Vitamin C

Vitamin C on Your Table

You can strengthen your immune system for the fall season of colds and flus, and produce healthy skin and bones when you get a daily dose of vitamin C.  As we saw earlier in, The Best Way to Get Vitamin C, your best resource will be the foods you can get in your own grocery store.

So this week, we combine some of the top sources to make a recipe you will enjoy.  This recipe will provide more than 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance and will be delicious too. Broccoli and tomatoes also contain many cancer fighting nutrients in addition to Vitamin C. 

    Sun Dried Tomatoes and Steamed Broccoli

Serves 2

1 lb broccoli  (can be fresh or frozen)   organic is best

3 Tablespoons oil packed sun-dried tomatoes

3 Tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

6 kalamata olives

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Slices of yellow bell pepper can be added to double the vitamin C content  (optional)

1.       Fill bottom of steamer with 2 inches of water and begin to heat water on the stove.

2.       While steam is building up in the steamer, cut broccoli florets into quarters and let them sit so that the enzymes have a brief time to activate.

3.       Steam the cut florets and stems for no more than 5 minutes.  If stems are cut thicker than ¼ inch, they will require 1-2 minutes of cooking before adding the florets.

4.       Transfer steamed broccoli to a bowl.  Toss broccoli with the tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, and seasoning to taste.

Steamed Broccoli with Sun-dried Tomatoes

Steamed Broccoli with Sun-dried Tomatoes

The Rat's Advantage and Your Design

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that activates enzymes throughout the body, helps build proteins, transforms chemicals essential for nerve communication, and strengthens your immune system.  A rat is able to produce vitamin C in its liver, but you cannot. In fact, most mammals are able to produce vitamin C, but humans, guinea pigs, and monkeys must get vitamin C in the diet, because we do not have the genes that produce the enzyme that creates Vitamin C.

Y Li,  and H. Schellhorn. (2008) Vitamin C and Human Nutrition.  Albert Einstein College of Medicine. 

Y Li,  and H. Schellhorn. (2008) Vitamin C and Human Nutrition.  Albert Einstein College of Medicine. 

This enzyme that you are missing is more than a small gene mutation.  The human gene sequence contains only four of the twelve codes needed to produce the enzyme.   Could this significant difference in genetic sequence be evidence of design?

Michael Behe wrote “Darwin’s Black Box” in 1998 and presented the concept of “irreducible complexity.”  The idea describes how a complex mechanism missing one piece will not work.  The example of a mousetrap is given, which must have five components to work properly – the base, the spring, the catch, the hammer, and the arm.   In the same way, there are many structures in the human body that cannot operate if one protein is missing.   The fact that the mouse trap does not work if one of the pieces is missing supports the main idea that complexity requires a design to work.  The structure of enzymes in the human body are much more complex than a mouse trap, and we see from the gene code above that humans do not have the blueprint to create the complex enzyme needed to make Vitamin C.

From a general evolution perspective, those traits that are beneficial for life will be passed on to the next generation, and those traits that are not beneficial will not be passed on because only the fittest survive.  Vitamin C is beneficial to sustaining life.  Sailors on the sea could die within a month if no source of Vitamin C was provided, but the rats on the boat had no worries because their body produced Vitamin C.   It would seem that humans are not evolving into stronger species, but have lost an essential, life sustaining ability that most other mammals have.

However, from a biblical perspective, the design of humans to care for the earth and to honor God is revealed.  First, God provided for the human need by preparing the foods that would be rich in Vitamin C.  Second, man was placed in the garden, surrounded by these rich foods that were designed for his specific needs.  “And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:29).   This provision is an example of God’s character.  “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).   From the beginning of time, God has provided for his creation.

Consider the missing gene code as part of God’s design to help each of us to see our dependence on His provision.  His perfectly designed foods are available for your benefit.  You are designed with this need and the provision is available to you.  Enjoy the provision and thank your Creator.

The Best way to get Vitamin C

What is the best way to get vitamin C?

In the previous posts, the importance of daily vitamin C was presented.  So the next question is – what is the best way to get vitamin C every day?  

Vitamin C tablets would be the easiest way to get your daily needs met, but not the best way.  Having some vitamin C tablets on hand is helpful to “fill in the gaps” when the quality of your diet is decreased.  When you shop for vitamin C look at the nutrition label on the bottle to identify the source of the vitamin C.  If the label list includes acerola cherries, rose hips, or some other plant source with high vitamin C content then you have a quality vitamin C tablet.  These tablets include additional parts from the plant that give you a bonus of nutrients.  These additional parts are called bioflavonoids or phytonutrients.  So when you purchase a vitamin C tablet that advertises bioflavonoids, you are purchasing a higher quality vitamin C.  Vitamin C remains one of the least expensive vitamins on the market.

Your food choices will provide the best way to get vitamin C.  So a quick quiz – name the plant food that has the highest vitamin C content per serving at your local grocery store.   Let’s see how close you came –     these sources are ranked by the quantity of vitamin C provided per gram of sugar.   In other words, the more vitamin C you can get with the least amount of sugar content is best.  With that idea in mind, here is

The Top 10 food sources of Vitamin C in your local grocery store

                                              Per g sugar          Per half cup       Daily Recommendation Vit. C

1.    Yellow Bell Pepper, raw         29 mg                    183.5 mg            215%

2.    Red Bell Pepper, cooked      25 mg                    171.0 mg             200%

3.    Broccoli, raw                         18 mg                      93.2 mg             110%

4.    Kiwifruit, raw                         6 mg                      92.7 mg              109%

5.    Lemons, raw                          6 mg                      53.0 mg               63%

6.    Oranges, raw                         5 mg                      53.2 mg               63%

7.    Strawberries, frozen, whole    5 mg                      41.2 mg                48%

8.    Tomatoes, sun dried              4 mg                   101.8 mg               119%

9.    Pineapple, raw                      4 mg                      47.8 mg                56%

10.  Grapefruit, raw                      3 mg                      31.2 mg                 36%

The best way to meet your Vitamin C needs is to be mindful to add these foods to your daily meal plan.  Plan a half cup of one source for breakfast, and a half cup of another source for lunch, and a third source for the evening.  A little consumed with each meal will be more effectively absorbed than consuming a large quantity all at once.

Meet your body's daily need for Vitamin C through your regular intake of these quality foods and your immune system will be strong, your skin will be healthy, and your energy will be improved. This evidence of health points to a wonderful truth of engineering and design.

Next week we will discuss "Vitamin C, evidence of God's Design."

Your Medication and Vitamin C

What effect do medications have on Vitamin C?

Last week, we looked at the key roles Vitamin C fulfills in your body.  This week we look at some specific medications and their interaction with Vitamin C.   About 70% of Americans have used at least one prescription drug this year.   For the average drug, there are numerous potential reactions, which is why you need to tell your doctor every drug or supplement that you are taking.   Drugs can produce side effects that reduce the effectiveness of vitamins and minerals in your body.  This action creates hidden deficiencies that can decrease your health.  Other medications may become more effective, or extra strong when taken with vitamins.  Be sure to ask your doctor if there is any interactions with your supplements.   

Do you use any of these medications?

Aspirin can decrease vitamin C concentration in the blood and tissues, and will increase vitamin C in the urine.  Vitamin C helps keep the connective tissue of the intestines strong, and aspirin will deplete the vitamin C in these tissues.  Additional vitamin C should be consumed when taking aspirin on a regular basis.  Additional Vitamin C will strengthen the tissue of the gut that is most effected by aspirin.

Birth Control with estrogen can decrease concentrations of vitamin C in healthy young women who have used contraceptives consistently, according to some studies.   Use of birth control pills has also been associated lower concentrations of other vitamins, such as B12.    A key factor is the quality of the diet the young women have.   The better the diet, the better the vitamin levels while taking birth control.

Proton Pump inhibitors (PPIs) reduce the amount of digestive fluids in the stomach and have been associated with decreased vitamin C, iron, and magnesium.   There is more concern for elderly or malnourished who may be taking PPIs and do not realize the decreasing nutrient levels in their body.   Additional Vitamin C should be consumed daily for those using PPIs.

Levodopa for Parkinson’s Disease Levodopa (L-dopa) is a common therapy for patients with Parkinson’s Disease.  L-dopa generates reactive oxygen species as a side effect, which can increase inflammation and damage cells.   Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant, removing the reactive oxygen species generated by L-dopa.  Patients who take Vitamin C along with L-dopa found the progression of the disease decreased significantly.

Can I overdose?   The Recommended Dietary Allowance of Vitamin C is about 80 mg for an adult and the Tolerable Limit is 2000 mg per day.  A dose up to 500 mg at one time allows your body to absorb more effectively than when a greater amount is taken.  The key symptoms to observe are any intestinal cramps or pain, or increased bowel movements.  Your body will excrete whatever it does not absorb, which will increase your bowel movements.

In the next post, we will look at “What is the best way to get Vitamin C?”

Why Do I Need Vitamin C?

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) may be the most well-known nutrient to the general public, perhaps because it is associated with chewable vitamins and orange flavor.  Your parent may have given you a chewable Vitamin C, or perhaps you requested it as a child because you thought it was a treat.  The importance of Vitamin C and what it does in your body was discovered just over 100 years ago and the research continues to unlock more understanding of the essential activity of Ascorbic Acid in your body.

What does it do?

Vitamin C is often identified as an “anti-oxidant” – its main action in the body.  A simple way to describe this is that vitamin C is able to transfer energy and help the reaction in your cells to continue on as normal.  Like a new battery put into your electronic device to make it work, vitamin C is the “battery” for numerous enzymes in the body to keep going and not develop a “short circuit.”  The vitamin C replaces the lost energy packet, which helps the enzyme to continue its job.

Scurvy Hand

Scurvy Hand

Collagen is connective tissue that holds you together, so without it you begin to fall apart.  It is a protein your body constructs to produce bone, make skin, and generate connective tissues with the aid of vitamin C.  Sailors who were isolated from fresh foods containing vitamin C could begin to develop sores in their mouth and skin when they became deficient in Vitamin C.  If the ship did not get to a port with fresh food, many sailors would die at sea from scurvy, a disease of vitamin C deficiency.  Vitamin C assists the enzyme that builds collagen from proteins in the body by supplying an additional energy packet to the enzyme.   No vitamin C, then no collagen, and the body begins to fall apart.

Neurotransmitters, like Seratonin, are not produced in the body to appropriate concentrations without vitamin C as the required activator to keep the enzymes going.  Seratonin is an important signaling molecule between nerves that is related to general well-being and happiness.  Individuals who are prescribed medication to assist their response to serotonin may be helped by increasing their vitamin C intake.  Vitamin C helps the body convert amino acids into the active serotonin molecule that is associated with positive moods.

Immune strength is related to the health of your white blood cells, which have the highest concentration of vitamin C in the body.  Perhaps your parent gave you vitamin C when symptoms of a cold were developing.  The white blood cells that fight the cold virus or related germs is dependent on vitamin C to be able to activate the defense systems of the body.   Taking vitamin C on a regular basis has been shown to reduce the duration of colds in about 10% of adults.  Regular intake of vitamin C has also been associated with decreased risk of cancer of the digestive tract, lung, and breast.  A measure of the vitamin C concentration within a white blood cell is a good standard for measuring adequate vitamin C intake.

All ages benefit from daily intake of vitamin C.   The growing child with an immune system that is learning how to defend the body should have at least 15 mg / day.  The athlete developing muscle tissue and repairing connective tissue would benefit from 300 – 500 mg /day.   The senior citizen will benefit from 500 mg / day as well to keep the immune system strong and help strengthen the collagen of the bone.

In the next post,  "Your Prescription Medications and Vitamin C"  will be reviewed.