By Jill Levy
When consumed in conjunction with a healthy diet, vitamin C benefits the body by supporting a healthy response to stress, healthy immune system function, and much more.
You’ll find vitamin C in multivitamins, as well as in dietary supplements and drink mixes that only provide vitamin C (sometimes in high amounts).
So what’s the best vitamin C supplement you can take? Below you’ll find tips for choosing a good quality supplement, in addition to recommendations for how much to take, and what other nutrients to pair vitamin C with.
What Is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid in supplement form, is an essential vitamin that we must get from our diets. It’s “essential” because the human body doesn’t make any of its own vitamin C.
How do vitamin C supplements work? Vitamin C is water-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant in the body. Generally speaking, this means that this vitamin can support cellular health and healthy aging. Taking a vitamin C supplement — along with eating a healthy diet that provides plenty of vitamins and minerals — can be one way you support your immune system.
A daily vitamin C supplement is an easy way to increase levels of this vitamin in your body in order to support a healthy you. In general, older adults in particular may want to supplement with vitamin C because it helps to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in bones.
While supplementing is one option, you’ll also find vitamin C in a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are important parts of a balanced diet. Some of the top vitamin foods include oranges, leafy greens, bell peppers, berries, broccoli and kiwi.
How much vitamin C should you take daily? The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C varies based on factors like your age, gender and overall health.
It’s recommended that adult men get at least 90 milligrams of vitamin C per day, and that adult women get at least 75 milligrams daily. These are considered minimum amounts to meet most adults’ needs; therefore, more may be helpful in some instances.
Women who are pregnant need at least 85 milligrams, and those who are breastfeeding should consume at least 120 milligrams. Experts also recommend that smokers get about 35 milligrams more of vitamin C per day than non-smokers (equating to about 110 to 125 milligrams/day).
Doses of up to 2,000 milligrams per day are considered safe for most adults (in other words, this is the “safe upper limit). However, high doses above 1,000 milligrams may only be beneficial if you’re feeling run down or you aren’t able to absorb nutrients normally, so it’s wise to get your doctor’s advice if you plan to take high doses. Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any supplement routine.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that the risks associated with taking too much are generally low, since the body can flush out excess amounts that it doesn’t need.
That being said, taking high doses can sometimes lead to unwanted digestive effects, so more isn’t necessarily better.
You can take a vitamin C supplement with or without food, at any time of day. Pairing a supplement with a healthy, well-rounded diet rich in vitamin C foods and other essential nutrients will support your body’s ability to absorb and use these vitamins optimally.
It’s also smart to pair vitamin C and iron supplements together in order to maximize their absorption and benefits. However, because vitamin C increases iron absorption, you should consult with your doctor before starting supplementation if you have any conditions that impact iron metabolism or levels.
As an essential vitamin, vitamin C plays a role in many aspects of health. Overall, vitamin C benefits can include:
- Helping to facilitate absorption of iron, a nutrient that supports cognitive health, fertility and can help to keep your energy up.
- Supporting healthy immune system responses by facilitating the normal release of white blood cells and supporting a healthy response to stress.
- Acting as an antioxidant, thereby supporting health of cells that form the skin and other connective tissues, the brain, heart, eyes, etc.
- Supporting cognitive function and the health of your brain and neurons, as well as neurotransmitter function that plays a role in your outlook, sleep, appetite, etc.
- Helping your body create collagen, a protein that forms connective tissue, blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in bones.
- Facilitating protein metabolism.
- Supporting natural healthy skin processes, as well as supporting the skin against UV light-induced redness.
- Supporting healthy eyesight, including among aging adults.
- Helping to maintain healthy cardiovascular function.
How to Choose the Best Supplement
What is a good vitamin C supplement to take? While there are several forms of supplemental vitamin C on the market, one type isn’t necessarily considered to be the best. But remember that certain attributes can affect absorption.
You’ll find that vitamin C supplements come in several forms, including tablets and vitamin C “salts” that are stirred into water.
If you’re looking for the best vitamin C supplements, keep these suggestions in mind:
- Ideally choose a “whole food” vitamin C supplement that is made from real food sources, which can support absorption through the optimization of different compounds.
- Ancient Nutrition’s vitamin C supplement is not only formulated from real food, but also fermented with probiotics to support absorption. Fermentation is a process in which starches and sugars found in foods are converted by microorganisms (such as bacteria). Overall, this process supports absorption of vitamins and minerals by helping to kickstart the process of breaking down nutrients into smaller particles, making it easier for the body to benefit from the nutrients once consumed.
- Additionally, Ancient Nutrition’s vitamin C formula features ingredients inspired by the Traditional Chinese Method that can support a healthy immune system.
- Be sure to check the products’ ingredients label, looking for a supplement that is made without fillers, additives, added sugar and gluten to ensure you get the most for your money. It’s also a good idea to buy from a reputable retailer and to look at consumer reviews in order to find the best vitamin C supplement brands.
While taking a vitamin C supplement can be complementary to a healthy diet and lifestyle, supplements should not be viewed as a quick fix for better health. As mentioned above, because your body doesn't produce vitamin C, you need to get it from your diet.
In general, rather than thinking of supplements as replacements for healthy foods — like fruits and veggies that are rich in essential nutrients — think of them as smart additions.
Jill has been with the Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition team for five years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.