Food is a very essential part of the sustenance process of human beings and other living organisms. Human beings as well as other living things take food for the basic purposes of satisfying the appetite; meeting the essential physiological growth prerequisites; sustenance of and maintaining essential body metabolic processes and procedures; and to obtain energy for the maintenance of body temperature and body activities.
Think of a situation where one deliberately goes on hunger strike, or was denied of food and water for an appreciable length of time. The body will demand its rations for basic bodily processes and cycles. The enzymes will malfunction; many cells and organs within the body structure will start to rupture, leading to some failure in action and so on and so forth. Taste or pleasure apart, food constitutes part of the creative, developmental and procedural aspect of a normal living being. To be without food is to invite danger and difficulties for the body system after bearing such condition for some days. Why is this so?
We take various types of food items in solid form, water and liquid, or as fluids. Each food item gives benefits to the body in different ways. The elements derivable from the food and drinks are called nutrients. Nutrients are classified according to their composition as well as according to the source from which they are derived. Vitamins are also found in minute quantities in food, but are equally produced by the body itself, in certain circumstances, or produced synthetically. Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin that is derived from fruits and leafy vegetables, and could as well be produced synthetically.
Vitamin C is necessary for the body as an antioxidant which aid normal body growth and development, repair of all tissues in all parts of the body, useful in the formation of important protein needed for the development of the skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C also aid in the process of healing of wounds and the formation of scar tissues that protect the wound as a healing process. In addition, Vitamin C is needed for the repair and maintenance of the body and essential parts such as the cartilage, bones, and teeth.
Often times our body is exposed to free radicals which attack the body tissues and endanger our body system through ailments and sicknesses. The accumulation of the effect of free radicals in the body system over a period of time could lead to the set off of the aging process and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis.
These diseases could not be prevented by storing adequate vitamin C in the body. Since our body does not make vitamin C on its own, as in the case of some mammals and animals; and while we do not store vitamin C in reservation in the body, it becomes very vital to have adequate measure of vitamin C in our diet on a daily basis.
Even though we produce in the body or take more than required amount of vitamin C, the surplus is disposed off as urine through the urinary tract. But the required dose should always be available in the body. This makes the presence or provision of vitamin C in our diet very important, and it is the central theme of this article.
Vitamin C is available from many foods or drink sources, either naturally such as fruits and vegetables, or from special preparations such juices, drinks, tablets, and condiments. All fruits and vegetables contain certain amount of vitamin C, which necessitates the inclusion of fruits in our daily diet.
Citrus fruits make up the major source of vitamin C. Fruits such as cantaloupe, oranges and grape fruits, kakadu plum, camu camu are very rich in vitamin C. This explains why they sell well either naturally or as as juices. Other good sources of vitamin C are mango, kiwi, papaya, pineapple, watermelon, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, and, generally, other fruits, at a minimal level. Vitamin C is obtained from vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green pepper, red pepper, spinach, cabbage, green leafy vegetables, turnips, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and some other kinds of vegetables.
Apart from fruits and vegetables, some food components, such as cereals, grains and beverages are fortified with vitamin C or vitamin C supplements to make them provide as much value in terms of the vitamin as natural fruits and vegetables. However, it is always better to take the fruits or vegetables fresh to derive the vitamin benefit in full and rich value. The food items are robbed of their vitamin content through cooking process. This is why some of these food items are cooked very mildly.
The inclusion of vitamin C in the diet is therefore essential as deficiency of it in the body would ignite the occurrence of various ailments and diseases that could lead to catastrophic consequences for the individual.
Some of the direct sicknesses and ailments that could result from vitamin C deficiencies are anemia, gingivitis – inflammation, and bleedings of the gums, inability of the body organs to fight infection, inability of the body system to set off a healing process for wounds and cuts, splitting and dry hair, inaccurate hair growth, regular occurrences of bruises and cuts that may not heal, nosebleeds, dry, rough and scaly skin, swollen and painful joints, weakened tooth enamel.
The occurrence of too much vitamin C in the body, and acute deficiency of it could put such people at a very high risk of stroke. Acute deficiency in vitamin C result into scurvy, a prevalent sickness amongst the elderly and well-malnourished people. As an antioxidant, vitamin C is good for the treatment and prevention of scurvy. In contrast to popular opinion and age-held beliefs, usefulness of vitamin C in the treatment of some ailments such as common cold are manly promotions that are poorly supported by research studies.
The effect of vitamin C in lowering serum uric acid, has resultant effect in the amelioration of the occurrence or likelihood of gout in the body. Nevertheless, regular intake of vitamin C through food or as supplements would tilt the person slightly above a direct hit of the symptoms of cold, whereas taking vitamin C to suppress a bout of cold infections does not enjoy strong scientific support.
As deficiency in vitamin C could lead to any of the diseases enumerated above, extraordinarily large content of the vitamin in the body could lead to diarrhea and stomach upset.
To maintain a good balance between our food and fluid intake, there is a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for the amount of vitamin C that should be in our meals in accordance to the gender, age, body size, body condition (pregnant versus non-pregnant, nursing mother versus non-nursing mother) and type of diet and menu of each person. In addition, the main focus of our plan to attain and maintain daily bodily requirement of vitamin C is to take balanced diet regularly on a daily basis.
Dietary Reference Intakes for vitamin C:
0 – 6 months: 40* milligrams/day (mg/day)
7 – 12 months: 50* mg/day
*Adequate Intake (AI)
1 – 3 years: 15 mg/day
4 – 8 years: 25 mg/day
9 – 13 years: 45 mg/day
Girls 14 – 18 years: 65 mg/day
Boys 14 – 18 years: 75 mg/day
Men age 19 and older: 90 mg/day
Women age 19 year and older: 75 mg/day
It is recommended that smokers and people are directly affected by smoking should increase their daily intake of vitamin C in their diet by an additional 35 mg. per day.
Pregnant and lactating women equally need a higher content of daily intake of vitamin C, usually determined by their respective physicians.
1. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2000.
2. Escott-Stump S, ed. Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008