Vitamin C: Natural vs. Synthetic, Which is Best and Why

Your immune system works tirelessly every day to help ward off viral invaders, bacteria, infection, colds, flu, toxins, and all sorts of other nasty, invisible dangers that could harm your body and make you sick. And while it’s always a good idea to support this hardworking system in whatever way you can, with a worldwide pandemic at the forefront of the news and daily life, there is no time like the present to give your immune system a little extra love. The best way to do this is by upping your vitamin C intake. But what exactly does vitamin C do for your immune system and is natural or synthetic better? Read on to find out more about this essential vitamin. 

How can vitamin C help your immune system?

Along with a healthy lifestyle full of regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a good diet, certain vitamins and supplements have been shown to possess qualities that can aid your immune system. Zinc, vitamin D, and elderberry are a few well-known immune-boosting substances, but vitamin C is by far the most popular. 

This vitamin works on a cellular level to support immune cells and as an antioxidant to eliminate free radicals that can cause oxidative stress, which has been linked to a hampered immune system. Numerous studies have shown that an increase in vitamin C can not only help prevent colds and the flu and other upper respiratory diseases, but it can also help lessen the duration and severity of your illness as well. 

Unfortunately, your body doesn’t produce vitamin C by itself, so it is crucial to monitor your intake and be sure that you are getting enough to encourage healthy immune function. So what is the best way to get more vitamin C? 

Natural vs. Synthetic

Synthetic vitamin C

While supplements can be helpful to achieve the daily recommended value of vitamins and minerals that are difficult to add into your diet, synthetic vitamin C doesn’t fall into that category.

Many synthetic vitamin C options are loaded with unhealthy filler ingredients such as sugar and chemicals. Plus, nonorganic vitamin C supplements are usually made with fake vitamin C that is originally derived from GMO corn and processed with chemicals like acetone. Remember, not all vitamin C supplements are made with synthetic vitamin C, but you’ll want to stay far away from the ones that are. Plus, it is always a good idea to rely primarily on dietary sources to get your daily dose of this immune-boosting powerhouse. 

Natural Vitamin C

Natural vitamin C simply refers to vitamin C that comes from natural sources either in the form of whole food or a whole food supplement and is not synthesized in a lab. Many supplements are made with pure, food-derived vitamin C, and they can be a viable option to support your daily intake. We always believe that natural is the best option. If you can get enough of this vitamin by adding a few nutritious fruits and vegetables to your diet, (which you can) then go for it!

The bottom line

Stay away from synthetic vitamin C. If you are struggling to get enough of this vitamin through your diet, consider an organic whole-food supplement made from real, vitamin C sources without fillers or added ingredients. Otherwise, continue to eat real fruits and vegetables to give your immune system the support it needs. 

Keep in mind, the daily recommended value of vitamin C is just 90 mg, which you can reach by adding a single serving of any of the fruits or veggies below to your diet. 

Best natural sources of vitamin C

When you hear the term “natural” or “organic” vitamin C, you probably think of a fruit that is almost synonymous with this important vitamin…oranges. The truth is, while oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, there are many other fruits and veggies that are even better. If you are looking to add natural vitamin C to your diet but don’t love oranges, or simply want a change, these foods will help you meet your daily quota of this immune-boosting vitamin.

Red bell peppers

Red bell peppers have as much or more vitamin C than oranges, with a single red pepper containing about 152 mg of vitamin C compared to the 70 mg in an orange. Fresh, raw peppers make an excellent midday snack, or you can throw them into a stir fry with a medley of other health-promoting veggies. 


As if you needed another reason to eat kale. This cool-season leafy green is an all-star superfood, boasting numerous vitamins and minerals that keep your body and mind healthy. Plus, just 1.5 cups of kale has about 120 mg of vitamin C, which means that it can boost your immune system while encouraging digestion and promoting a healthy cardiovascular system. Whip up a batch of kale chips in the oven to replace your potato chip craving, add kale to your morning green smoothie, or eat it raw in a yummy kale salad with your favorite toppings. 


If you want a naturally sweet treat to help you reach your daily vitamin c goal, strawberries are the pick for you. With 108 mg of vitamin C in just ten berries, supporting your immune system has never been this easy. Not only are strawberries high in vitamin C, but they are also loaded with antioxidants which help eradicate free radicals from the body and reduce your risk of cancer, dementia, and diabetes. Enjoy this summer fruit in smoothies, plain, on top of greek yogurt, or with a little cream for a mouthwatering, natural dessert.

Remember, though other fruits and veggies are full of vitamin C as well, oranges are always a great option, so enjoy them along with other fresh foods to help round out your diet and boost your immune system’s disease-fighting capabilities. 

Note: There is no confirmed evidence to support the idea that taking vitamin C supplements, or intravenous vitamin C injections can help prevent, treat, or remedy COVID-19. While it may prove helpful in some cases, it is not considered a widespread treatment due to a lack of clinical testing. It is essential to practice proper social distancing, self-isolation, and observe appropriate handwashing and hygiene practices to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

-The UpWellness Team