Vitamin C and why we need it


Though it felt like summer’s dog days never end, the fall season officially begins today.

A key nutrient that is often either ignored or over-consumed is vitamin C. Easy access to endless supplements has alleviated for some nutritional problems and created health disadvantages for others. What is vitamin C and how much of it do we really need? Is it more beneficial to get it through food?

Vitamin C plays an important role in bone formation and maintenance. In addition, it is important for healthy skin, blood vessels and acts as an antioxidant. We have long heard of the immunity-boosting properties of this nutrient.

Vitamin C is soluble in water, which means that the body does not store it. This means that it is important to consume foods rich in vitamin C on a daily basis to meet your body’s needs. Because it is water-soluble, this nutrient can be flushed out of the body through fluid absorption. Your body needs sufficient amounts to produce collagen, L-carnitine, and some neurotransmitters. Vitamin C is also important for iron absorption to prevent anemia. The antioxidant properties neutralize “free radicals” that lead to oxidative stress and cell damage.

An additional benefit is seen in the fact that vitamin C supports wound healing. Your cardiovascular system also benefits from this vitamin. Research has shown beneficial effects in enlarging blood cells, improving nitric oxide production, and reducing plaque instability in atherosclerosis. Interestingly, smokers have lower vitamin C levels than non-smokers. Smokers are advised to consume at least 35 mg of additional vitamin C daily – above the recommended daily requirement.

However, for most of us there are dangers associated with taking too much vitamin C. High doses (especially in the form of dietary supplements) can lead to gastrointestinal complaints and diarrhea. While something is needed for iron absorption, too much C can affect iron absorption. Too high a vitamin C content can lead to tissue damage and kidney stones. Please note that these issues are associated with high-dose supplements rather than foods rich in vitamin C.

Foods rich in vitamin C are fruits and vegetables. Some of the best sources are red peppers, tomatoes, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, pineapples, papaya, cauliflower, grapefruit, leafy greens, bananas, mangoes – think red, orange, yellow or green and it contains vitamin C!

How Much Do You Really Need Every Day? About 100 mg daily for adults cover the basic needs of your body. How does this apply to food? About a cup of strawberries, ¼ of a melon, or a cup of cooked broccoli would do the trick. Most of the most popular fruits and vegetables contain at least half of your daily needs per serving. Some, like papaya, contain a full day’s need.

Serving yourself this piece of fruit or vegetable will not only provide you with the vitamin C you need, but also provide additional health benefits from other nutrients. If you choose to take dietary supplements instead, please do not exceed 1,000 mg per day to avoid chronic liver or kidney disease. In higher amounts there is a risk of diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, gastritis, fatigue, hot flashes, headaches and insomnia. Not to mention severe anemia, kidney stones, and malabsorption in bone health.

Dr. Dianna Richardson has served Jefferson City and the surrounding communities for more than 22 years. She has been a wellness practitioner in the field of health and nutrition for over 30 years. The core of their practice remains the use of nutrition to improve health, vitality and quality of life. Richardson holds a PhD in Naturopathy, a degree in Nutrition and a Masters in Public Health Education. It can be found at the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center, LLC on Dix Road in Jefferson City.


Makes: 6 servings

½ cup of white balsamic vinegar

1 clove of garlic

3 tablespoons of brown sugar

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 fresh peaches cut into 1-inch pieces

2 lbs. fresh tomatoes cut into bite-sized pieces

4 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

8 ounces. Mozzarella (or cheese substitute)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar, garlic, sugar, olive oil and salt until completely incorporated.

Add the peaches, tomatoes and basil and mix with the dressing.

Mix in the mozzarella.

Season to taste with fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper.


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