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Nutritionist & wellbeing expert
Over the past few months many of us have suffered with colds and flus. Very likely the winter months have left us lacking in many nutrients, especially vitamin C. No doubt vitamin C is perhaps the most well-known vitamin, associated with orange juice or something orangey if you like, but here are some facts that may surprise you!
Why is vitamin C important?
Water soluble nutrient - needs to be consumed on a daily basis as it is not stored in the body
Can help prevent colds and shorten their duration
Powerful antioxidant, protecting us from free radical damage
Maintains collagen and supports its synthesis, which is very important for healthy firm skin, strong bones and connective tissue
Supports cardiovascular system – free radical damage is known to play a role in cardiovascular disease
Some signs that you might be low in this nutrient are:
- Dry and splitting hair
- Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and bleeding gums
- Rough, dry, scaly skin
- Decreased wound-healing rate
- Easy bruising
- Decreased ability to ward off infection.
The best way to get any nutrient is with food. However nowadays we are faced with many challenges. Vitamin C is found in fresh fruit and vegetables, but we tend to crave more comforting warm dishes such as soups and stews in colder months. Unfortunately vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat and cooking, and we need to pay extra attention to make sure we get enough of this powerful nutrient.
The freshness and quality of produce determine the nutrient density, but unfortunately not many of us grow our own food anymore. And who knows how long fruit and vegetables have been sitting on a supermarket shelf? For example, a fresh, vitamin C rich vegetable like broccoli—if allowed to sit at room temperature for 6 days—can lose almost 80% of its vitamin C.
Not just oranges?
While one medium orange does pack about 70 mg of vitamin C, it is not the richest source of this nutrient, as clever marketing has made us believe. There are some fruit and vegetables that beat the orange on the vitamin C front.
The number one source of vitamin C is a tropical fruit papaya. One medium sized papaya provides about 168 mg of vitamin C. Bell peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts all are more nutritious than oranges, and strawberries and pineapple also rise above oranges on the vitamin C ranking table. Make sure to get the freshest produce possible and ideally eat it raw, lightly steamed or stir-fried.
We are not saying oranges are bad, but you should not solely rely on orange juice for your vitamin C fix. Variety is the key, and including the aforementioned fruit and vegetables in your diet will also provide a range of other important nutrients and fibre.
Super berry Amalaki
It is a good idea to top up with additional vitamin C during the winter months and when entering spring. Be careful not to make a mistake getting a cheap high street brand of vitamin C as synthetic supplements might not be absorbed that well by our digestive systems.
A natural source of vitamin C would be a lot more beneficial. Our all-time favourite is an Indian gooseberry called Amalaki. This berry deserves a ‘superfood’ title as it is packed full with vitamin C. Some even claim that Amalaki is the richest natural source of vitamin C on the planet.
What might be even more important is the bioflavonoid content in Amalaki. Bioflavonoids are natural chemicals found in plants and have numerous positive effects on the body. The synergistic effect of all the natural chemicals in this berry can greatly enhance the absorption and potency of vitamin C.