When cold and flu season rolls around, many of us load up on vitamin C to keep from getting sick. Vitamin C doesn’t just strengthen your immune system — according to the USDA, it also works as an antioxidant, aids in wound healing and is vital in collagen and connective tissue formation. If you’re not getting enough vitamin C from fruits like oranges and strawberries or veggies like broccoli and peppers, introducing a vitamin C supplement into your diet can provide health benefits year-round.
We’ve gathered some key tips for choosing the best vitamin C supplement. Our top choice, Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW Vitamin C, is such a popular option because it provides a high amount of vitamin C per dose without any fillers or additives.
What to know before you buy a vitamin C supplement
Types of vitamin C
Vitamin C is available in several different types. Ascorbic acid (L-ascorbic acid, L-ascorbate), sodium ascorbate and calcium ascorbate are the most common forms of vitamin C found in supplements.
Ascorbic acid is the purest form of vitamin C because it stands alone as an isolated molecule. It’s also the most commonly used form in supplements because it’s easily absorbed by the body.
Sodium ascorbate is ascorbic acid with a sodium molecule attached to help lessen its natural acidity. It’s an ideal alternative to ascorbic acid if you find the pure form of vitamin C causes heartburn or other stomach upset. If you’re monitoring your sodium intake, it may be a poor choice.
Calcium ascorbate features ascorbic acid and calcium. It reduces the acidity of the ascorbic acid on its own, making it an excellent option if you have an extremely sensitive stomach or can’t tolerate other vitamin C types due to illness.
In multivitamins that contain vitamin C, you can also find other mineral ascorbates, including zinc ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate, chromium ascorbate, molybdenum ascorbate and manganese ascorbate. Take note of the amount of the other minerals you’re getting in a mineral ascorbate vitamin C supplement to make sure you don’t exceed the recommended daily allowance.
You might assume a vitamin C supplement contains nothing but some form of vitamin C, but many formulas include added ingredients. Fillers are often used to help bind a supplement’s ingredients together. However, some fillers and additives are best avoided.
Stay away from vitamin C supplements that contain:
- Hydrogenated oils
- Artificial colors
- Titanium dioxide
- Magnesium stearate
Avoid vitamin C supplements with added sugar, too.
Vitamin C supplements are available in various dosages, usually ranging from 25 milligrams to 1,500 milligrams. You typically shouldn’t take more than 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C per day, because your body only absorbs so much at a time. Vitamin C is water soluble, so your kidneys flush out the excess. This is why it’s best to take smaller doses of vitamin C throughout the day as opposed to a single large dose.
What to look for in a quality vitamin C supplement
Vitamin C supplements come in several forms, though the most common options are powder, chewable tablets, pills, capsules and gummies.
All forms can effectively deliver vitamin C, but some forms are harder on the stomach than others. Pills and capsules often cause nausea, so you may prefer chewable tablets or gummies, which usually have a tasty fruit flavor. Powders are often easier to digest, too, but you have to mix them with a liquid and drink the mixture.
Delayed, timed or sustained-release formula
Vitamin C supplements are available in several different formulas, which affect how your body absorbs the vitamin C.
If you’re having trouble remembering to take a few small doses throughout the day, delayed, timed or sustained-release capsules are an excellent option since they don’t release their dosage all at once. The capsules feature a coating made of fat, sugar and wax that breaks down and slowly releases the vitamin C at its center, so you get a small amount at a time.
If you aren’t comfortable consuming animal products, make sure you choose a vitamin C supplement certified as vegan. Supplement capsules not certified vegan may contain gelatin derived from animals.
How much you can expect to spend on vitamin C supplement
You can pay $0.05-$0.10 per dose of vitamin C supplements in pill, capsule, tablet or gummy form. Powdered supplements generally cost $12-$20 per pound.
Vitamin C supplement FAQ
How much vitamin C should I take per day?
A. Doctors don’t advise taking more than 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C per day, though 60-90 milligrams is usually the recommended daily dose. You won’t run into any safety issues if you take too much the way you might with other vitamins, but taking an excessive amount of vitamin C may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps.
Can vitamin C really help fight off a cold?
A. Vitamin C helps bolster the immune system, so taking some extra vitamin C if you feel a cold coming on can help. It may not keep you from getting sick, but it can shorten the duration or lessen the severity of your symptoms since vitamin C helps produce and protect white blood cells, which help fight infection.
What’s the best vitamin C supplement to buy?
Top vitamin C supplement
What you need to know: An extremely potent vitamin C supplement ideal for those who want a high dosage.
What you’ll love: Offers 500 milligrams of vitamin C per capsule. Doesn’t contain any dairy, gluten, soy, binders or fillers. Can be taken with or without food. Provides a two-month supply.
What you should consider: Capsules are slightly large, which can make swallowing difficult.
Top vitamin C supplement for the money
What you need to know: Solid, affordable vitamin C tablets that are easy to swallow and laboratory tested.
What you’ll love: Manufactured by a respected supplement brand. Free of artificial flavors and colors. Features a vegetarian formula and 500 milligrams of vitamin C per tablet. Easy for most to swallow.
What you should consider: Some buyers receive bottles with broken tablets.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: A powerful vitamin C supplement that’s absorbed quickly and is unlikely to cause stomach upset.
What you’ll love: Boasts an acid-free formula with 500 milligrams per capsule. Supports immune health without upsetting the stomach. Features bioflavonoids to help with absorption. Doesn’t contain any animal products or artificial ingredients.
What you should consider: Capsules are large, so they can be tough to swallow.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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