Food & Nutrition
The Benefits of Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which may help protect your cells from damage. This essential nutrient occurs naturally in many foods, is available as a dietary supplement, and sometimes is added to processed foods. Vitamin E is fat-soluble, which means your body stores and uses it as needed.
Collectively, the term vitamin E describes eight different compounds, but alpha-tocopherol is the most active in humans.
Click through the slideshow to learn more benefits of taking vitamin E.
Longer Cell Life
You’ve probably seen rust on your bike or car. A similar process of oxidation and accelerated aging takes place in your body when cells are exposed to molecules called free radicals. Free radicals weaken and break down healthy cells and may contribute to heart disease and cancer.
These molecules form as a result of normal body processes and cause damage that shortens the life of your cells. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that may help reduce free radical damage, slowing the aging process of your cells.
More Research Needed
Research has investigated the use of vitamin E as treatment for a variety of degenerative diseases, including hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer.
However, according to the Mayo Clinic, those studies have failed to find a reduction in the incidence of those conditions. Aside from treating vitamin E deficiency (a rare condition), there is a lack of proven medical uses for vitamin E.
Vitamin E may help people with higher environmental or lifestyle risk factors. Cigarette smoking, exposure to air pollution, and high exposure to ultraviolet rays from sunlight increase free radicals. Vitamin E may help repair damaged cells.
Don’t worry about getting too much vitamin E. It’s difficult to over-consume vitamin E in your regular diet. According to the NIH, when you obtain your vitamin E from food sources, it’s neither risky nor harmful.
Supplements: Don’t Go Overboard
While overdosing on food-based vitamin E is unlikely, the NIH reports that taking high doses of this vitamin in supplement form can cause serious side effects. One serious side effect is an increased risk for bleeding, particularly in the brain.
According to the Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, if you’re using synthetic supplements, dosages should not exceed 1,000 international units (IUs) per day. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for ages 14 and up is 15 mg.
Check the Label
Two types of vitamin E are sold as supplements: the natural form (d-alpha-tocopherol) and the synthetic form (dl-alpha-tocopherol). The natural form is slightly more biologically active, so the recommended daily allowance is lower (22.4 IU’s versus 33.3 IU’s of the synthetic form).
Check the label to determine which form of vitamin E you have and to ensure you’re getting the appropriate dosage.
Ways to Get Your E
The following foods are good sources of vitamin E:
- Dry roasted sunflower seeds, 1 ounce (7.4 mg)
- Dry roasted hazelnuts, 1 ounce (4.3 mg)
- Dry roasted peanuts, 1 ounce (2.2 mg)
- Dry roasted almonds, 1 ounce (6.8 mg)
- Spinach, boiled, ½ cup (1.9 mg)
- Broccoli, chopped and boiled, ½ cup (1.2 mg)
- Kiwifruit, 1 medium-sized (1.1 mg)
- Mango, sliced, ½ cup (0.7 mg)
- Tomato, raw, 1 medium-sized (0.7 mg)
If you’re looking for an easy way to get enough vitamin E in your diet, add a tablespoon of wheat germ oil to a recipe, or snack on sunflower seeds. This will provide over 20 mg of vitamin E—more than a full day’s requirement. Make a kale or spinach salad and toss in some hazelnuts to get a crunchy boost of vitamin E. Getting creative will help you reap the many benefits of vitamin E in your diet.
- Dietary supplement fact sheet: vitamin E. (2011, October 11.) Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved May 16, 2013, from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
- Vitamin E. (2011, February 8.) Medline Plus. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved May 16, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002406.htm
- Vitamin E. (2012, September 1.) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 16, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-e/NS_patient-vitamine
- Dietary reference intakes for vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids. (2000.) Institute of Medicine. Retrieved May 16, 2013, from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=9810&page=186