Vitamin C comes a close second in your immune health toolkit. This incredible nutrient supports your ability to fight infection, is a powerful antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory activity. It has been shown to shorten the duration of the common cold, prevent it in some conditions and clinical trials are even currently underway to test the effectiveness of Vitamin C in patients with Covid-19. Our bodies can’t make Vitamin C and we have only a very limited capacity to store it, so it must be regularly included in our diets.
Vitamin C is found in fresh fruits and vegetables, yet sadly, intakes are known to be generally low in a typical Western diet high in refined and processed foods. In addition, there are times when our needs for Vitamin C increase significantly, such as when we are fighting infection, and during times of stress and illness.
This is when our daily intake needs to be increased even further. In fact, evidence suggests that Vitamin C levels decline dramatically in critically ill patients. For general health and wellness, and prevention of infection it is important to achieve dietary intakes that provide at least 100 – 200mg per day. In contrast however, when Vitamin C needs increase such as during illness or infection, significantly higher (gram) doses may be needed to compensate for the increased demand.
Good food sources of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, bell peppers, kiwi fruit, broccoli, papaya, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe melon and berries. Think ‘fresh’, ‘little’ and ‘often’ when adding Vitamin C foods to your diet. ‘Fresh’ – because the Vitamin C content of foods degrades quickly over time, so the longer you leave fresh fruits and vegetables before eating, the less Vitamin C they will contain. And ‘little’ and ‘often’ because Vitamin C is processed fairly quickly in the body.
This means you’ll get more benefit from spreading your Vitamin C foods throughout the day rather than eating lots in one go. The same is true for Vitamin C supplements too, which are best taken in smaller doses throughout the day or as a time-release formula. Ascorbic acid is the form of Vitamin C found naturally in food and is often the preferred form in supplements.