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"C" for Yourself

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Row upon row of vitamin C in every shape and form

Row upon row of vitamin C in every shape and form...it's enough to make your head spin. It's easy to see why C is the most popular of all vitamins. Research shows that this potent antioxidant fights infections, controls pain, repairs tissue, improves circulation, relieves allergies and more. But it's not so easy to choose from the dizzying array of options on the shelf. Here are a few suggestions to help you purchase the best one for your needs.

Ascorbic Acid

The most common form of C, ascorbic acid, is water soluble and non-toxic, as any excess is naturally excreted by the body. Most people find that they can effectively absorb about 500 milligrams over a four-hour period. However, some people do not tolerate ascorbic acid well; they may experience gas and indigestion, sometimes followed by diarrhea and cankers or cold sores.

Those taking large quantities (i.e., 10 to 20 grams a day) for tissue cleansing, oral chelation or as an adjunct to cancer therapy can induce an acidic state in the body known as "metabolic acidosis," which is known to contribute to a variety of chronic disorders such as arthritis, diabetes and digestive problems. Your health-care practitioner can advise you regarding acidosis and most of the major alternative health guides have useful information on the topic. If you're experiencing symptoms of intolerance or acidosis, a buffered form of C such as calcium ascorbate may be more appropriate.

Mineral Ascorbates

These forms of vitamin C are available individually or as mixtures of calcium, magnesium, sodium and/or zinc ascorbates. Mineral ascorbates are also called buffered or more correctly, pH-neutral, meaning that they won't change the body's overall pH or acidity level. They are often the choice for people who are intolerant of acidic foods such as citrus fruits or tomatoes, or those who develop indigestion or gas when taking ascorbic acid. Calcium ascorbate also contributes significant calcium to the diet-about 94 mg of elemental calcium per 1,000 mg of calcium ascorbate. If using large quantities, it may be useful to add magnesium and vitamin B6 to the diet to improve the calcium's solubility.

Synergistic Compounds

Bioflavonoids are biological compounds that are found with vitamin C in food. They interact with C, increasing its potential for healing and overall biological activity. Simply put, vitamin C products with bioflavonoids as ingredients (usually citrus or rosehip extracts) work better than those that do not have them. Individual bioflavonoids such as hesperidin and quercetin are sometimes added to enhance free-radical scavenging activity and antihistamine effects respectively. Electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium are sometimes incorporated into formulas to boost recovery from strenuous exercise or exertion in hot, sunny conditions, or to rehydrate those who have lost a great deal of fluid during an illness.

Which Vitamin C Is Best for Me?

A 500-mg capsule or tablet of ascorbic acid with equal amounts of bioflavonoids will prove best for most people. Capsules are generally more easily digested than tablets. Time-release tablets should be taken with a substantial meal and used by those with sound digestion, as the inhibitive coating may not break down otherwise. Acid sensitivity, intolerance of ascorbic acid or the use of large quantities of ascorbic acid favour the buffered forms of C.

When purchasing C, consider the age of the person, whether they have any difficulty swallowing, any potential sensitivity to ascorbic acid or any problems with acid-forming foods, and the dosage. Children as well as adults with swallowing problems usually find chewable tablets, liquids or powdered products more attractive. Buffered chewable tablets will not damage tooth enamel as ascorbic acid is prone to do. If using large amounts of C frequently, buy it as powder or crystals. Always purchase this in a factory-sealed container that blocks out light and always refrigerate it after opening. Products combining C and electrolytes, usually powders or effervescent products, are suitable for those suffering from dehydration. Hypoallergenic and corn-free formulations are also available.

With a bit of know-how, you can choose the best C for yourself and make the most of this superstar of modern nutrition.

Vitamin C-Rich Foods

Asparagus
Artichokes
Avocados
Beans
Beet greens
Bell peppers
Black currants
Blueberries
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cantaloupe
Cauliflower
Cherries
Dandelion greens
Dark green leafy vegetables
Fennel
Grapefruit
Green peas (fresh)
Guava
Honeydew
Kale
Kiwi
Leeks
Lemons
Limes
Lychee
Mangos
Mustard greens
Onions
Oranges
Papayas
Persimmons
Pineapple
Radishes
Raspberries
Rosehips
Spinach
Strawberries
Tangerines
Tomatoes
Watercress
Watermelon
Zucchini

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