As we age, we need more vitamin C

Vitamin C is so crucial to living creatures that nearly all mammals produce it in their own cells. However, humans, gorillas, chimps, bats, guinea pigs and birds cannot make it inside their own bodies and need to ingest it daily. No matter what age we are, we all require this critical nutrient every day.

The general public is probably more familiar with vitamin C than any other vitamin, even though many people may not realize the extent of the numerous contributions it makes to our health and well-being. While studies reveal that about 40 percent of older Americans take vitamin C supplements, many middle-aged and senior citizens are not aware that the body requires more of this valuable nutrient during the aging process.

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Other conditions that require more vitamin C include asthma, autism, alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, depression, respiratory aflictions, susceptibility to colds and flu, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Vitamin C is a vital ‘protective’ nutrient. It supplies your body with powerful antioxidants that strengthen the immune system, helps the body maintain healthy tissues, skin, gums, blood vessels and cartilage, protects the cells from free radical damage and helps heal wounds and scar tissue. Insufficient vitamin C is linked to many diseases, such as heart problems, cancer, joint pain and cataracts.

But high quality supplements obtained from reputable health food establishments and suppliers are not the only answer to increasing yours and your loved ones’ intake of vitamin C. They are only a supplemental assistance  to a nutritious, vitamin C-rich diet!

After visiting several “food as medicine” websites, here are some of the foods  rated and tested highest in vitamin C content:

Right at the top of the list are red and green hot peppers and red and orange bell peppers (green bell peppers are good, too, but much lower in vitamin C content). Kiwi fruit is right up there, along with papaya, pineapple (fresh only), grapefruit, lemons and watermelon. Guava is a newly studied and lesser known superstar on the scale of vitamin C benefits, higher than oranges, tangerines and strawberries–though they are excellent sources as well.

Most health experts believe that vegetables, rather than fruits should be the main source of vitamin C, as heavy fruit consumption could overload the body with unneeded fructose.

The best vegetables are dark, leafy greens, with kale and mustard greens and Romaine lettuce rated highest in vitamin C. The other superstars of vitamin C vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus and green beans.

The fresh, raw form of fruits and vegetables is the best way to maximize vitamin C intake. Blanching or steaming for even a couple of minutes depletes about 25 percent of the vitamin C, and cooking for 10 to 20 minutes causes a loss of half the vitamin C. Canned and reheated vegetables have less than a third of the vitamin C left.

Remember the focus is on vitamin C in this article. All the foods mentioned and countless other fruits and vegetables offer their own individual and unique health benefits that may keep the doctor away!

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