I probably spend far too much time reading about different vitamins and minerals.
After all, they’re what makes us tick — quite literally. Vitamins and minerals are required for our bodies to perform all essential functions, like our hearts beating and our muscles moving.
Vitamin C is one that’s on many peoples’ radar, because it’s purported to help with detox (it’s a powerful antioxidant) and to help fight the common cold. The typical vitamin C supplements at stores, though, use synthetic ascorbic acid — derived from fermented GMO corn. (Take a whole bunch and watch what happens — your pee will be neon yellow and it might give you diarrhea.)
That begs the all-important question: what is the best type of vitamin C, and how do you get it?
Common Forms of Vitamin C
The most common form of vitamin C is ascorbic acid. That is the proper chemical form of vitamin C — the actual stripped-down, isolated molecule. Most vitamin C supplements are in this form, and are synthetic.
There is also sodium ascorbate. This essentially sodium bonded with ascorbic acid. Vitamin C is actually used by the body by special sodium-dependent transporters, so the general theory is that pairing it with sodium increases absorption. This, too, is usually synthetic.
There is also calcium ascorbate, also known as ester-C. Some say this is better absorbed than ascorbic acid, and gentler on the stomach.
And, less commonly, there is liposomal vitamin C. This is essentially mixing a form of lecithin with vitamin C, which makes it fat-soluble and is supposed to increase absorption. (Usually it is soy lecithin bonded with ascorbic acid, synthetic. Sometimes it is sunflower lecithin.) Many people claim that this is the best therapeutic type.
The other types of vitamin C are mostly food-based. They’re ascorbic acid, too, but they come with a number of naturally-occurring other vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids. Many believe that vitamin C is better absorbed when it is taken with these naturally-occurring co-factors. But, some studies say there isn’t a difference.
Choosing a Vitamin C Supplement
It definitely is true, however, that most synthetic supplements come with all kinds of artificial flavors, colors, and fillers — and these are not beneficial to health, and may be detrimental.
One popular type of “acerola chewable C tablets” contains:
Sucrose, Sorbitol, Fructose, Ascorbic Acid, Vegetable Cellulose, Sodium Ascorbate, Natural Flavors, Vegetable Stearic Acid, Citric Acid, Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex, Carrageenan, Raspberry Puree, Silica, Buckwheat, Vegetable Magnesium Stearate, Stevia Extract, Acerola, Rutin, Rose Hips, Hesperidin Complex, Black Currant Powder, Green Pepper Powder.
Several of those ingredients are not healthy — sucrose (sugar, likely from GMO sugar beets), sorbitol (artificial sweetener), stearic acid, carrageenan, and others. There’s good, here, too; lots of plant extracts and bioflavonoids.
When choosing a health vitamin C supplement, it’s important to look for one that doesn’t contain these flavors and fillers and to find one that does contain bioflavonoids.
Most of these types of vitamin C will be based on food, including camu camu, acerola, rose hips, and other berries. (The first three that I named are the highest in vitamin C.)
Ingredients to look for:
- Camu camu
Ingredients to avoid:
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- Stearic acid
- Artificial flavors
- Artificial colors
- Vegetable Magnesium Stearate
Most supplements that claim to be clean/natural (allergen-free), are not really that natural. This is true of most products, which is why I often don’t buy things that are pre-made…including supplements. But, of course, sometimes it’s just easier.
There are a few brands that are truly free of all of the junk.
Pure Camu-Camu Powder
This is super expensive…like to the tune of $80/lb. But since you only need about 1/4 tsp. per day (which is around 200 mg, or more than 3x the RDA), it will last a long time. This pouch offers almost 70 servings for $17, which is in line with what you’d pay for other supplements. (That’s $0.24/dose.)
Pure Acerola Berry Powder
This is also quite expensive. This is the cheapest I’ve found it, pure freeze-dried acerola berry powder, 1 lb. for about $32 (I’ve seen it over $60/lb.). A 1.5 tsp. dose contains around 200 mg, and there are 280 servings for $32. (That’s $0.11/dose.)
Pure Radiance C
This is by The Synergy Company, and it’s a combination of different fruits and vegetables. 1/4 tsp. contains 120 mg. The 8-oz. bottle has 180 servings, for $25. (That’s about $0.14/dose.) The advantage of this is it’s a blend of fruits, meaning there is a greater variety of synergistic nutrients. It’s also available as 90 tablets for $20. (That’s $0.22/dose.) Buy it here.
Nutrigold Vitamin C Gold
This is another blend of fruits and vegetables, found in a capsule. The only “extra” ingredient is rice powder, meaning it’s not okay for those who are grain-free. The bottle contains 90 capsules (serving size is 1 capsule, at 240 mg) for $29. (That’s $0.32/dose.) Buy it here.
Dr. Mercola Liposomal Vitamin C
This form of vitamin C isn’t based on plants, but since some say liposomal is better, I’m including it. It uses sunflower lecithin and mostly natural ingredients. 1 capsule contains 500 mg, and there are 180 in the bottle, for $40. (That’s $0.22/dose.) Buy it here.
These are going to be your best options. Don’t be fooled by much cheaper alternatives that say they are “acerola berry powder.” The majority of them — all the ones I checked — are part acerola berry, and mostly maltodextrin, derived from corn. It’s a cheap filler, and that accounts for the price difference.
Earthley’s Immune-Aid Vitamin C Powder
This supplement is a combination of camu camu and acerola berry powders, which are the two highest vitamin C sources available. It also includes orange peel, another good vitamin C source, and natural stevia (for taste).
A single teaspoon contains approximately 375 mg of vitamin C. A 4 oz. bottle costs just $19.99.
This powder has no additives, fillers, colors, or flavors. It’s pure, 100% food. Buy it here.
Vitamin C Dosing
Once you’ve chosen your vitamin C supplement, how much should you be taking?
This study says that doses greater than 200 mg at a time are not absorbed, so it’s much better to take smaller doses throughout the day.
One study suggests that the optimum daily dose is between 250 mg and 4000 mg a day. (The RDA, as they clearly note, is the minimum amount required to prevent scurvy, but not the actual necessary amount for optimal health. That is true of all nutrients and their RDAs.) This much more recent study suggests that 200 mg per day is optimum.
Another study suggests that higher-dose vitamin C (1250 mg) for a relatively short term (8 weeks, in this study) was beneficial, especially to those with more physical stress, like smoking.
Most agree that anywhere from 200 – 1000 mg a day is optimal, depending on your needs. Children should start on the lower end (or even possibly lower than that; around 100 mg/day), and adults can take extra, especially those with chronic illness.
Be aware that although the body excretes the vitamin C it doesn’t need (common when you take large doses at once), long-term high amounts can cause imbalances in nutrients. Vitamin C antagonizes (that is, prevents the absorption of) copper, calcium, manganese.
Those with type II diabetes, estrogen-dominance issues, anemia, may especially benefit from higher doses of vitamin C. (Those with kidney disease, liver conditions, low estrogen, pink eye should choose lower doses.)
I would personally start with children at 100 mg/day, and adults between 250 and 500 mg/day (spread over 2 – 3 doses). And, I would most likely choose The Synergy Company Pure Radiance C. I haven’t tried it yet, but I have friends who have and they like it.