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!
Getting the minimum
For the most part, vitamin's main role is to prevent deficiency diseases. Many years ago, government scientists established the minimum daily amount of vitamins needed to prevent deficiency diseases like scurvy, beri-beri, and pellagra. This Recommended Daily Allowance, or RDA, has been established for most of the essential vitamins and minerals. The percentage number you see on a vitamin bottle label tells you what percentage of your daily minimum needs are contained in one tablet. For example, if a pill contains 50% RDA for Vitamin C, it provides half of your daily minimum needs to prevent scurvy.
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