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Are you getting enough vitamin C?

Some people swear by vitamin C to protect them from colds. Whether it’s a daily supplement or a glass of orange juice with every sneeze, the powers of vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, are well recognized. Although research hasn’t proven that the vitamin can prevent colds, it has shown that vitamin C has an antihistamine effect that can lessen the severity of symptoms.

The nutrient is necessary for several bodily functions, including binding cells, strengthening blood-vessel walls and fighting infections. It also helps with bone and teeth maintenance.

Most people come close to the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C–75 milligrams (mg) for women and 90 mg for men. It doesn’t take much—an eight-ounce glass of orange juice or ¾ cup of broccoli is all you need. On average, people consume around 78 mg a day.

But researchers at the National Institutes of Health want to increase the RDA. They argue that an RDA of 100 mg to 200 mg of vitamin C a day best saturates the cell with the nutrient, making it more accessible to the body. The new amount could be consumed by eating the five recommended servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but that’s a task most Americans find difficult to accomplish.

Check the chart at right to see how many vitamin C-rich foods you pack your diet with each day. Try to sneak one into each meal if you think your diet may be low in this important nutrient.

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, however. Vitamin C overloading can be a problem. A regular intake of more than 2,000 mg of the antioxidant can cause kidney stones, urinary tract problems and diarrhea.

When it comes to preparing vitamin C-rich foods, be cautious about overcooking and overexposure to air and water. These processes can destroy the vitamin. Strive for minimal amounts of preparation and whenever possible get your vitamins from foods, not supplements.