Vitamin C

Vitamin C is surely the most popular micronutrient out there. Supplements containing this vitamin were heavily advertised claiming that you will avoid getting sick or even fight the aging process because of its antioxidant capabilities. We’ll look later at how true these statements are. Vitamin C is also called ascorbic acid and it functions as an electron donor for 8 enzymes. Its role is complex and its most important functions are:

-          It aids in the synthesis of: carnitine (gets fat through cell membrane and is formed from lysine and methionine), collagen (structural protein which it is used in rebuilding tissue like wound healing), protein hormone production, and tyrosine(essential amino acid).
-          Supports better iron absorption from the GI tract. The iron from meat is better absorbed if taken with an orange or lemon juice.
-          As an antioxidant, in theory, reduces the damage from free radicals.
-          Helps the formation of cartilage, bone, and denton(tooth)

¼ cantaloupe: 60 mg
½ cup grapefruit: 40mg
½ cup grapefruit juice: 35mg
½ cup cooked broccoli:60mg
1 cup sweet potatoes: 50 mg
1 kiwi: 75mg
1 lemon: 35mg

Recommended amount:
Healthy male, age 19-90: 90mg
Healthy female, age 19-90: 75mg.

Female smokers: 100mg
Male smokers 130mg

As you can see the recommended values can be easily reached. However some people need more. Depending on the amount of daily exercise, lifestyle choices, environment and others you can effectively use 500-1000mg/day. Current research show that amounts of 500mg-1500mg may protect against upper respiratory infections.

Excess vitamin C:
Relatively not toxic but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an effect. It’s possible to be linked with kidney stones. In the metabolism of vitamin C it results a urinary product called oxalate and many kidney stones are oxalate based. Another important aspect is that large amounts of vitamin C affect the bio-availability of vitamin B12 (remember the basic vitamin interactions). It can also cause chronic diarrhea.
It can affect results of certain health tests like glucose in urine. It can show that you have sugar in your urine when in fact it’s an excess of vitamin C. Although values a lot higher than the recommended dose can be beneficial, you should always stop at 2000 mg / day.
Vitamin C and common illness:
Everyone taking vitamin C as a supplement is doing it because they are convinced it will prevent illness. What do you think about this? True or false? A recent research done on a larger number of people than before had only one conclusion. Vitamin C can reduce the duration of the cold by 8% for adults 14% for children but it doesn’t prevent it, or reduce the intensity! So does this mean vitamins C is useless? No! As stated earlier vitamin C is a powerhouse and is essential for many internal functions. However it isn’t magical and it can’t be used to mend all your bad habits.

Vitamin basics

When it comes to vitamins people have extremely different opinions. Some think that they aren’t necessary and that you can live just fine with what you get from food, while others tend to exaggerate and think of them as all around “fixers”. As in most cases the truth is somewhere in the middle. Vitamins are organic substances, meaning they are carbon based. They don’t have any calories although I’m sure you’ve heard people complain that they have gained weight after taking a complex of vitamins (we’ll tackle ridiculous myths like this one in future articles). Vitamins can’t be produced internally so your body must get them from food or supplements. Exception to this rule is vitamin D.
            There are about 13 different vitamins which can be classified in 2 categories:

-          Fat soluble. They are dissolved and remain in the body’s fat store. Because of this, their need on a day to day basis is a little lower. Excess of these vitamins are usually toxic. You might find on a nutrition label, next to vitamin A part of it in the form of beta-Carotene just because of this possible toxicity (beta-Carotene is a precursor). These vitamins are:
o       Vitamin A
o       Vitamin D
o       Vitamin E
o       Vitamin K

-          Water soluble. They are not stored in your body and must be replaced each day. Although they are lost in urine it doesn’t mean they can’t have side effects. Too much of a good thing is not always that good. They act as co-enzymes (they combine with a larger compound to form enzymes) and thus help you use your metabolic machine a little bit better. There some exceptions to the rules here as well. Although it’s a water soluble vitamin, B6 can be toxic for you in large quantities and B12 can actually be stored in the liver for long periods of time. These vitamins are:
o       Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
o       Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
o       Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
o       Niacin (nicotinic acid)
o       Pantothenic acid
o       Biotin
o       Folic acid (folacin or folate)
o       Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

If you’re having less than 40-50% of daily recommended values of these vitamins signs of deficiency can be seen after only 4 weeks. A term which you should always consider when talking about vitamins is bio-availability, because it shows how much of these substances are actually absorbed. This is important because people usually think of vitamins as a singular compound. In fact they are found in many different forms, not all having the same effectiveness. For example vitamin E can be found in 8 such molecular forms. Bio-availability is also affected by other food components. For example most of the vitamins are better absorbed if taken with a meal but folic acid is recommended on an empty stomach. The absorption of iron is stimulated in the presence of vitamin C and so on… in general there are all dependent on “shared variables” which means that a gain in one can be a loss for another.

The importance of water

From the entire nutrition world, water is surely the most known term. Unfortunately it is more known than understood. For the majority it doesn’t represent more than the liquid that they drink when they’re thirsty. We all know that about 65-70% of our body is water and this should be indication enough of its importance. Water can be found around all cells and in our blood. A closer look at different types of tissue show that stored fat contains about 10% water, while muscle contains about 70% of it. This means that if you’re interested in building muscle, before you rush out to buy the next miracle protein supplement, you should make sure that you’re drinking enough water. Recent studies showed that hydration level directly effects performance. A lowering of your normal amount of body water by 1-2% produces a decrease in performance by 15-20%. Use this information to your advantage and next time you want to go to the gym make sure you drink enough water 1-2 hours before starting to workout.
            When we discussed about building your diet we concluded that it’s best to eat 6 or 7 times a day and never feel hungry. Same rule applies here; it’s always best to drink small amounts very often in order to avoid the feeling of thirst. Usually when this happens internal functions suffer modifications and aren’t restored immediately after having a drink. Some confusion arise when asking how much water a person should drink. Some follow the ads on television blindly and think that 2 liters should be enough in most of the situation, but think about it... Do you need the same amount of water in the winter and in the summer? Are we all the same in body weight or height? No… we all need different quantities. The best approach is to drink small amounts, as often as you can… if you’re not going to the bathroom every 2-3 hours you should try drinking more. Of course 3 hours before sleep you should reduce the quantity and make sure you’re having an uninterrupted sleep. First thing in the morning, you guessed it… have a glass of water, it will help your body start the day. There are some moments when it’s better to not drink, like during or after a meal. What this does is dilute the acidity of your stomach, reduce the efficiency of certain enzymes, and ruin what should had been a proper digestion.
            Water is responsible lots of the changes seen on the weight scale. Just because of the level of hydration people can have up to 5 pounds less or more in different moments of the day. Don’t be fooled if you ran for 60 minutes and realized you lost weight. Most of it is water, lost through sweat, and which you’ll immediately regain.
            In the end let’s have a short look at the other functions of water: it transports nutrients from the digestive system, it regulates heat, it eliminates toxins and very important for most of us, it lubricates joints. I know people that complained about joint pains, tried expensive supplements but refused to use the most obvious and simple solution: drinking enough water. Don’t do the same mistake.

Nutrition label tricks

If you’re serious about your diet then I’m sure you know that every calorie counts. Quality should be the main word here and a good place to start looking for quality is the nutrition label. What are the key points to watch for when buying something? First of all you should realize that manufacturers are interested in making a profit and not your health. That’s why world wide the food industry spends over 12 billion euros on chemicals that are added to food. A statistic shows that on average, a normal person consumes somewhere between 7 and 8 kg of chemical additives per year. To my surprise I know people that said: “Hey, if I eat it and I’m not feeling anything bad it must be OK!”. I don’t know where to begin explaining how dumb this kind of thinking is. Most of the processes inside us DON’T have immediate results. Just because you’re young and your body is struggling to filter the junk you eat doesn’t mean it can keep on doing that indefinitely. Sooner or later everything will collapse and you’ll be puzzled how this happened because you didn’t do anything different.

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