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Vitamin C: Variety and crunch with fruit and vegetables vital for avoiding scurvy

ABC News logo ABC News 1/12/2016

Orange, Yellow and Red Peppers © Danita Delimont/Gallo Images ROOTS RF collection/Getty Images Orange, Yellow and Red Peppers How do you like your veggies cooked? If you like them soft and falling apart, you may need to change your cooking habits for the sake of your health.

A study in Sydney found a resurgence in scurvy, a disease caused by low vitamin C levels. When clinician-researcher Professor Jenny Gunton looked into the diet of those showing with scurvy she found many of them were eating lots of vegetables — they were just not cooking them right. Heat and water are enemies of vitamin C Accredited practising dietitian Maree Taylor said vitamin C was a water-soluble vitamin and could also be affected by heat.

"Unfortunately heat tends to reduce the vitamin C content of vegetables and fruit for that matter," she said. "The less heat and the less water contact with vegetables the better."

Ms Taylor said the worst way to cook most vegetables in terms of them retaining their vitamin C levels was to boil them.

Quick cooking methods, such as stir-fry or lightly steaming, will help keep vitamin C and other important nutrition in the vegetables, she said.

"The less cooking the better ... salads are a really good way to go. "If [vegetables] start losing their crunch and become more like mush, more like things you can mash with the back of your fork, then they're probably over-cooked. "They've still got to have some bite to them."

Variety of fruit and veg the key to good health

Ms Taylor said vitamin deficiencies such as scurvy were probably more common in the population than many expected. "I suspect the problem is much more widespread than we currently realise," she said.

People with digestion problems or difficulties eating hard foods are at risk of scurvy and other deficiencies, but so too are people who restrict their food variety due to fad diets.

Ms Taylor said popular diets were often confusing people about what they should and shouldn't be eating.

"[They are] actually promoted by people who don't have any good evidence behind them or good credentials behind them," she said.

"They don't have enough variety in them and one of the issues is it scares people to eat fruit.

"A variety of vegetables and fruit is really important for good health and it's not just about vitamin C ... people forget that there are other really valuable components to fruit and vegetables."

Ms Taylor recommended people source their nutrition information from evidence-based research, including the government website Eat For Health, rather than popular culture diet promoters.

Fruit and veg with high vitamin C

  • Capsicum, especially yellow ones
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Kiwifruit
  • Apricots
  • Guava
  • Honeydew melon
  • Pineapple

These fruits and vegetables contain 12mg or more of vitamin C in a daily serve

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