Best Vitamin C Supplements

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

40 Models Considered
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177 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best vitamin C supplements

Last Updated August 2019

As society has grown increasingly health conscious, people have turned to supplements to make up for the nutrients their diet may lack. Whether or not it’s cough and cold season, vitamin C supplements are a great way to boost your immune system, improve skin cell health, and keep your memory in shape. You can take supplements when you feel a cold coming on or as a regular part of your diet. Vitamin C is naturally found in citrus fruits, but it can also be found in guavas, bell peppers, kiwifruit, strawberries, and broccoli.

Once flu season hits, everyone is running for vitamin C. If you’re not sure what kind of supplement you want or need, you’ve come to the right place. Our shopping guide can help you decipher the dosages and forms of vitamin C to find one that might work best for you. Be sure to check out our top vitamin C supplement picks for the brands and formulas that stand out.

The body can only absorb around 500 mg of vitamin C at once. The excess is flushed out in the urine.

Key considerations

Types of vitamin c

Like all vitamins, vitamin C exists in different forms. It stands alone as ascorbic acid but can also be bound to a mineral to create an ascorbate form. When vitamin C is bound to another mineral, you’ll need to keep track of not only how much vitamin C you’re getting but also how much of the other mineral your body will be absorbing. The most common forms of vitamin C found in supplements include the following:

Ascorbic acid (L-ascorbic Acid, L-ascorbate): Ascorbic acid is vitamin C in its purest form as an isolated molecule. This is the form in which vitamin C flows through the bloodstream. It’s the most common supplement form and is bioavailable, meaning it’s readily absorbed by the body.

Sodium ascorbate: In this form, ascorbic acid is attached to a sodium molecule, which helps counteract its natural acidity. If pure ascorbic acid upsets your stomach or causes heartburn, sodium ascorbate is a good option. However, you’ll also be getting a good dose of sodium, so if you’re watching your sodium intake, you might need to try another form of vitamin C.

Calcium ascorbate: Calcium ascorbate combines ascorbic acid with calcium. Like sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate helps neutralize the acidity of pure ascorbic acid. Once the calcium ascorbate hits your stomach, it breaks apart the calcium and digests both without increasing acidity. Calcium ascorbate is typically used by those with extra-sensitive stomachs or who are ill and cannot tolerate other forms of vitamin C.

There are many other mineral ascorbates, but the following are typically found in multivitamins rather than standalone vitamin C supplements:

  • Magnesium ascorbate

  • Zinc ascorbate

  • Molybdenum ascorbate

  • Chromium ascorbate

  • Manganese ascorbate
     

If you take vitamin C in a mineral ascorbate form, keep an eye on how much of the other mineral you’re ingesting because these also have a recommended daily allowance.

 

EXPERT TIP

Vitamin C has been linked to lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels as they move blood away from the heart. While you can’t treat high blood pressure with a vitamin C supplement alone, it can aid in your overall health.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Low on iron? Vitamin C can help convert the iron found in plant-based sources like spinach into a more readily absorbed form of iron.


Staff  | BestReviews

Vitamin C supplement features

Supplement form: There are three basic supplement forms: powder, chewable tablets, and pills or capsules. One type isn’t necessarily better than the other because all can contain different amounts of vitamin C. Powders offer more doses per dollar, but you have to mix it in liquid before ingesting. What really matters is the form that’s the easiest for you to take and won’t upset your stomach.

Dosage: Supplement dosage varies widely from as little as 25 mg to 1,500 mg. However, the body can only absorb so much vitamin C at once, and it isn’t recommended that you take over 2,000 mg per day. Once your body has reached its limit, the kidneys flush out any excess vitamin C, which is why physicians recommend taking a few smaller doses throughout the day rather than one mega dose. The body absorbs roughly 70% to 90% of the vitamin C that enters it through food or supplements. However, as the amount of vitamin C in the body increases, the absorption rate drops to around 50%.  

Delayed, timed, or sustained-release capsules: Once again, the human body can only absorb so much vitamin C at once. As a water-soluble vitamin, vitamin C can’t be stored in body fat, which means you have to get a dose every day. To work around the problem of taking small doses throughout the day, delayed, timed, or sustained-release capsules don’t release their vitamin C all at once. The vitamin C lies at the center of the capsules and is surrounded by a coating made of wax, fat, and sugar. As the coating slowly dissolves or ruptures, vitamin C makes its way into your system a little at a time. The slow, gradual release helps prevent the body from reducing its absorption rate because of too much vitamin C.

 

Vegetarian option with plenty of antioxidants

Each Viva Naturals capsule delivers a high dose – 1000 mg – of vitamin C along with bioflavonoids that pack their own antioxidant punch. They’re a vegetarian option that’s produced without any genetically modified (GMO) ingredients.

Vitamin C supplement prices

It can be difficult to compare supplement prices because of the different forms in which vitamin C is found. For example, pills can be compared by the price per pill, but powder forms are priced by the pound or ounce. However, we can give you a few generalizations about the price as a reference point.

Pill or capsule: These supplements start around $0.05 per dose. The supplement may have pure ascorbic acid or any of the mineral ascorbates. The price per capsule for both regular and delayed-release capsules rises based on the source of the vitamin C. Natural, vegan, vegetarian, and non-GMO sources may cost $0.10 per dose or more. The body absorbs natural and artificial sources of vitamin C at the same rate, but if you adhere to a vegan or other specialized diet, you can find a supplement that does, too.


Powder: These supplements may contain pure ascorbic acid or an ascorbate form of vitamin C and cost from $12 to $20 per pound. These supplements cost more up-front, but you get more doses per bottle. They also offer more dosage options because you can adjust your dosage according to your needs when mixing the powder with water. However, be sure to read the dosage instructions so you don’t get too much vitamin C, which can cause stomach upset or heartburn.

DID YOU KNOW?

Scurvy, a disease that killed many sailors well into the 1800s, is caused by a vitamin C deficiency. Symptoms include fatigue, gum inflammation, joint pain, weak connective tissues, and wounds that won’t heal. Today, scurvy appears when daily vitamin C levels fall below 10 mg for an extended period, and it only occurs in areas of severe food scarcity.

Tips

  • Take a supplement with as few sweeteners as possible. That’s because vitamin C and glucose (sugar) compete with one another for absorption in the small intestine.

  • Consult your doctor before taking any supplements. Some can interfere with other medications or supplements you may be taking.

  • Take vitamin C for a cold. When you feel a cold coming on, chances are someone will recommend you take extra vitamin C, and they’re not wrong. Vitamin C plays an integral role in the health of your immune system. It contributes to the production and protection of white blood cells, which help prevent and fight off infection. Vitamin C also finds its way directly to the skin where it protects against damage and infection.

More Vitamin C with longer release

The sustained release of these 1000 mg capsules delivers the vitamin C slowly to increase the amount of overall vitamin C absorbed. They’re vegan, non-GMO, and provide extra antioxidants with rose hips, a bioflavonoid.

Other products we considered

Our top picks all provide excellent sources of vitamin C. However, if you’re not keen on taking a pill, there are powder forms that allow you to adjust your dosage as needed. The BulkSupplements.com Ascorbic Acid Powder comes at a reasonable price and includes dosage directions that are easy to follow. This supplement uses ascorbic acid to deliver a powerful dose of vitamin C. The Wholesale Nutrition C-Salts Vitamin C Powder is another supplement that’s easy to add to drinking water. With this powder, a combination of calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium ascorbates is used to deliver vitamin C that’s less acidic than pure ascorbic acid. Typically, these forms are easier on the stomach, too.

Natural sources of vitamin C often contain bioflavonoids, and they’re often added to supplements. They’re found in the rind of citrus fruits, rose hips, and black currants. Even though manufacturers claim that bioflavonoids help in the absorption of vitamin C, there’s no solid scientific evidence to back it up.

FAQ

Q. Does the “more is better” philosophy apply to vitamin C? Can I get too much of it?
A.
You shouldn’t take more than the recommended 60 mg to 90 mg per day, though the absolute limit is 2,000 mg per day. While too much vitamin C isn’t lethal, it can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and other uncomfortable side effects.

Q. Are there other vitamins or nutrients I should take to aid the absorption of vitamin C?
A. The body readily absorbs vitamin C alone or with other minerals and vitamins, such as when it’s in ascorbate form or included in a multivitamin. There are claims that the vitamin C absorption rate increases when it’s taken with bioflavonoids, which are nutrients found in the rind of citrus fruits. Many supplements contain bioflavonoids for this purpose. Though bioflavonoids are of nutritional value in and of themselves, there’s a lack of solid scientific evidence to support the claim that they increase the vitamin C absorption rate.

Q. What is L-ascorbic acid?
A. L-ascorbic acid and L-ascorbate are both alternative names for ascorbic acid. The “L” is used to describe the shape of vitamin C in its natural form.

 

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