Vitamin C is an essential nutrient, which means your body can't make any on its own, so you have to consume it regularly (i.e., daily). Many foods are rich in vitamin C, so in theory, getting enough shouldn't be an issue. Yet, 42% of the U.S. adult population1 is living with vitamin C insufficiency, almost half are failing to get enough vitamin C from their food each day, and even with supplementation, 33% of American adults2 are still falling short of their needs.
This is a good indication that you may need to take more vitamin C—additionally, it's concrete evidence that your supplement of choice might need an upgrade (with particular attention to dose).
If you're wondering how much daily vitamin C you need to live your best life, you've come to the right place.
What is the recommended intake for vitamin C?
According to the National Academies3, the recommended intake for vitamin C is currently set at 75 milligrams per day for adult women and 90 milligrams daily for adult men. That said, research shows that higher intakes (i.e., 200 milligrams or more each day) may provide better overall health outcomes—especially in regards to immune function and response4.*
When looking at the research, at least 200 milligrams per day seems to be the amount to keep your plasma (i.e., blood levels) saturated with vitamin C5, optimize the amount of C in your cells and tissues, because low vitamin C levels—suboptimal statuses like insufficiency and deficiency—can have negative health implications.*
That said, vitamin C levels naturally become depleted due to the metabolic demand of immune and inflammatory responses, so taking doses higher than 200 milligrams may be even more effective at supporting vitamin C's multidimensional roles across all the organs and systems of the body.*
Indeed, a study pooling multiple cohorts6 published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that individuals with the highest daily vitamin C—a median intake of 756 milligrams—had a 24% lower likelihood of having heart-related complaints6 than people taking the lowest amount, which was a median intake of 81 milligrams per day.* In other words, higher levels of vitamin C net cardioprotective benefits.*
What are the benefits of vitamin C?
And as mbg's VP of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, explains, "Vitamin C is 100% essential for immune function, but don't underestimate this micronutrient. For example, its positive cardiovascular impact is incredibly compelling."* Ferira goes on to say that vitamin C's heart support is "partially because of this micronutrient's pivotal role in whole-body antioxidant balance but also due to its requirement for collagen synthesis. Yes, even your blood vessels and heart need the collagen protein for their structure and optimal function."*
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Here's a quick breakdown (and not an exhaustive list, mind you!) of what vitamin C does for you:*
- Supports the immune system5 by aiding in the production and circulation of leukocytes, B-cells, T-cells, and antibodies
- Helps your body produce collagen8—a structural protein that supports supple skin and is vital to healthy joints, bones, blood vessels, the gut, and more
- Helps protect your eyes9 from oxidative stress and aids in the regeneration of vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that's important for the preservation of eye health
- Plays a role in synthesizing the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine10, which play a part in controlling brain function11 and regulating mood
- Aids in iron absorption and helps the body synthesize carnitine, both of which are major players in your energy levels12
- Promotes healthy blood vessels13 and blood pressure levels
- Helps maintain critical nervous system functions: "It supports the myelin sheath14 that protects [neurons], allowing for quicker impulse transmissions and quicker signals,"* explains dietitian Amy Shapiro, M.S., R.D., CDN
What's the best form of vitamin C to take?
Vitamin C supplements are available in many forms, the most common being ascorbic acid (the form of vitamin C found in food), followed by mineral ascorbates like sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, potassium ascorbate, and magnesium ascorbate. And although less common, "you'll also find unique vitamin C complexes with lipid or other bioactive components (e.g., citrus bioflavonoids) to elevate the absorption profile, as well as food-derived vitamin C sources in supplements (e.g., acerola fruit)," shares Ferira.
Depending on the dose, the bioavailability (aka absorption rate) of vitamin C supplements can differ, which means some forms are able to enter your gut and circulation more easily, then get to work, traveling to cells around the body to scavenge free radicals (and all the other essential functions we mentioned earlier.)*
"Free radicals can cause wear and tear to all parts of the body, including the brain and mind," says dietitian Joanna Foley, R.D., CLT. But the right type of vitamin C can combat oxidative compounds head-on.*
While ascorbic acid and mineral ascorbates certainly have their merits and definite efficacy in lower doses (e.g., in a multivitamin or multi-ingredient complex), research shows that at more potent doses (e.g., 1,000 milligrams), a scientifically advanced vitamin C complex that includes lipid and citrus bioflavonoid components—specifically, a vitamin C compound called PureWay-C™—has superior absorption and free-radical-scavenging abilities15 and can raise vitamin C blood levels and support anti-inflammatory actions16 more efficiently than other forms of vitamin C like ascorbic acid, calcium ascorbate, and calcium ascorbate-calcium threonate-dehydroascorbate (Ester-C).*†
PureWay-C™ is water-soluble, like all vitamin C, but combines with fatty acids derived from rice bran and citrus bioflavonoids from bitter orange to improve vitamin C's absorption, retention, and actions in the body.*
The fatty acids help chauffeur the vitamin C, elevating its bioavailability and cellular kinetics (i.e., absorption and retention).* Meanwhile, the citrus bioflavonoids stabilize the vitamin C, helping shield it from oxidative stress.*
The bottom line? At higher doses of C, your body preferentially absorbs and utilizes this novel trio of vitamin C, lipids, and bioflavonoids to get your vitamin C status up and available for its many roles in the body.*†
Can you take 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily?
The short answer is yes, you can absolutely take 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily (of course, if you have specific concerns, then you'll want to get the "all clear" from your health care provider). And, based on reported benefits from this higher dosage, it's probably a good idea to consider a higher potency source of C in your targeted nutrition regimen.
Not only does vitamin C have a high safety profile, but higher doses may also yield incrementally beneficial health benefits. For example, in a study published in Free Radical Biology & Medicine17, researchers wanted to see if vitamin C could reduce C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of the inflammatory response. High levels of CRP can indicate there may be some underlying health concerns increasing inflammatory actions that you may be unaware of.
For this study, a group of healthy nonsmokers was divided into groups. One group received 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C per day and the other received a placebo. After two months, participants in the vitamin C group experienced a 16.7 to 25.3% decrease in CRP levels compared to their baseline at the start of the study.*
Fascinatingly, the unique vitamin C/lipid/citrus bioflavonoid trio discussed earlier (PureWay-C™) has also been shown to reduce CRP levels at 1,000 milligrams (i.e., 1 gram) and better than other forms of vitamin C.*†
Of course, it's always best to discuss dosage recommendations with your personal health care provider, as they know your medical history and will be able to identify any contraindications.
For example, because vitamin C aids in iron absorption, people with very specific pre-existing health concerns that affect iron absorption may be at risk for iron overload if they take too much vitamin C.
That being said, a 1,000-milligram daily dose of vitamin C falls well within the safe range for most people. The optimal intake appears to be at least 200 milligrams per day and the upper limit (i.e., the clinically studied dosage that the majority of people can safely take), is 2,000 milligrams daily18.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so there's a very minor risk of toxicity or serious health concerns, although some people report mild digestive complaints when taking too much vitamin C in forms that aren't optimized and designed for high potencies.
While this is great news as far as safety and risk for toxicity are concerned, it adds another layer of importance as to why you need to make sure you're getting enough vitamin C on a daily basis. Since vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, and therefore not stored in the body, you have to replenish your cells and tissues regularly. Sometimes that means taking a higher dose to reap the full array of this nutrient's benefits.*
Best food sources of vitamin C
While high-quality supplements are an excellent way to optimize your vitamin C levels, you can set the foundation by also including vitamin-C-rich foods in your daily diet.*
And as Ferira expounds, "Nobody is suggesting vitamin C is only found in foods or supplements—you can utilize both. There's synergy there. And after all, those foods aren't only vitamin C sources but a complex array of macro-, micro-, and phytonutrients, so eat up!"
The best food sources of vitamin C include:
- Red bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Acerola cherries
- Sweet yellow peppers
- Lemons and lemon juice
- Limes and lime juice
While there's not a one-size-fits-all answer to "how much vitamin C should I take?" most adults do well with daily dosages between 200 and 2,000 milligrams.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.
Lindsay Boyers is a holistic nutritionist specializing in gut health, mood disorders, and functional nutrition. Lindsay earned a degree in food & nutrition from Framingham State University, and she holds a Certificate in Holistic Nutrition Consulting from the American College of Healthcare Sciences.
She has written twelve books and has had more than 2,000 articles published across various websites. Lindsay currently works full time as a freelance health writer. She truly believes that you can transform your life through food, proper mindset and shared experiences. That's why it's her goal to educate others, while also being open and vulnerable to create real connections with her clients and readers.