Charlyn Fargo Ware: Why Vitamin C Is Good for Your Muscles | Your Health

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Those of us over 30 lose approximately 3 percent to 8 percent of our skeletal muscle mass each decade, and more over the age of 60. That’s a bit shocking, isn’t it?

That muscle loss can lead to frailty, type 2 diabetes, physical disability and even mortality.

But the good news is we can turn that around.

Researchers in the United Kingdom found that a simple task of eating vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus, berries and vegetables, can turn that muscle loss around. Simply put, vitamin C protects skeletal muscle during aging.

The research was reported in the October 2020 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, analyzing data of vitamin C intakes from a seven-day food diary of more than 13,000 men and women (ages 42-82) in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition.

Researchers also looked at the vitamin C in their blood. The results showed that those with the highest amounts of vitamin C had the greatest skeletal muscle mass. And conversely, those with the lowest amounts of vitamin C intake and blood levels had the lowest skeletal muscle mass.

The positive association between dietary and plasma vitamin C and muscle mass was found in both men and women.

The greatest contributions of different food groups to the daily vitamin C intake were from fruits, vegetables, fruit juices and potatoes, respectively. Fruits consumed included apples, apricots, avocado, bananas, berries, blueberries, citrus, figs/dates, grapes, melon, mixed fruits, peaches, nectarines, pears and plums. Vegetables included herbs, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, green beans, peas and tomatoes.

Researchers wrote that to their knowledge, this was “the first study assessing the relation of dietary and circulating vitamin C with the sarcopenic risk factor of loss of skeletal muscle mass in a large U.K. cohort of both men and women of middle and older age.”

The researchers also referenced one study showing that “muscle atrophy was reversed by reintroduction of vitamin C into the diet.”

The bottom line? Fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C are important to include in your daily diet, especially if you’re over 30.

Q&A

Q: How can I reduce the amount of sodium in my diet?

A: A teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Health officials recommend between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams a day of sodium. Most of us get far more than that amount.

Fast food, restaurant food, processed foods such as bacon, ham, deli meat and sausage, chips, pickles and even ketchup all contain salt.

The best way to lower your sodium is to eat more fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in sodium. And remember: Fresh meat has less sodium than processed meat.

Be sure to taste your food before using the salt shaker. Rinsing canned foods, such as beans, vegetables and tuna, before eating can reduce the sodium. You can also buy no salt added or reduced sodium versions.

Ham and Cheddar Hash Brown Casserole

Here’s an easy brunch recipe for the holidays. Pair it with fresh fruit or a green salad for a meal. The CookingLight recipe works well in the slow cooker.

Ingredients

» One 30-ounce package frozen cubed hash browns, thawed

» 6 large eggs, lightly beaten

» 1 cup whole milk

» ¼ cup chopped fresh chives

» 1 teaspoon salt

» ½ teaspoon black pepper

» Cooking spray

» 4 ounces reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)

» 2 ounces thinly sliced lower-sodium deli ham, cut into 1-inch pieces

» Hot sauce (optional)

Directions

With paper towels, pat hash browns dry. In a 5-quart slow cooker coated with cooking spray, whisk together eggs, milk, chives, salt and pepper. Stir in hash browns, cheese and ham. Cover and cook on high until set, about 2½ hours. Serve with hot sauce, if desired.

Details

Servings: 10 (serving size 1 cup)

Per serving: 169 calories; 10 grams protein; 17 grams carbohydrate; 6 grams fat (3 grams saturated); 1 gram fiber; 3 grams sugars; 453 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Contact her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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