Students fight viruses and combat fatigue with vitamin C
Feeling tired and catching a cold are two of the most common health complaints of college life. Studying does require extra energy, especially when added to work demands, and viruses, the kind that infects humans (not computers) tend to invade campuses. However, a regular dose of vitamin C can treat fatigue and colds.
Vitamin C helps the body use the iron found in plant foods and – equally important for fighting fatigue -- it is essential for the production of a compound called carnitine that our bodies use to break down fatty acids for energy. (Although some people take carnitine supplements to burn fat, evidence supporting the use of these supplements is weak.) Fatty acids are the fuel needed by our bodies when run out of carbohydrates.
When it comes to defending against viruses, vitamin C boosts the immune system and is especially helpful when you are under stress – and aren’t college students usually highly stressed! However, it doesn’t keep you from catching a cold unless you take it as a daily preventive, before exposure to a rhinovirus. It will not end a cold when taken after getting sick although some evidence shows that it shortens a cold’s length and severity. Perhaps this is because it destroys histamine – the cause of watery eyes and runny noses
Vitamin C can make you happier and better-looking. It promotes collagen production by creating strong connective tissue, healing wounds, and nourishing skin. Some research touts it as anti-aging because it is an antioxidant, a substance that scavenges “free radicals,” which are damaged compounds created by reactions in our cells. Free radicals are a cause of aging.
It enhances mood by helping produce neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is the “joy” chemical in our brain. Serotonin regulates mood, appetite, memory, desire, and the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythms.
Other benefits of this happy vitamin are that it can lower blood pressure and risk factors for heart disease.
How much vitamin C do you need? The DRI (Daily Reference Intake) for adults is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. To put that in perspective, an orange has about 60 mg of vitamin C while a baked potato, including the skin, has 20 mg. (A small serving of McDonald’s French fries contains 12 mg.)
Most supplements have a minimum of 250 mg, which is all that is necessary. The UL (upper limit) is 2,000 mg although higher amounts may be okay when intake is gradually increased. Symptoms of vitamin C overload include nausea and diarrhea. (Kidney stones are another suspected side effect of too much vitamin C!)
A lower percentage of vitamin C is absorbed when you take mega doses (usually as a supplement since it is difficult to eat 10 oranges at once). Absorption is also less in cigarette smokers, whose needs for the vitamin are increased by 35 mg.
Besides fatigue, what are physical signs that you not getting enough? People with low vitamin C might notice small reddish spots on their skin like a rash caused by the breakage of capillaries. Another sign is easy bruising and curly/corkscrew hairs on the arms, face and other body surfaces.
A study of college students and vitamin C performed some years ago showed that many do not get enough because of low fruit and veggie intake. Here is a sampling of high vitamin C foods.
|Kiwi fruit, 1 medium||75 mg|
|Red chili pepper (1)||65 mg|
|Yellow sweet pepper (1/2 cup)||137 mg|
|Kale, 1 c raw||80 mg|
|Strawberries, 1 c||89 mg|
(Another reason to take vitamin C and load up on fruits and veggies is a reduced cancer risk. Vitamin C has been linked with fewer cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and pharynx, according to studies and reviews of literature.)
In summary, seeking out vitamin C daily in foods or supplements (ascorbic acid) will improve the function of many body systems. It will pay dividends in increased energy and improved mood and skin. It may even help you avoid disease from the common cold to cancer.
Note: Nutrition takes time to work its magic. Just as one day of weight lifting won’t result in a bodybuilder’s physique, a single day of good nutrition will not immediately cure disease. But, consistent healthy eating leads to better well-being.
Here’s an easy recipe that is quick and loaded with vitamin C.
Broccoli-topped Bakers with Cheddar
4 medium russet potatoes (5 oz each)
Olive oil for potato skins
½ pkg of frozen broccoli
1 c (4 oz) Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 T butter
Salt and pepper to taste.
- Wash and pierce potatoes 3-5 times on each side. Rub with olive oil and bake 45 minutes in a 400˚F oven, or microwave about 15 minutes.
- While potatoes are baking, cook broccoli until soft.
- Cut butter into 3 pieces and mix into broccoli. Smash buttered broccoli with a potato masher or use a food processor, pulsing rather than pureeing to achieve a chunky texture.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- When potatoes are cooked, slit them down the middle and fluff the insides with a fork. Top with a ¼-½ cup of broccoli mash and sprinkle 1 oz cheese (about ¼ cup) over potato.
- Return all 4 to the oven to melt the cheese.
- Serve hot.
Each contains about 325 calories and 70 mg vitamin C, 93 percent RDA for adult women and 78 percent of the RDA for adult men.
Note: These bakers are also a great source of potassium!
Copyright © 2019 Jani Hall Leuschel