Vitamin C: Does it REALLY help fight colds?

VOranges, right? Eat when you’re sick? Yup, that’s what we think of. But there’s more to this well known Vitamin.

First, for all the learning nerds like myself, let me tell you about the discovery of Vitamin C. British sailors frequently died from Scurvy on sea voyages. A physician found that sucking juice from a lime was protective and so British sailors began received limes to prevent scurvy.

Vitamin C is found mostly as ascorbic acid (that’s important to know because that is what you will see on any ingredient label) If you are a mom, you will commonly see ascorbic acid listed as an ingredient in those little apple sauce pouches the kids eat.

Now we’ve all heard of taking high doses of Vitamin C when we are sick right…well listen to this…during a usual intake of Vitamin C, let’s say 30-100 mg (say you eat an orange), your body can absorb about 70-95% of that Vitamin C. Now let’s say you increase your intake, you ingest a powder that says it has 1000 mg of Vitamin C…well guess what, your body can only absorb about 50% of that…And if you have even more, the absorption rate drops to 16%. Pretty interesting, right? Proves that more, isn’t always better. Which you will come to find is a common theme in nutrition.

Now let’s talk about colds. The easiest way I can explain if it helps to take Vitamin C when you get sick is this, when you take Vitamin C at the onset of a cold, it’s like not flossing for 6 months and then flossing an hour before you see the dentist (thanks to my husband for that analogy) Regular use of Vitamin  C can shorten the duration of a cold if you’ve been taking it regularly. But taking it once the cold symptoms start, has not been shown beneficial.

Fun fact, One of Vitamin C’s most notable interactions is with Iron. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron.

Oh and get this, when it comes to antioxidants, Vitamin C is the superior water soluble antioxidant. (That means it’s superior to all the other B Vitamins.)

So how much do you need and where can ya get it?

Women need 75mg and men need 90 mg. You should aim for more if you are a smoker. And if you are pregnant or breast feeding you should increase to 100 mg.

  • 1 Cup Tomato Juice: 170 mg
  • ½ Cup Green Pepper: 102 mg
  • 1 Cup Strawberries: 89 mg
  • 1 Cup Papaya: 88 mg
  • 1 Cup of sectioned oranges: 87 mg
  • ½ Cup Kiwi: 84 mg
  • 1 Cup sectioned grapefruit: 72 mg