Vitamin C: Tips For Increasing Your Intake
A new RDA?
According to a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the National Institutes of Health is taking another look at the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C. The current RDA for vitamin C is 60 milligrams per day—about the amount you get from one orange. Due to recent findings on the potential health benefits of this wonder vitamin, the NIH is now considering boosting the RDA to somewhere between 100 and 200 milligrams per day, two to three times the current recommendation.
Why all the hype?
Vitamin C has long been known for its value as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are natural compounds found in many of the foods we eat. The most well known antioxidants are vitamin C, selenium, beta carotene and vitamin E. Antioxidants work by inhibiting toxic substances in the body (also known as "free radicals") which may lead to the development of cancers, heart disease and the aging process. There has been a strong correlation between diets high in fruits and vegetables (which are rich in antioxidants) and reduced risk of chronic diseases. Vitamin C may account for much of this protection. However, we are also finding numerous other compounds within fruits and vegetables, collectively called "phytochemicals", that may also play a preventative role. Phytochemicals are defined simply as chemicals found in plants. They occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. These substances, many of which also have an antioxidant effect, may protect our bodies from cellular damage that can lead to cancer and other chronic diseases.
Due to the strong correlation between diets abundant in fruits and vegetables and disease prevention, The National Cancer Institute launched the "5-A-Day" program. The basis of this campaign promotes the intake of a minimum of five fruits and vegetables daily as a good defense against cancer and other diseases. A specific recommendation of this program is to include vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables in the diet each day since vitamin C is a particularly well-researched antioxidant. The mainstay of the program, however, is that by eating five servings of produce daily we can easily take in not just a good dose of vitamin C, but the minimum amount of protective plant chemicals shown to be effective in reducing risk of chronic diseases. Remember, five is the minimum amount. In the case of fruits and veggies it's definitely a situation where more is better!
Vitamins are substances that your body needs to grow and develop normally. There are 13 vitamins your body needs. They are vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate). You can usually get all your vitamins from the foods you eat. Your body can also make vitamins D and K. People who eat a vegetarian diet may need to take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Each vitamin has specific jobs. If you have low levels of certain vitamins, you may develop a deficiency disease. For example, if you don't get enough vitamin D, you could develop rickets. Some vitamins may help prevent medical problems. Vitamin A prevents night blindness.
The best way to get enough vitamins is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods. In some cases, you may need to take a daily multivitamin for optimal health. However, high doses of some vitamins can make you sick.
Vitamins are divided into two categories, according to the way the body absorbs them. Fat- soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are absorbed with the help of fats in the diet and are stored in the fats of the body. Because your body can store these vitamins for a long time, unless your diet is chronically lacking one of these, it is unusual to have a deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins. The other vitamins: vitamin C, and the eight B-complex vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they do not need fat for absorption, yet most are not stored very long in the body. (Because pantothenic acid and Biotin are found in so many foods and their deficiencies are rare, they are not included in the following list.) If there's an excess of these water-soluble vitamins, either from food or from a supplement, they are flushed through the body rapidly and are eliminated quickly in the urine.
Except for vitamin D, and a bit of vitamin K, your body cannot make vitamins. You must get them from foods. So, if your diet is deficient in one or more vitamins, your body will feel the effects of these missing essentials.
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