The Best Vitamin C Supplement

When it comes to the best vitamin C supplement, there's no one-size-fits-all. The nutrient can be derived from a variety of sources. So we set out to find the best pick for each source: synthetic ascorbic acid, natural ascorbic acid, and mineral ascorbates. After talking to multiple doctors and nutritionists, analyzing the results of multiple third-party lab tests, and reading hundreds of ingredients labels, we found our winners.

The 4 best vitamin C supplements

Best Powder
Bulk Supplements Vitamin C Crystallized Powder
Bulk Supplements
Pure, powdered vitamin C for less.
Pros
Pure ascorbic acid
Dosage control
Great value
Cons
Synthetic base

Why we chose it

Pure ascorbic acid

“Bulk Supplements” is such a vague name that it might sound like something you’d buy out of an unmarked van, but we promise this supplement is more than trustworthy. Because it’s a powder, it has none of the filler ingredients found in tablets: It contains nothing but ascorbic acid. It’s also the highest-ranking vitamin C supplement at Labdoor, scoring 100 percent in label accuracy, nutritional value, and ingredient safety. And it’s produced according to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards — an indication of consistent quality.

Dosage control

Since this supplement is a powder, you can choose your dose. The package recommends 1,000 mg daily, but the measurement guidelines on the label made it easy for us to adjust how much we took. It doesn’t taste terrible, either — compared to Nature’s Way Alive Vitamin C (our top natural ascorbic acid pick), Bulk Supplements was by far the more palatable option. Our testers found it reminiscent of lemon water, with a bit of a sour punch at the end.

Great value

Bulk Supplements is one of the cheapest vitamin C options on the market, at roughly $0.02 per dose. Assuming you follow the package’s recommended serving size of 1,000 mg, each bag contains roughly 1,000 servings.

Points to consider

Synthetic base

This is a synthetic ascorbic acid supplement, which might be a turnoff for some people. In this case, “synthetic” just means that the ascorbic acid is derived from fermented sorbitol — a sugar alcohol that often comes from corn syrup or fruit. If you’re looking for a more natural product, we’d suggest Nature’s Way Alive Vitamin C or Source Naturals Vitamin C.

Best Tablet
Doctor's Best Vitamin C 1000 mg
Doctor's Best
The most convenient way to take Vitamin C.
Pros
Convenient tablet form
Cons
No dosage control

Why we chose it

Tablet form

If you don’t want to mess with powders every day and just want a tablet you can swallow with the rest of your vitamins, we really liked Doctor’s Best Vitamin C. And with just two ingredients, it's the purest tablet on our contender’s list. It contains only ascorbic acid, with modified cellulose to make the vegetarian capsule. Each tablet has 1,000 mg of vitamin C and, if taking one a day, works out at $0.12 per serving.

Points to consider

No dosage control

The only reason Doctor’s Best isn’t our top choice is because a tablet doesn’t allow the flexibility of choosing your own dose. Everyone’s body is different and the amount of vitamin C you need can vary. While overdosing on vitamin C is unlikely, we prefered supplement forms that allowed us to control our exact intake.

Best for Sensitive Stomachs
Source Naturals Vitamin C
Source Naturals
The best option for sensitive stomachs.
Pros
Less-acidic ingredients
High quality
Cons
High sodium

Why we chose it

Less-acidic ingredients

If your vitamin C supplement doesn’t come from ascorbic acid, it’s probably derived from mineral ascorbates. These are the salts of ascorbic acid and can include sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, and potassium ascorbate. Some people prefer these options because they’re less acidic and may be easier on the digestive tract. If this is important to you, we recommend Source Naturals Vitamin C.

High quality

Source Naturals Vitamin C is a crystallized powder that’s approved by Labdoor with an overall quality rating of 90.9 out of 100. The only reason this score isn’t higher is because the supplement contains 2,060 mg of vitamin C in each serving. That means one serving would put you over the Mayo Clinic's recommended 2,000 mg daily maximum. But since it’s in powdered form, you just need to be proactive about adjusting your dose. That near-perfect rating is still much higher than many products on the market.

Points to consider

High sodium

When you take a mineral ascorbate, you are absorbing the ascorbic acid as well as the mineral that it came from. Since this product uses sodium ascorbate, anyone watching their sodium intake should note that there’s approximately 100 mg of sodium in every 1,000 mg of sodium ascorbate.

Best Natural Pick
Nature's Way Alive Vitamin C
Nature's Way
Naturally sourced, pure vitamin C.
Pros
Natural ingredients
Cons
High price

Why we chose it

Natural ingredients

If you’re looking for a naturally derived ascorbic acid supplement, Nature’s Way Alive Vitamin C is a good option. This powder gets its vitamin C from fruits such as acerola, kiwi, goji, and amla. It has a 90.8 rating from Labdoor and is USDA-certified organic. According to Nature’s Way, the product is also vegetarian and gluten-free. Labdoor did find this product exceeds allowable arsenic levels by 0.001 mcg per serving, but still rated it a 96/100 on Ingredient Safety (making it more than safe to consume).

Points to consider

High price

The serving size is 500 mg, and each serving comes out to $0.60, making Nature’s Way one of the more expensive vitamin C supplements. If you’re looking for a cheap, great-tasting product, we recommend you look at our other top picks.

Guide to vitamin C

How to find and use your vitamin C supplement

Don't pay extra for rose hips, bioflavonoids, and timed-release capsules

If you’ve spent time wandering the vitamin aisle, you might have noticed vitamin C supplements marketed with “extras” like rose hips, bioflavonoids, or timed-release formulas. These options supposedly increase vitamin C’s bioavailability (the amount absorbed by your body). And while none of them are harmful, they’re probably not worth paying extra for.

Rose hips are used in many supplements because, when fresh, they’re a great natural source of vitamin C. But drying and processing rose hips causes them to lose much of that potency, and there’s even some evidence that quercetin, a flavonoid found in rose hips, can inhibit vitamin C absorption when taken in high enough doses.

Bioflavonoids are a powerful antioxidant found in foods rich in vitamin C, and they’re sometimes marketed as a way to help your body absorb more of the vitamin. However, the Linus Pauling Institute says there is no conclusive evidence that bioflavonoids increase absorption.

Timed-release capsules slowly release vitamin C over a period of time, again with the hope of maximizing absorption. But the Linus Pauling institute has likewise found no evidence that timed-release formulas are more effective than traditional supplements.

Take vitamin C before you catch a cold

The myth that vitamin C cures the common cold is unfortunately just that — a myth. Many of the sources we found agree that there is no benefit to taking extra vitamin C once you’ve already been hit with the sniffles. But taking vitamin C regularly when you’re healthy can help reduce the duration of your cold by a day or two when you do fall ill, which we think is worth the investment.

Consider your dosage

We only need about 100 mg a day — so why do vitamin C supplements come in such high doses? Turns out, there are health benefits associated with taking more, including the treatment or prevention of several diseases:

Illness
Vitamin C Dosage (mg)
Helps
Common cold
200
prevent
Cataracts
300
prevent
Coronary heart disease
400
prevent
Age-related macular degeneration
500
prevent
Gout
500
prevent
Cardiovascular disease
500
treat
Exercise-induced asthma
500
treat
Lead toxicity
1,000
treat

Sources: The Linus Pauling Institute, Mayo Clinic, and NIH

In a nutshell, 500 mg seems to be the golden number, but you’ll probably benefit from anything between 250 mg and 1,000 mg.

Although vitamin C in moderate doses helps prevent cataracts, Consumer Lab also cites a study that suggests taking 1,000 mg or more daily actually increases your risk of developing cataracts. And every source we scoured, from NIH, to Consumer Lab, to the Linus Pauling Institute and the Mayo Clinic recommended not exceeding 2,000 mg of vitamin C daily.

So what happens if you take a higher dose? Because vitamin C is water-soluble, anything the body doesn’t use is flushed out as waste. This means the consequences of overdosing aren’t severe, but the best advice is to pay attention to your vitamin C intake and consult with your doctor about the dosage that works best for you.

We’d also suggest keeping Levitan’s advice in mind: “A lot of people are already getting some vitamin C in their diet,” she says, “so when you look at not exceeding 2,000 mg, you should look at your total intake and not just what you’re getting in the supplement.”

Vitamin C FAQs

Can you be vitamin C deficient?

Yes. The disease “scurvy” is the result of a severe vitamin C deficiency, with symptoms that include swollen and bleeding gums, teeth that loosen or fall out, severe joint pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

While scurvy used to be common on long sea voyages because people had little access to fruits and vegetables, it’s rare in developed countries nowadays. However, minor deficiencies do happen, and the symptoms are similar, just much less severe. A vitamin C deficiency isn’t something a blood test can determine, so it’s important to pay attention to signals from your body.

Vitamin C helps make collagen, which in turn helps your body produce strong connective tissues and heal wounds. You might have a minor vitamin C deficiency if you have bleeding gums, feelings of lethargy, cracked nails, brittle hair, skin that's easily bruised, or experience muscle or joint pain.

Which is better: natural ascorbic acid, synthetic ascorbic acid, or mineral ascorbates?

Natural ascorbic acid (derived from plants) and synthetic ascorbic acid (produced in a lab) are chemically identical. But some vitamin C supplements rely on mineral ascorbates rather than ascorbic acid. These products are often marketed as being easier on the stomach, but it’s unclear how true this is.


Dr. Russell Jaffe, creator of the PERQUE™ Potent C Guard™ effervescent powder and tabsules, say they prefer supplements sourced from mineral ascorbates because they’re easier for the body to absorb and they work more effectively than ascorbic acid. Plus, mineral ascorbates make it harder to exceed that 2,000 mg upper limit — the whole foods that they’re derived from typically have a lower vitamin C content. That said, the Linus Pauling Institute has found little scientific evidence that mineral ascorbates are easier on the digestive tract. There’s simply not much research on the subject.

No one seems to suggest that mineral ascorbates are actively worse, however, so if you’re concerned about acidity, you might want to give this source of vitamin C a shot.

The best vitamin C supplements: Summed up

Bulk Supplements Vitamin C Crystallized Powder
Doctor's Best Vitamin C
Source Naturals Vitamin C
Nature's Way Alive! Vitamin C
The Best
Powder
Tablet
For Sensitive Stomachs
Natural Pick
Price per serving
$0.02
$0.16
$0.10
$0.60
Type
Powder
Tablet
Crystals
Powder
Dosage
1,000 mg
1,000 mg
2,060 mg
500 mg
Labdoor Rating
97.8/100
95.8/100
90.0/100
90.8/100
Vitamin C source
Ascorbic Acid
Ascorbic Acid
Ascorbate
Organic Fruits