Weight loss with Vitamin C

I have always wondered like many people do, whether anything beyond lowering calories and increasing physical exercise contributes to body weight loss. Does any individual nutrient have any part to play in this process? Perhaps it does.

Let us look at Vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient found in the plant world and is lacking in the animal world, to which we belong.

Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a strong reducing agent. It plays a major role in collagen synthesis, calcification in bones and teeth and is also a reducing agent in other chemical activities in the body, like iron absorption. That’s what makes it an anti- oxidant.

Since it is a reducing agent, it gets very easily oxidised, if exposed to air. Hence, it is most susceptible to losses. As it is found mostly in fresh fruits and vegetables, it should be consumed as soon as possible. If these foods are stored for a long time, kept cut and exposed to air, if cooked for long and at high temperature and the cooked product is kept for long, the losses can be heavy. Since it is a water soluble vitamin, more losses occur if the cooking water is wasted. Generally, 30 per cent is provided for losses, though it may be higher if some more of the above mentioned practices are present. So, fresh and uncooked gives us the maximum vitamin C.

What goes into a simple balanced meal plan?

Dry grains and pulses, do not have the vitamin as it is lost during the harvesting, drying and long storage. However, sprouting produces vitamin C. The highest has been seen in green gram, three times more than in Bengal gram.

Among the cereals, only fresh corn or tender maize contains 6mg Vitamin C for 100g of the edible portion.

Among pulses, it is found when fresh and the level is high, at 25mg for fresh red gram. Green peas have 9mg.

Green leafy vegetables have the highest level of the vitamin. Among the commonly used ones, cabbage has 124mg, coriander has 135mg, methi leaves have 52mg, mint has27mg, and parsley, a whopping 281mg.

In the greens (keerai)  that all of us should consume at least 5 times a week, amaranth has 99mg, agathi (Sesbania grandiflora) has 169mg, beet leaves have 70mg, carrot leaves have 79mg, while drumstick leaves beat the rest at 220 mg. There are many other not so common greens, but they are a very good source of the vitamin.

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Curry leaves are not a good source of Vitamin C but are high in calcium and folic acid and Vitamin A.

In roots and tubers, turnip is the highest with 43mg of vitamin C, sweet potato has 24mg, radish has 20mg, potato has 17mg, beet has 10mg, onion has 11mg, but carrot has only 3mg.

Among other vegetables, drumstick has a high of 120mg., bitter gourd at 88mg for big and 96mg, for the small variety; chayote (chow chow) has 56mg, knoll khol has 85mg, and beans has 24mg.

Nuts and oil seeds are dried and therefore not a source of vitamin C. Spices and condiments are also similar, excepting, green chillies, at 111mg, and red chillies at 50mg.

Coming to fruits, gooseberry or amla has the highest amount of vitamin C at 600mg. You can get a therapeutic dose with just one or two amlas per day!! Next is guava with 212mg, followed by papaya with 57mg, and tomato at 27mg. So, you see when talking about fresh fruit you can go for the above fruit which are the most economical. Apple is negligible with a dismal 1mg; banana and jack fruit have 7mg, grape fruit has 31 mg. Mango, our king of fruits has 16mg, and is better than apple; lime has 63 mg, sweet lime has 50 mg, orange has 34 and, pineapple has 39mg. Fruits are better for being consumed raw, and for the fibre and mineral content.

Now, coming back to the main question, does Vitamin C help in weight reduction? Research has shown that it has fat reducing capacity as it is an anti-oxidant. Since the dietary changes suggest more of fruits and vegetables, which are the main source of the vitamin, it contributes to weight loss by being the integral part of the reducing diet.

Whether the effect of vitamin C is direct or indirect in weight loss programmes, it is a nutrient most important to our health. So it is wise to start the day with a warm glass of lime juice. Don’t you agree?

Malathi Mohan

The author is a retired professor of WCC, Chennai; retired Dean, Academy of Fitness Management, Chennai and Past President, Indian Dietetic Association

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