- While vitamin C is really important building block for health, most women consume enough through diet alone—so it probably doesn't belong in your multivitamin.
- Overdoing it on vitamin C can mess with the absorption of other nutrients, so it's best to stick with a food-first approach.
Let's be clear about one thing: Vitamin C is definitely a rockstar where your health is concerned. It helps our bodies build collagen, muscle tissue, and blood vessels, and it’s also a powerful antioxidant, which means that it helps protect against cell damage in the body and support immunity. All this, and research shows that vitamin C can help out with iron absorption, too.*
While this all might seem like a good case for adding this nutrient into your vitamin rotation, the truth is you probably don't have to. Most of us consume plenty of vitamin C in an ideal way already: via the food we eat. That's why adding it to a multivitamin might be unnecessary—and in some cases, downright unhelpful.
But before we dive into all that, let's take a 15-second crash course on how vitamin C moves through the body.
Fun fact: Our bodies don’t produce or store vitamin C.
That’s because it’s water-soluble. For contrast, fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin K are absorbed in our fatty tissue, where they tend to stick around for awhile. But water-soluble vitamins like B and C are more “one and done:” We consume them, absorb what we need in the moment, and pee the rest out.
This means that we need to look outward for our vitamin C needs. But the good news is that most of us can meet those needs through diet alone.
You can find your daily dose of vitamin C in a single orange.
As long as you’re eating a fair amount of fresh fruits and veggies, chances are you’re getting your fill of vitamin C—and then some. The National Institute of Health recommends that adult women aim for 75 mg a day. For reference, the food equivalent of 75 mg is one medium orange. In fact, if you ate any of the following, you’d be meeting your recommended intake of vitamin C for the day:
- 1 cup of raw broccoli (78 mg)
- ½ cup of raw bell pepper (95 mg)
- 1 grapefruit (78 mg)
- 1 8-oz glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (84 mg)
But supplementing can’t hurt, right?
While it’s pretty hard to overdo it on vitamin C through diet alone (FWIW, experts recommend keeping your daily limit under 2000 mg), the truth is that you often just don’t get the same benefits if you’re taking it as a supplement. Vitamin C works best when it’s paired with polyphenols, naturally-occurring phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables. But many vitamin C supplements (which might also mention the nutrient’s other name, ascorbic acid) are missing this crucial element—and that’s not to mention that in larger amounts, vitamin C can mess with the absorption of other nutrients like B12. Instead, we recommend taking that food-first approach so you can get vitamin C along with its vitamin helpers, and using a quality multivitamin to help fill some of the trickier nutrition gaps.*