Lifehack: 4 Unconventional Sources of Vitamin C
Which vitamin keeps the skin looking taut and youthful, fights off nasty winter colds and prevents the body from becoming overwhelmed with stress? Yep, vitamin C does all these things and more.
And yet lots of us aren’t getting enough in our diets, especially in the winter when there’s almost always a neighbour, classmate or colleague sniffling a few feet away. Vitamin C is even more critical in times of stress, when the body’s C levels tend to plummet very quickly (which explains why many get sick during exam season or before a big deadlines).
Not only does vitamin C strengthen the immune system, it also reduces the body’s physical and psychological response to stress. It helps the body absorb iron, the mineral that carries oxygen through the body. When combined with calcium and iron, vitamin C also helps to filter out some of the lead we ingest in household dust or inhale in the form of paint fumes.
And that business about firm skin? Vitamin C helps the body maintain collagen, the stuff we pay doctors to inject back into our faces later in life. Turns out, there’s an inexpensive fix for that too.
Most fruits at the local grocery store contain lots of vitamin C: guava, kiwi, grapefruit, strawberries and cantaloupe stand out with a higher content than most. Thanks to the booming health food industry, we have some choices beyond apples and oranges. There are a wide variety of superfoods readily available that take less time to eat than an orange, and pack many hundreds of times the punch.
1. A glass of lemon water in the morning
Vitamin C-rich lemons are like jumper cables for the immune system, making this the ideal way to start the day. This citrus fruit also provides a jolt of energy, making lemon water a great coffee replacement. Bonus, a glass of lemon water loosens up toxins in the digestive system, allowing you to flush out all those nasty bits that lead to winter blues.
Tip: Make it easy on yourself. Juice eight to 10 lemons whole (peel and all!) and store in a jar in the refrigerator. This eliminates the task of chopping, squeezing, picking out seeds and dirtying your hands when you’ve just rolled out of bed. If organic lemons aren’t available, be sure to wash your lemons thoroughly before juicing.
2. A teaspoon of chlorella powder in water
Sold in powdered form, a teaspoon of chlorella contains an entire day’s worth of iron and comes equipped with the vitamin C necessary for absorption, making it great for anemics. This water-grown algae (ahem…that’s a nice way of saying seaweed) is chock full of chlorophyll, the stuff that makes green vegetables green. It’s also more than 50 percent protein. Chlorella helps to detox and cleanse the body, and it’s especially effective on stubborn heavy metals. Attention ladies! It’s also wonderful for balancing hormones.
Tip: While much more mild tasting than Greens+, chlorella’s strong, green flavour might ruin a perfectly tasty smoothie. Do yourself a favour and drink it down in one shot.
3. A smoothie with a teaspoon of camu camu
With 2,800 mg of vitamin C per 100g, camu camu is one of the most vitamin C-packed foods there are. (It’s second only to a rare fruit called gubinge that the world of trendy superfoods hasn’t figured out how to commoditize yet). This magic fruit is found in the amazon rainforest, and is traditionally juiced as an immune booster. Because camu camu is so highly acidic, it’s usually sold in powder form at the health food store. It’s tangy citrus flavour makes it an easy add-on to fruit smoothies.
Tip: Always check your labels and make sure there are no additives. Camu camu is sometimes diluted with other powders to make it more affordable. If possible, buy powder that’s stored in dark coloured glass, which helps to preserve it over time.
4. A cup of rose hips tea
Rose hips are large berries that grow from wild rose bushes once the petals have fallen off. They grow from domestic rose bushes too, but vitamin C content is much lower. These fat berries look much like cherry tomatoes, with brown octopus legs. They’re tough to find fresh at the store, but health food stores usually sell them in powdered form as well as in capsules. They also make tasty jams and jellies.
Tip: If you’re picking them wild, make sure the bush hasn’t been sprayed with any pesticide. Rose hips can be steeped like tea, but the flavour is better when the leaves have been boiled for about 15 minutes. This powerful fruit can react with some metals, so best to boil it in titanium or stainless steel cookware. It’s worth the effort: Rose hips contain at least 30 times more vitamin C than oranges.
Before you scoff at these trendy powders and supplements, consider the billions invested annually in drugstore vitamins, which several large-scale human studies have recently shown to be only moderately effective, or even damaging in some cases.
Supplements aren’t all bad. Their potency decreases with time, so be sure they’re not expired. When embarking on a new regime, it’s probably best to purge your old stock and start fresh. Plants are always the best way to get vitamins, a fact that modern science has proven over and over. Go back to those tried, tested and true fruits as often as possible, and supplement whenever necessary.