SEPTEMBER 2014
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Nutrition

SHEDDING LIGHT ON VITAMIN C

BHAVI NIRAV

By BHAVI NIRAV

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin. Unlike most mammals and other animals, humans do not have the ability to make ascorbic acid and must obtain vitamin C from the diet.

Vitamin C is truly a nutrient extraordinaire. Research abounds to show that vitamin C is a key vital substance required for many fundamental processes in the body.


Protection Against Free Radicals

Vitamin C is probably best known as an antioxidant. If we define free radicals as a smoldering fire creating damage to body structures, then antioxidants are best described as a fire extinguisher, able to neutralize these radicals, and dispose them of without creating any damage along the way.

Some areas possibly protected by dietary vitamin C include the lens of the eye, cholesterol in the blood stream, and DNA in your cell nuclei.

One interesting application of vitamin C as an antioxidant is its ability to reduce iron into a state that is better absorbed in the intestine. Including vitamin C-rich foods in recipes with your best iron sources can potentially be a way to enhance iron absorption.

Immunity
A large number of randomized controlled intervention trials document that adequate intakes of vitamin C and zinc ameliorate symptoms and shorten the duration of respiratory tract infections including the common cold.

Collagen
Vitamin C is required to produce collagen, a protein that plays a critical role in the structure of our bodies. Collagen is the framework for our skin and our bones, and without it, we would quite literally fall apart. This is exactly what we see with severe vitamin C deficiency.

Brain Health
Vitamin C is necessary to make certain neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are the signals that carry thoughts, feelings, and commands through our brains. In particular, we need vitamin C to produce serotonin, the mood-boosting neurotransmitter. For adults, the recommended dietary reference intake for vitamin C is 65 to 90 milligrams daily, and the upper limit is 2,000 mg a day.

About 99 percent of all vitamin C products on the market today are synthetically made ascorbic acid – or variations such as calcium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate or potassium ascorbate. They are chemically synthesized molecules often manufactured from genetically modified corn sugar. These synthetic molecules mimic only one component of the multitude of life-supporting nutrient complexes found in real natural vitamin C.

Deficiency
The classic vitamin C deficiency disease is scurvy. Early signs of the disease are bleeding gums and bleeding under the skin, causing tiny pinpoint bruises. Rich sources of vitamin C are guava, papaya, red bell pepper, oranges, black currants, kiwi fruit, mangoes, green bell pepper, spinach, broccoli and strawberries. A half cup of red bell pepper or 1 cup of orange juice a day meets the recommended dietary reference intake for vitamin C.

Cooking and Vitamin C
Vitamin C breaks down at temperatures of 700F or above if air gets to the food for more than an hour. Long-term storage of vegetables will cost a significant amount of vitamin C. Kept frozen for a year, kale will lose half its vitamin C or more. Canning is even more detrimental, with 85 percent of the original vitamin C lost during the same year.

Cooking will reduce some vitamin C from foods, but the amount of degradation will vary widely by cooking method. For example, basket-steaming broccoli for 15 minutes will reduce the vitamin C content by nearly one quarter. But if you cook that same broccoli in the microwave, you'll have almost no vitamin C when it is finished. For this reason (among others), we recommend steaming as one of the healthiest ways to prepare most vegetables. Cutting fruits right before eating and steaming veggies retain maximum vitamin C in foods.

Recipe of the month:

Vitamin C rich Paratha wrap/kathi roll

Ingredients
1/2 cup mung dal or toovar dal
1/2 cup blanched spinach
2 tbsp tomatoes, diced red and green peppers, onions
1 tbsp date chutney mix with 1 tbsp Indian ketchup
1 tbsp mint coriander chutney
4 paratha

Wheat paratha made the traditional way. For the filling soak 1/2 cup mung dal overnight. Discard the water and add fresh water. Bring the water to boil. Cook for 10-12 minutes. For toovar dal, pressure-cook it for two whistles. Drain the water and keep dal in the strainer. Heat tablespoon cooking olive oil, add tomatoes, diced bell peppers, steamed cut leaf spinach. Sautee for about 8-10 minutes. Add 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp dried mango powder and green chillies. Sautee for 2 more minutes and add mung dal to the mixture. Cover the pan and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Take the paratha, place it on the hot pan, and spread the green chutney and date chutney. Put the spinach mixture in the center top it with diced onions and fold the two ends of the paratha on the mixture. Flip the wrap and heat it for a minute or two on the pan. Serve with tomato soup or guava juice.

To our health!

Bhavi Nirav is a Registered Dietitian/M.S., R.D., L.D., certified yoga practitioner, and can be reached at swarayog@gmail.com

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