Vitamin C crystals

As colder temperatures usher in winter, flu season swiftly follows, and many people reach for vitamin C to fend off cold and flu-like symptoms. However, supplementing diets with vitamin C has little effect on lowering the risk of getting a cold or reducing a cold’s duration. This doesn’t mean you should avoid vitamin C, because although we require it for growing and repairing tissues, our body is unable to make its own vitamin C. Severe vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, a disease where supportive tissues in the body break down and hemorrhage. Scientists have recently found that vitamin C affects whether genes are turned on or off inside developing mouse stem cells, which could provide improvements to in vitro fertilization and new avenues for cancer treatments.

Image by Spike Walker.

Molecule of the Day: Ascorbic acid/Vitamin C

When I was much younger, my mother always used to tell me to eat more fruits because the Vitamin C inside would make me healthier. Being an obedient kid, I always obliged, but I never understood why it was good for me. So what is it, and why is it beneficial to us?

The chemical commonly known as Vitamin C is actually ascorbic acid (C6H8O6), a colourless solid that is soluble in water. It is commonly found in fruits and vegetables, as well as some types of meat.

Note: While ascorbic acid refers to the specific compound, Vitamin C refers to the specific biological activity it has - that’s why there are classes of vitamins! For example, there are 8 different classes of Vitamin E, and there are many different chemicals under each one!

Most animals and plants are able to synthesise ascorbic acid through a diverse range of metabolic pathways. Humans, however, lack the ability to do so, and require consumption through dietary intake.

In the body, ascorbic acid is used as a reducing agent/antioxidant that can neutralise many reactive oxygen species that can damage cells. It is also used as an enzymatic cofactor to synthesise hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine, which are required for the production of collagen.

However, the role of ascorbic acid in the immune system is unknown. What we do know is that it is found in high concentrations in immune cells, and is consumed rapidly during infections.

In the case of a Vitamin C deficiency, scurvy will start to set in. (The reason for ascorbic acid’s name is precisely because it helps to alleviate the symptoms of scurvy!) It is characterised by bleeding from all mucous membranes, spotty skin, and spongy gums. In severe cases, pus-filled wounds and loss of teeth may occur, and death is possible. Humans are unable to store large quantities of ascorbic acid in the body, so a regular intake is absolutely necessary.

Ascorbic acid is a strong reducing agent, so this also means that the ascorbic acid in cut fruits will be rapidly oxidised by oxygen in the air and lose its antioxidant properties! Furthermore, it is unstable to heat, and is broken down if vegetables containing it are cooked, losing its beneficial properties.

The bottom line? Remember to eat your fresh fruits and vegetables regularly!

Originally posted by expertinawkward


Grow Microgreens Without Soil

Often confused with “sprouts,” microgreens only comprise the above-ground parts of the plant, rather than everything from root to shoot.

My article, at Hobby Farms

Microgreens are nutritionally dense and space-saving versions of common edible crops, that can easily be cultivated without soil in even the most primitive of windowsill gardens. Often confused with “sprouts,” microgreens only comprise the above-ground parts of the plant, rather than everything from root to shoot. They are harvested one to two weeks after sowing, rather than after a few days, and are sown on a growing substrate.

Like sprouts, microgreens are eaten while in the early stages of a plant’s growth, but unlike sprouts, they have time and opportunity to take up nutrients from their substrate; thus, they can pack a more impressive nutritional and fibre punch. A study of 25 commercially available microgreens showed that when compared to mature leaves of the same plants, microgreens had significantly elevated levels of phytonutrients like carotenoids, ascorbic acids, and other assorted vitamins and antioxidants.

Read more on Hobby Farms