Vitamin C is a well-known, powerful nutrient. Also known as L-ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. Unlike most mammals, humans do not have the ability to make vitamin C and must obtain it from the diet or supplements. Vitamin C is essential for the completion of many enzymatic reactions such as the production of collagen, one of the main components of connective tissue. It is also needed for the production of many neurotransmitters, as well as the regulation of gene expression.
Vitamin C is best known for its potent antioxidant powers. A few hundred years ago, Vitamin C deficiency, also known as scurvy, was fairly common. By the late 1700s, the British navy became aware that scurvy could be cured by eating oranges or lemons, even though vitamin C was not isolated until the early 1930s.
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of Vitamin C. Citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato juice, and potatoes are major contributors of vitamin C to the American diet. Other good food sources include red and green peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe.
Deficiency of Vitamin C is rare today, as most people get adequate amounts from food; however, some people decide to include supplemental Vitamin C to optimize immune function, prevent colds, and support overall health. For most, Vitamin C supplements are safe for general use however it is always important to discuss supplement changes with a healthcare provider and seek medical help for illness. Here, the best vitamin C supplements:
Best Overall: Nature's Bounty Vitamin C
If you are looking for a quality supplement that won't break the bank, Nature’s Bounty Vitamin C 500 milligrams is the choice for you. Each bottle contains 100 capsules, so you will have at least three months supply. Nature’s Bounty keeps this supplement simple, providing only Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) and no other herbs or complimentary ingredients in their product.
Free of artificial flavor, sweetener, sugar, starch, milk, lactose, gluten, wheat, yeast, and fish, this product ticks off many boxes for those with dietary restrictions. This product also received an A rating by Labdoor, an independent supplement quality testing company.
Best Organic: Garden of Life Vitamin C
Garden of Life’s My Kind Organics Vitamin C Spray is the top pick for an organic supplement. Shoppers can stay on top of their Vitamin C game with this organic spray. Great for travel or busy on-the-go days, buyers can support their immune system and enjoy the antioxidant capacity of Vitamin C with this easy-to-consume product.
The serving size for 60 milligrams of Vitamin C is five sprays and it is best to refrigerate the product after opening, as the Vitamin C in this product is sourced from an organic food blend. No need to worry about added sugars or stevia in this product, it is free of sweeteners, preservatives, and pesticides. It's also certified Kosher, Non-GMO Project Verified, and NSF Certified Gluten- Free.
Best Capsule: Solgar Vitamin C
Solgar has been in the dietary supplement industry for over 70 years. Their products are made from high-quality ingredients, and their manufacturing facilities follow strict guidelines from the FDA.
One vegan capsule provides 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C, which is more than 1,000 percent of the daily value of Vitamin C. The capsule is vegan, kosher, gluten-free, dairy-free, and non-GMO. As a bonus, this product has been approved by ConsumerLab.com, an independent company that tests products for purity, quality, and potency. It is important to note that that is a higher dose of Vitamin C.
A product of this dose might be more suitable for those who engage in vigorous exercise, smokers, or those who do not include many fruits and vegetables in their diet.
Best Gummy: NOW C-500
Finding a gummy supplement that is not filled with extra junk takes a bit more time in the supplement aisle, but we have done the work for you. NOW Foods C-500 is our top pick for the best Vitamin C supplement. One of these chewable supplements contains 500 milligrams of Vitamin C and only one gram of sugar.
In addition to being low in sugar, this product is also free of many top allergens, such as wheat, soy, milk, tree nuts, gluten, and egg. NOW Foods is a leader in the supplement industry and is a budget-friendly choice that does not skimp on purity or quality of products. They manufacture their products in an NPA A-rated GMP certified facility, which means that every aspect of the NOW manufacturing process has been examined.
Best Boosted: Pure Encapsulations Essential-C & Flavonoids
Looking for a Vitamin C supplement that packs a punch? Check out this potent blend of Vitamin C and Flavonoids from Pure Encapsulations. In addition to providing over 600 milligrams of Vitamin C, these hypoallergenic capsules also provide two powerful nutrients: quercetin and rutin, free radical scavengers that complement the role of vitamin C.
Pure Encapsulations products are free from many common allergens like wheat, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, and gluten. They're also free of artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, as well as coatings and shellacs, unnecessary binders, and preservatives.
Best Tasting: Megafood C Defense
Megafood is one of the most trusted brands in the supplement industry because of their commitment to transparency. These citrus-flavored gummies promote a healthy immune system with 180 milligrams of Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) from actual organic oranges. Consumers will enjoy the tangy citrus taste of juicy, farm-fresh oranges without high-fructose corn syrup, gelatin, artificial colors, or sugary coatings. With just 10 calories and 2 grams of sugar, these gummies can be consumed at any time of the day and on an empty stomach. These gummies are Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified B Corp, and Certified Glyphosate Residue Free. They're also tested for over 125 herbicides and pesticides and are free of gluten, dairy, and soy.
When picking a supplement, one of the most important criteria to consider is purity, potency, and quality. For this reason, Nature's Bounty Vitamin C (view at Amazon) is the best overall pick.
What to Look for in a Vitamin C Supplement
Gummy supplements are a good choice for those who do not like to swallow pills. When shopping for a gummy supplement, pay attention to the grams of sugar per serving, ideally it is less than 4 grams per serving and contains no harmful ingredients like food dyes and high fructose corn syrup. It is always recommended to brush your teeth after consuming a sugar containing gummy to prevent tooth decay or gum inflammation.
There are many gummy products available, one of our favorites is by Megafood. Megafood Defense Gummy (view at Thrive Market) are low in sugar and free of common allergens as well as the harmful ingredient glyphosate. Glyphosate, a key ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, has been making headlines recently due to its negative effects on hormones, gastrointestinal health, respiratory health, and immune functioning, among other concerns.
Lozenges are another easy-to-consume option for those who prefer not to swallow pills, but not all lozenges are created equal. Some have more sugar than others and some focus on natural ingredients while others contain artificial colors and flavors. Look for products that have 4 grams of sugar or less per serving.
Spray Vitamin C is a fabulous choice for those on the go. Toting around a scooper to measure powder can be frustrating and having to rely on always having a glass of water to mix powder or swallow a tablet is difficult when traveling. Spray supplements also offer flexibility in the dose of Vitamin C and might be a good option for families with different needs or different seasons of the year when you diet or lifestyle may change.
We like Mykind Organics Vitamin C Spray (view at Amazon). There is no need to worry about added sugars or stevia in this product. In addition to being free of sweeteners it is also free of preservatives, pesticides and is certified Kosher, Non-GMO Project Verified, and NSF Certified Gluten-Free.
For consumers who are comfortable with swallowing supplements, you will find the most variety of options available in softgel or tablet form. If you are following a specific diet such as kosher, vegan or vegetarian, look out for products that feature these special labels.
Most consumers will be familiar with the packet of Vitamin C powder that is often featured at the checkout counter in grocery stores and pharmacies. Most conventional powders on the market, like Emergen-C, feature additional vitamins and minerals for more potent immune support. Though vitamins and minerals work synergistically, if you are already taking other supplements like a multivitamin or B-Complex buyers should be conscious about overdoing their intake and opt for a powder that contains only Vitamin C. In addition, because Vitamin C is an acid, powders containing high doses of Vitamin C may contribute to tooth erosion or decay when consumed frequently. When it comes to dietary supplements of Vitamin C, there are many different forms available. There does not appear to be definitive research to support the use of one form of Vitamin C over the other.
For most, Vitamin C supplements are safe for general use. However, it is always important to discuss supplement changes with a health care provider and seek medical help for illness.
Labels to Look for
A Non-GMO Project Certificate of Verification (COV) demonstrates that an individual product is Non-GMO Project Verified. According to the Non-GMO Project, the definition of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is “plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs”. GMO Crops are engineered to withstand application of toxic herbicides which might have negative health effects.
A Note about Organic
Vitamin C dietary supplements can be made from whole foods, as well as made synthetically. Unless there is a food source used in the production of the supplement, it will be difficult to find a Vitamin C supplement containing an organic label. For supplements, an organic option is not necessarily better or preferred.
Third Party Certification
Shoppers might see labels such as “CL, Labdoor, NSF, or USP”. These labels indicate that a company has undergone voluntary third party testing of their products to check for purity, potency and quality. These third party companies will also test for heavy metals and other contaminants.
Vitamin C supplements may contain additional ingredients known to support the immune system. Common nutrients that are added to Vitamin C supplements are Zinc, and B Vitamins. In addition, some products will add bioflavonoids which are believed to work synergistically with and increase the efficacy of Vitamin C.
Always check the ingredient list to ensure that all of the ingredients are safe for your individual needs. Many times supplements that have additional ingredients may be more expensive than others. Consider how you can consume these other nutrients from food to save money and keep things simple.
Contraindications and Dosage
The dose you need of any supplement will depend on age, gender, presence of deficiency and specific conditions. As a point of reference, male non-smokers over the age of 19 need 90 milligrams of Vitamin C per day and women need 75 milligrams. The needs for women increase during pregnancy and lactation.
Although Vitamin C is water-soluble and does not stay in the body for long, large doses can cause adverse effects, including heartburn, nausea, headaches, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Although Vitamin C is generally considered safe, it is always wise to update your healthcare provider with what you are taking and be on the lookout for side effects.
Vitamin C supplements do not have to cost an arm and a leg in order to be effective. The price of Vitamin C supplements range from roughly $7 to over $30. Pay attention to the number of servings in a bottle as well as the dose when comparing products. Supplement forms (tablet, capsule, liquid) and complementary ingredients will affect the price of products.
What Experts Say
"Vitamin C is a great way to boost your immune system, but it's also involved in many other interactions in the body. It's an important nutrient for vegans and vegetarians to ensure that they are absorbing the iron in their diet. Simply pair your iron-rich food with a source of vitamin C to boost absorption, or consider a supplement if you don't think you're getting enough." —Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN
"As a pro-tip, take Vitamin C supplements, which are water-soluble with non- caffeinated drinks. Caffeinated drinks can cause increased urination which can decrease the concentration of the vitamin with the fluid loss." —Sydney Greene, MS, RDN