Vitamin C is required for human survival. It plays a vital role in helping our immune system battle infectious agents. In addition to basic survival, vitamin C has been known to prevent wheezing in children and cardiovascular disease in adults. Many also believe that vitamin C can prevent colds or shorten them if you do get one, and it is thought to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (Englehart, 2002). But how much vitamin C should you take and how can you get it?
The short answer is that the US recommended daily allowance for ascorbic acid (vitamin C) ranges between 100 - 120 mg/day for adults. You can get vitamin C from either a supplement or you can eat plenty of fruit, leafy green vegetables, peppers, and paprika.
The longer answer is more complicated. The amount of vitamin C you should be taking is actually a topic of long debate. Recently, a group of researchers wanted to put the debate to bed once and for all, and went back and looked at many of the past studies of vitamin C and its benefits on the common cold. They found that vitamin C really did not shorten the length of a cold, nor did it prevent a cold from coming on. However, after they published their findings, they got a lot of push back from other researchers telling them that they had wasted their time, and that really the only studies that should have been considered were those where higher dosages of vitamin C were taken. (There are some who believe that vitamin C is only good for colds if taken to the point of bowel intolerance.)
However, there are some things related to vitamin C that everyone agrees on. Fruits and vegetables often contain relatively high levels of vitamin C, and studies show that diets high in fruits and vegetables are associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer. Children who eat fruit high in vitamin C decrease the amount of time that they wheeze. 100 grams of fresh apples has an antioxidant activity equivalent to 1,500 mg of vitamin C. And whole apple extracts inhibit the growth of colon and liver cancer cells, leading researchers to believe that natural antioxidants from the fresh fruit could be more effective than a vitamin C supplement.
While we have known about vitamin C since the 17th century, there are still a lot of mysteries and controversies surrounding its benefits. One thing that we can all agree on, though, is that eating a wide range of food this winter that is high in vitamin C will be helpful to you in many different ways.
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.