How To Tell If Your Body Is Actually Absorbing Your Vitamin C

Experts say the best way to get all the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to stay healthy is from food over supplements. Still, many of us turn to supplements if we think we're not getting the recommended levels of daily intake of important nutrients like vitamin C.

One 2021 study in Current Developments in Nutrition shows that vitamin C deficiency affects only 6% of the population, yet another 2021 study in Nutrients suggests that 42% of American adults simply aren't getting enough of it. According to Healthline, some signs that your body needs more vitamin C are rough or bumpy skin, abnormally shaped or bright red body hairs, red spots or lines on your fingernails, dry or sun-damaged skin, unexplained weight gain, and weak immunity.

In order to make sure your body is absorbing the nutrients from your supplements, Mindbodygreen points out that some need to be taken with food (mainly, fat sources), while others are best consumed at a certain time of the day. When it comes to vitamin C, you want to make sure your body soaks up all of its goodness and leaves little to waste.

How much vitamin C you need at a time

The truth of the matter is that your body can only absorb so much vitamin C. The small intestine absorbs vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, and transports the nutrient throughout the gut, into the bloodstream, and delivers it to wherever the body needs it, Alexander Michels, clinical research coordinator at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, told Mindbodygreen.  As a water-soluble vitamin, vitamin C can't be stored in the body and used later.

The key is to take about 300 to 400 milligrams of vitamin C at a time. Anything over 400 milligrams will be excreted. Instead of taking a supplement with the maximum amount of vitamin C all at once, Michels recommends splitting doses up throughout the day. He suggests taking 2 doses of 150 to 200 milligrams or even dividing up your intake into 3 doses.

According to Harvard Health, fruits and vegetables that prove to be the best sources of vitamin C include cruciferous vegetables, white potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, and citrus fruits. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C for adults is 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for women. Pregnant and nursing moms should take between 85 and 120 milligrams. Since smoking can drain the body of vitamin C, smokers should take an additional 35 milligrams.