What do lemons and sea buckthorn have in common?

The answer is: vitamin C. Although we associate lemon with this “good mood” vitamin, sea buckthorn—which is a particularly valuable source of vitamin C in BERTRAND’s drinkable meals—contains a considerable amount of it. 100g of lemon contain about 53mg of vitamin C, while sea buckthorn gives us 18 times that amount, about 900mg per 100g.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends a daily vitamin C intake of 80 mg in its reference levels. Thus, about two lemons already cover the daily requirement, as do three Bertrand Classic drinkable meals (made with 167g of powder each), providing almost 90mg of vitamin C in total.

But what makes vitamin C—called ascorbic acid in chemistry—so important and such a crucial component of our nutrition? Why and when should we ensure an adequate intake of vitamin C?

Vitamins are not replaceable

Vitamins are vital to our health because our bodies cannot produce them on their own. Therefore, they have to be absorbed from food. Since each vitamin has a different function in our metabolism, they are not interchangeable or replaceable. While many vitamins are found in animal products, vitamin C is only found in plant foods and has several important functions in our body and health, and is involved in many metabolic processes. On one hand, vitamin C is involved in the formation of collagen, a protein that makes up our connective and supporting tissue and which helps to optimally build up and maintain our skin, bones, and teeth. Furthermore, vitamin C plays an important role in wound healing and scar formation, e.g., after injuries and burns. Vitamin C is also involved in cell growth.

Especially important for vegetarians and vegans

Two other main functions of vitamin C are the protection of our body against free radicals and its effect as an antioxidant as well as its role in immune protection. Free radicals are compounds that can lead to cell damage and cell degeneration. These lead to diseases such as cancer, cataracts, or arteriosclerosis. Vitamin C, absorbed through nutrition, acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants react with the free radicals, making them slower or harmless. In addition, vitamin C supports the work of white blood cells in our immune system, helping to fight off pathogens and produce antibodies. Other functions include the breakdown of medicine in our body and iron absorption in the intestine. This is particularly important for people on a vegetarian or vegan diet who do not iron through meat and meat products. Consuming products rich in vitamin C helps our bodies better absorb and utilize the iron from plant-based foods.

Anti-scurvy acid

But can a diet with too much vitamin C also have negative effects? And is vitamin C deficiency still possible in today’s world? A vitamin-rich diet that contains more vitamin C than the recommended daily dose of 80mg usually has no side effects. Ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, thus, an overdose above 200 mg is usually excreted in the urine. A significantly higher intake than needed will only lead to diarrhea or abdominal pain. However, such a high overdose of vitamin C almost never occurs due to a vitamin-rich diet alone, but usually due to the additional intake of high-dose vitamin preparations and dietary supplements. And vitamin C deficiency is also rare given our modern food supply and nutrition. While scurvy, a common seafaring disease caused by vitamin C deficiency (hence its former name anti-scurvy acid), was still widespread in the 16th and 17th centuries given the lack of vitamin-rich foods on board, only a few populations are at risk of deficiency today.

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Carolin | B.Sc. Oecotrophologie
hey@bertrand.bio
Carolin studied Oecotrophology at the Hochschule Niederrhein and regularly writes articles on healthy nutrition. Are you interested in a special topic?

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