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The amazing powers of Vitamin C

Published: 06 Nov 2019

Most of us take Vitamin C supplements when we need a boost to our immune system to ward off an impending cold or improve the health of our nails and skin.   But Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, does far more than that.   In fact, it’s a bit of an all-round ‘wonder’ nutrient, essential for keeping us fit and healthy, and even more so when in recovery or fighting a chronic long-term illness such as cancer. 

The FDA's recommended daily value for vitamin C is 90 mg – you'll get nearly 70 milligrams of vitamin C from a medium orange. So, if you have a well-balanced diet, consuming ‘5 a day’ every day, most of us will absorb enough Vitamin C.

Especially good sources are citrus fruits such as oranges, other fruits such as strawberries, blackcurrants, and vegetables including red and green peppers, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts and even potatoes. But if you’re unwell and struggling with your appetite, you may need to take supplements to ensure you have enough of this powerful vitamin.

If you feel you may not be getting enough, speak to your medical team who will advise on changes to your diet or suggest a supplement.

Here are just some of the super-powers of Vitamin C:

  1. An antioxidant that can protect against chronic disease
    Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that can strengthen your body’s natural defenses. Antioxidants are molecules that boost the immune system by protecting cells from harmful molecules called free radicals. Too many free radicals can create oxidative stress, which is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body.  This can lead to cell and tissue damage and has been linked to many chronic diseases, including cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and many others.

  2. Helps to lower blood pressure
    Studies have shown that vitamin C may help lower blood pressure in people with and without high blood pressure. Approximately one-third of American adults have high blood pressure. If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s important to take steps to lower the pressure immediately - it can lead to heart disease and strokes.
     
  3. Has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease
    As well as high blood pressure, many other factors can increase the risk of heart disease, including high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Following the results of several studies, indications are that taking or consuming at least 500 mg of vitamin C daily could reduce the risk of heart disease. However, if you already consume a vitamin C-rich diet, then supplements may not provide additional heart health benefits.
     
  4. Has been linked to reduced blood uric acid levels and lower risk of gout
    Gout is a debilitating condition that causes incredibly painful inflammation of the joints, particularly around the big toes.  It’s caused by too much uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a waste product produced by the body, which can leave crystallized deposits in the joints.  Approximately 4% of American adults suffer from Gout. Interestingly, several studies have shown that vitamin C may help reduce uric acid in the blood and, as a result, protect against gout attacks.
     
  5. Helps Prevent Iron Deficiencies by Improving Iron Absorption
    Iron is essential for making red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body. Vitamin C has been shown to help in converting iron that is poorly absorbed, such as plant-based sources of iron, into a form that is easier to absorb, which is extremely important for people on a meat-free diet, as meat is a major source of iron.  As a result, vitamin C may help reduce the risk of anemia among people prone to iron deficiency.
     
  6. Boosts your immunity and protects against infections 
    Vitamin C helps encourage the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infections. It then enables these white blood cells to function more effectively while protecting them from damage from potentially harmful molecules, such as free radicals. 
     
  7. Plays a vital role in maintaining the health of your skin
    Vitamin C is key to the production of collagen, a protein that aids in the growth of cells and blood vessels and gives skin its firmness and strength. It helps create scar tissue and ligaments, shortening the time it takes wounds or surgery to heal. You’ll often find Vitamin C added to skincare products.

Easy Vitamin C recipe ideas 

Vitamin C Smoothie Blast

Cut the oranges in half and squeeze the juice into the blender.
Use soft (over-ripe) guavas for the smoothie. Cut them in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the shells into the blender and use a spoon to strain the seeds out of the fleshy part of the guava.
Remove the seeds from the papaya, trim away the peel, and add it into the blender. Throw in the kale leaves, add half a cup of water and five cubes of ice and blend. The result: a wonderfully delicious and nutritious smoothie!

Comforting Cauliflower Soup

Pour the chicken stock or broth into a pot and bring it to a boil.

As the stock is heating, dice the onion into eighths and add to the pot. Use your hands to rip the cauliflower into florets. Chop the stalk into inch-thick pieces. Add all the cauliflower into the pot, along with the rosemary.

Peel and cube the potatoes next. Once they're in the pot, let the mixture rise to a simmer, and add in the milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, and let it cook until the potatoes and cauliflower is tender. Add salt and pepper as desired, along with a pinch of chili powder if you want.

Once the potatoes and cauliflower are cooked, use a stick blender to puree the soup. Bring the soup to a simmer one last time. Serve into individual bowls, and top with grated cheddar cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprig of thyme.

Warming Kale with chana & coconut

to serve

Heat the butter in a deep frying pan, add the onion, then soften gently for 5 mins. Turn up the heat and add the ginger and spices; fry for 2 mins until fragrant. Stir in the tomato purée.

Add the kale, chickpeas, stock and two-thirds of the coconut, stir well, then cover the pan. Bring to a simmer and let the kale steam for 10 mins until very well wilted. Mix in the yogurt and chutney, then season to taste - don't boil once the yogurt has gone in. Remove the pan from the heat, and leave it covered to stay warm.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan. When it's hot, add the garlic (and curry leaves, if using) and sizzle for 30 secs-1 min until the garlic begins to turn golden. Spoon the oil, garlic and curry leaves over the chickpeas and kale, then finish with the remaining coconut.

Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.

Add chicken, bell pepper, garlic, Cajun seasoning and pepper. Cook stirring, until the onion and bell pepper are beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.

Add flour and stir to coat. Add tomatoes and their juice; bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until the sauce is bubbling and thickened, and the chicken is cooked through for about 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Stir in sour cream. Stir the pasta into the sauce. Serve sprinkled with scallions, if desired.

Please be aware of any ingredients that may cause allergies or could potentially conflict with your meds - always check with your medical team for information about any foods that you should avoid.

If you have any recipe ideas that are rich in Vitamin C, please share them on the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group.  A friendly place to ask questions, offer advice and share experiences with thousands of other members.


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