Vitamin C – Beyond the OJ

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Vitamin C has become so identified with orange juice and the prevention of the common cold, that 98% of the people I have consulted did not know that it actually has other critical roles to play, or that there were vegetables that were better sources than an orange. In fact, vitamin C as a way to boost the immune system, while true, has been over-exaggerated, but that shouldn’t discourage YOU from being vigilant in getting your daily dose.

So, if it isn’t the immune booster that orange juice ads have been eluding to, what’s the big deal with vitamin C?

First, like good nutrition scientists, we have to learn what the heck it is. Ascorbic acid, dehydroascorbic acid, calcium ascorbate, sodium ascorbate, and other salts of ascorbic acid are all Vitamers (there’s a new term for ya) of vitamin C. This means that they are different chemicals that behave in similar ways, or that present similar symptoms in the body when deficient.

 

 

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Beautiful skin starts on the inside.  

You can put all of the expensive topical products on that you want, but none of them are as effective, safe, and natural as vitamin C at maintaining skin integrity. The elasticity of our skin and connective tissues is thanks in part to Collagen. Many make-up commercials mention collagen frequently. We don’t need to smear it on our faces if we are making enough of it internally, and this is why we need good sources of vitamin C every day.

 In order for our bodies to make collagen, hydroxylation of amino acids lysine and proline occurs inside the lumen. This process is dependent on ascorbic acid (vitamin C) as a cofactor. It is approximately the 4th of 10 chemical reactions that occur to make collagen. That’s why Scurvy (one of the first diseases recognized to be from nothing more than a simple deficiency in a vitamin) was such a horrible disease, as it prevented wounds from healing, created huge lesions that only grew, caused teeth to fall out, etc. This was all due to the lack of integrity in the connective tissue from decreased collagen production because of the lack of vitamin C in just that one small step in the production process. Yikes. Just remember this C is for Connective tissue.

Nutrition science is a never ending journey that keeps zooming in further and further, we could go on for days just on the process of collagen. Instead, let’s keep moving onto what YOU need to know to fully appreciate and respect your body’s needs.

The Hub of the Anti-oxidant Network. 

What is an antioxidant network? Well, first, it’s a very important and detailed discussion for another day, but for now, take my word that Vitamin C is THE crucial antioxidant in the body. It shields our DNA from free-radical damage that could cause a cancerous mutation. Free radicals can also damage sperm and cause deformities in offspring, and it is no coincidence that vitamin C is found in abundance in the testes. Prevention against oxidative stress and free radicals is massive in the control of heart disease as well.

Vitamin C is found in high concentrations in immune cells, and is consumed quickly during infections. It is not certain how vitamin C interacts with the immune system directly, although studies have demonstrated it’s ability to suppress viral activity. It blocks the replication of the rhinovirus (stuffy nose./cold), and decreased the incidence of bronchitis, tonsillitis, and other common throat and lung ailments.

But if we look at the bigger picture, this is all related to our knowledge of the expanded role that antioxidants play in our bodies. In order for viruses to be activated, they need to have their genes turned on. If their genes are not turned on, the virus will lie dormant. There have been many intriguing reports demonstrating that antioxidants may block the activation of viral genes. So yes, vitamin C does help prevent the common cold, and it is found in high concentrations in immune cells, but perhaps, due to the antioxidant ability to control gene expression, the immune system has less virus cells to deal with in the first place. Things that make you go Hmm…

 Orange Juice and Cough Drops?!? 

These are the top two sources for my clients BEFORE consultation. Most people are simply blown away by the fact that bell peppers are one of the best sources of vitamin C. Brussel’s sprouts and broccoli are good sources, too. Fruits are indeed also a great source, but this comes with a good amount of sugar. Look at the chart and see the vitamin C count in red bell peppers, then look at the calories. We have a clear winner!!! This is why you see LOTS of bell peppers, broccoli, and Brussel’s sprouts in the dishes I create for HealthSavor. More vitamin C, less sugar! I encourage you to copy, paste, and print out this vitamin C chart to use as reference when making your shopping list.

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 Vitamin C, along with the B-family of vitamins, are water soluble. They are used in many tissues, but are not stored for later use, so it’s very important to be vigilant in getting many of these sources in your diet daily. Recommended dosage of 60mg/daily and 100/mg daily for smokers. (Ever noticed how life-long smokers have leathery skin that has seemed to have lost its elasticity?) The more natural the source, the better. Supplementation is ok, but should not be relied on as the sole source.

My Personal Experience… 

I was born with asthma. It has become less chronic as I have grown. It prevented me from playing sports much when I was a child, before the invention of inhalers, I had to take a syrup that needed a good 30 excruciating minutes to take effect. One of my only salvations was vitamin C. It has been shown in studies to reduce the severity of exercise-induced asthma. Since I now study nutrition science, I know that sugar and inflammation play a huge role in allergies and asthma, too, but vitamin C was perhaps my first exposure to the power of simple food nutrients as medicine. All too often we wait until we have a condition to learn the true power of nutrition. If you are reading this, you are ahead of the curve and I commend you!

About Chef Brandon

bkaleChef Brandon Schlunt is co-owner of HealthSavor, a Cincinnati Ohio based healthy, organic, gluten-free meal delivery service, created to help busy families, individuals and children eat nutritious meals easily and affordably. Chef Brandon focuses on helping his customers lose weight, lower their blood sugar and feels very honored to have earned the trust of many doctors, students, parents, athletes, and on-the-go businessmen and women all over the city. In his non-existent spare time, Chef B enjoys music, hanging with his daughter and fiance, and continuing his education in nutrition.

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