At the first sign of a cold, many people run to the store and buy a bottle of orange juice in the hopes that vitamin C will save them from several days of cold symptoms. Does loading up on vitamin C actually prevent the common cold, or at least shorten the duration? There is very little evidence that it can prevent the cold, but some studies have shown it could reduce the duration of your cold by about a day. We do need vitamin C for overall immune function, and it is also good for bone structure, healthy skin, and helping our bodies absorb iron. Vitamin C is found in foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, and tomatoes, so most of us can get enough vitamin C through eating a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables. It is almost always healthier to consume vitamins through their natural sources because whole foods contain other vitamins and nutrients.To obtain the potential benefit of reducing the duration of your cold, you need to consume vitamin C every day – not just when you start sneezing or getting a scratchy throat. Just remember that even if you do take a vitamin C supplement or eat an orange every day, you will probably still have that cold for about 7-10 days. You might start feeling better a day earlier than you normally would thanks to vitamin C, but it is also important to rest, stay hydrated, and take over-the-counter medications to help relieve symptoms. At the end of the day, vitamin C should be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet throughout the year. The common cold can strike at any time, not just winter, so it’s important to keep your immune system healthy all year long. Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, exercising, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress are all ways to keep your immune system in good shape. And of course, the single most important way to stop the spread of the cold and flu is by washing your hands often!