Vitamin C is one of the most common dietary supplements taken by Americans, and there’s undoubtedly benefits to making sure you’re getting enough of this important nutrient.
Vitamin C is necessary for the growth, development, and repair of body tissues, and it also aids in collagen production, iron production, and wound healing. However, “the more famous role for vitamin C is that it helps to support your immune system,” Navya Mysore, MD, a primary care physician at One Medical in New York City, told POPSUGAR. “Vitamin C is an antioxidant and is important to our overall health as it reduces damage to cells from free radicals in the body, but also lives in our immune cells to help us fight off viruses and bacteria.”
Because our bodies don’t produce vitamin C naturally, we need to get it through foods that contain vitamin C, or through a supplement, or through a combination of the two. Both Dr. Mysore and Hisana Qamar, MD, a family physician at Queensridge Family Medicine in Las Vegas, agreed that you should try to get your daily dose of vitamin C through food. “Adults should aim for 60 to 90 mg of vitamin C per day, and try not to exceed 2,000 mg per day,” Dr. Qamar told POPSUGAR. Foods that are rich in vitamin C include red and green peppers, citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, strawberries, kiwifruit, broccoli, spinach, and other leafy green vegetables.
Dr. Mysore added that these foods offer health benefits beyond vitamin C, which is why she encourages her patients to prioritize food over supplements. “That being said, if you’re traveling or have a really busy period in your life where it’s harder to monitor your food intake of vitamin C, a supplement is a good go-to,” Dr. Mysore said. Just be sure to talk to your doctor first.
What’s the Best Way to Take Vitamin C?
Your doctor can help ensure you’re taking the right amount of vitamin C. Dr. Mysore explained that you really can get too much of a good thing. “If you’re taking a supplement, you do not need more than 1,000 mg a day, and if you’re taking one with more, the extra vitamin C is excreted,” she said.
As for timing, vitamin C can be taken at any time during the day. In fact, Dr. Mysore recommends taking the supplement in several small quantities throughout the day, while Dr. Qamar suggests avoiding an evening dose. “I usually advise my patients to take vitamins in the day, and not before bedtime so they don’t sit in the stomach during sleep,” Dr. Qamar said. “Vitamin C is acidic, and avoiding bedtime consumption may prevent unnecessary heartburn.”
Both doctors agreed that vitamin C can be taken either with or without food, as long as it doesn’t irritate your stomach. Because it’s a water-soluble vitamin, Dr. Qamar recommends taking it on an empty stomach either first thing in the morning or between meals. However, if you have acid reflux or indigestion, she said it’s easier on your stomach to take the supplement with a meal.
Last but not least, Dr. Mysore noted that vitamin C supplements are light sensitive, so be sure to store them in a cool, dark place.