Nutrition FAQs: Vitamin C, sugars, and raw vegetables

Salad

Nutrition advice is everywhere these days and there is a lot of conflicting advice on what’s best. This week our Registered Dietitian, Sandy Ace, answers three FAQs.

FAQ #1: Can Vitamin C prevent a cold?

Vitamin C is a popular supplement taken to prevent or treat the common cold, although the majority of evidence does not support this role. Taking Vitamin C supplements will not decrease the risk of catching a cold. However, some research suggests that taking high doses (1000 mg to 2000 mg per day) of Vitamin C may shorten the duration of cold symptoms by 1 to 1.5 days. Vitamin C supplements are generally considered safe, but high doses can cause cramping, diarrhoea, kidney stones and other health problems. The daily UL, or Upper Limit of Safety, for this vitamin is 2000 mg so don’t more than this. Vitamin C can also decrease or increase the effectiveness of some medications so check with your health care provider before taking it. Visit UnlockFood.ca for tips on how to naturally enrich your diet with food sources of Vitamin C.

FAQ #2: Are some sugars better for you than others?

While natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup may be tastier and more appealing than processed white or brown sugars, all forms of sugar are high in calories, containing about 50 to 60 calories per tablespoon/15mL. Excess added sugar is linked to many conditions, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, some cancers and tooth decay, so limit your intake regardless of the sweetener you choose.

How much sugar is too much? The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends limiting added sugar from any source to no more than 10 per cent of your total caloric intake. For a 2000 calorie diet, this would be a limit of 50 grams (12 teaspoons) of sugar or other sweeteners per day. The World Health Organization takes this a step further and recommends that limiting added sugar to less than 5 per cent of daily total calories may have additional health benefits. This would be 25 grams (6 teaspoons) based on a 2000 calorie intake. If you are checking the Nutrition facts label, 4 grams of sugar is about one teaspoon. Check these tips for reducing your sugar intake.

FAQ #3: Are raw vegetables better for you than cooked vegetables?

Eating a wide variety of both cooked and raw veggies will provide you with many health benefits. The theory that raw veggies have a nutritional advantage over cooked is unfounded. In fact, cooking increases the availability of some nutrients in certain vegetables because it helps to break down the plant’s cell walls. When compared to raw, cooked tomatoes are higher in lycopene, a red plant pigment and antioxidant which studies show may be linked to a lower risk of some cancers and heart disease. Cooked carrots are higher in beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A that supports vision, reproduction, the immune system as well as healthy skin and other tissues. Lutein, another plant antioxidant that may play a role in preventing age-related macular degeneration, is more easily absorbed when leafy greens like spinach, kale and Swiss chard are cooked than when eaten raw.

Cooking vegetables for too long or in too much water will lower their Vitamin C content so use quick or waterless cooking methods. Steam, stir fry or oven roast your veggies until they are tender-crisp rather than mushy. The bottom line is, include plenty of veggies every day, in whatever way to like to eat them, raw or cooked. For more information on how many servings you need to eat or for ideas on how to buy, store or prepare vegetables check out UnlockFood.ca.

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