LD.
Mayo Clinic, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), 2013
Author Bio: Darla Ferrara is a full-time freelance writer, artist and award-winning author. With an academic and vocational background in healthcare, Darla creates informative and engaging content for readers about current health trends.
- Darla Ferrara