By Lisa Kaschmitter, Arizona State University Nutrition Student
More than ever before, Arizona families have greater opportunities to eat a balanced diet with a good mix of vitamins and minerals. And, while the best place to get those vitamins and minerals comes from eating healthy, there are times when a vitamin supplement or two is well worth the effort.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute of Health says, “Scientific evidence shows that some dietary supplements are beneficial for overall health and for managing some health conditions. For example, calcium and vitamin D are important for keeping bones strong and reducing bone loss; folic acid decreases the risk of certain birth defects; and omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils might help some people with heart disease. Other supplements need more study to determine their value. The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not determine whether dietary supplements are effective before they are marketed.”
One of the most well-known, or at least talked about, is vitamin C. In fact, lots of research has gone into the value of vitamin C and the benefit of adding this vitamin supplement to your diet.
And while this article isn’t a discourse on all the benefits of vitamin C, let’s look at three of my favorite reasons for considering adding more vitamin C to your diet.
- It reduces anxiety. Many may know that feeling when our heart races and our mind suddenly is clouded. The feeling of anxiety serves an important purpose and acts as an internal danger warning system. However, for 18% of American adults, anxiety can become so frequent that it is debilitating.1 Anxiety generally has no specific cause and when at a pathological level, it can lead to panic and low-working memory levels.2 A daily dose of 500 mg of vitamin C has been shown to reduce anxiety levels and provide healthier heart rates in students.2
- It enhances your body’s natural immunities. Have you ever wondered how vitamin C works for our immune system? It is not vitamin C that directly creates immunity, it is how vitamin C acts on our natural defense system: neutrophils.3 Neutrophils are a key to our body’s protection against pathogens that cause illness. They naturally contain vitamin C and it is required for them to function efficiently. Unlike most plants and animals, humans do not make their own Vitamin C, so it must be incorporated into our diet. A daily intake of 300 mg of Vitamin C increases neutrophil function and is vital to maintaining the best possible defensive line.3
- It decreases signs of aging. You are never too young, or too old, to start taking great care of your skin, and Vitamin C can help. It is great for skin elasticity. Try adding a daily moisturizer to your routine that contains vitamin C, and watch as your skins structure vastly improves. Look for products with a concentration of 5% and a pH of 5.5.4
Where to find Vitamin C
We all reach for oranges when we are looking to add vitamin C to our diet, and supplements are always an option as well. The benefit to supplements is that they are labeled with dosage information, so you can keep track of the amount you a take in each day. If you are like me and cannot fathom adding something new to remember, here are some of the best food options for increasing your vitamin C intake5:
- Raw Red or Yellow Peppers: 101-144mg per ½ cup
- Cooked Red or Green Peppers: 121-132 mg per ½ cup
- Guava: 206 mg per 1 fruit
- Kiwifruit: 84 mg per 1 large fruit
- Orange: 59-83 mg per 1 medium fruit
Special note: A safe intake level stays below 2000 mg per day.
Finally, Keep In Mind This Advice on Taking Supplements
The National Institute of Health’s office of Dietary Supplements reminds us to consult with our doctor if we want to supplement our diet with a specific vitamin or mineral. Don’t decide to take dietary supplements to treat a health condition that you have diagnosed yourself, without consulting a health care provider.
- Don’t take supplements in place of, or in combination with, prescribed medications without your health care provider’s approval.
- Check with your health care provider about the supplements you take if you are scheduled to have any type of surgical procedure.
- The term “natural” doesn’t always mean safe. A supplement’s safety depends on many things, such as its chemical makeup, how it works in the body, how it is prepared, and the dose used. Certain herbs (for example, comfrey and kava) can harm the liver.
- Before taking a dietary supplement, ask yourself these questions:
- What are the potential health benefits of this dietary supplement product?
- What are its potential benefits for me?
- Does this product have any safety risks?
- What is the proper dose to take?
- How, when, and for how long should I take it?
At a minimum, we should eat a variety of foods including citrus fruits (oranges and grapefruits, for example) and their juices, as well as red and green pepper, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, baked potatoes and tomatoes to obtain more vitamin C for our diets.
Editor’s note: Lisa Kaschmitter is a nutrition major attending Arizona State University.
My food journey began as a young girl in the kitchen, on a step stool, helping Mom. It was my job to mix the flour, eggs, and oil together for one of her famous boxed birthday cakes! She was (and still is) the best Betty Crooker chef I know. I firmly believe in the ability of food to connect us to each other, and to memories. Walking in the door to the smell of stew on a cold fall day and my whole family frosting sugar cookies every year before Christmas, are the moments that formed my passion for the kitchen.
Throughout my youth and high school years I was an active member of 4-H, participating in food programs. I enjoyed competitive cooking demonstrations and entering the pie contest at the fair each year. Although I spent many years in the kitchen, I never thought about the connection between the food I was eating and my health.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a home that was directly connected to the local agriculture industry. My father worked with local farmers and this allowed our family access to food directly from those farms. It wasn’t until I moved away from home that I realized what a luxury that had been. Being farther from the source of my food has helped me forge more of a connection to it.
I began attending Arizona State University in the fall of 2013, majoring in Nutrition Communication. I will be graduating in December 2015. Through this program I have gained an interest in nutrition education, recipe modification and studying food insecurity while learning how to increase access to healthy foods and nutritional knowledge.
- Facts & Statistics. Anxiety and Depression Association of America Web site. http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics. Updated September 2014. Accessed September 4, 2015.
- Oliveira IJ, Souza VV, Motta V, Da-Silva SL. Effects of Oral Vitamin C Supplementation on Anxiety in Students: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences. January 2015; 18: 11-18. doi: 10.3923/pjbs.2015.11.18
- Bozonet SM, Carr AC, Pullar JM, Vissers MCM. Enhanced Human Neutrophil Vitamin C Status, Chemotzxis and Oxidant Generation Following Dietary Supplementation with Vitamin C-Rich SunGold Kiwifruit. Nutrients. April 2015; 7(4): 2574-2588. doi: 10.3390/nu7042574
- Crisan D, Roman J, Crisan M, Scharffetter-Kochanek K, Badea R. The role of vitamin C in pushing back the boundaries of skin aging: an ultrasonographic approach. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. September 2015; 8: 463-470. url: http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S84903
- Food Sources of Vitamin C. Dietitians of Canada Web site. http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-C.aspx. Published February 25, 2014. Accessed September 4, 2015.