Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects cell membranes from the destructive effects of free radicals. This is the reason why it is commonly used to achieve younger looking skin! Cell membranes are composed mostly of fat, so it makes sense that this fat-soluble vitamin acts like a guard that protects a cell from harm.
Vitamin E is also important for eye health, specifically for the prevention of cataracts. Again, because the membranes are composed of fats, Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant soldier protecting the eyes from free radical damage from smoke and other pollutants. As with the other nutrients, getting Vitamin E from your diet is more effective than using supplements, although at times supplementation is appropriate.
If supplementation is necessary, it is important to know that Vitamin E collectively refers to eight different compounds. These compounds have similar structures but alike other nutrients found naturally in foods, they work synergistically with each other. Alpha-tocopherol is the most biologically active of the group, however, many supplement companies will fool you into thinking that this single component is Vitamin E, when in reality, it is only one piece of the puzzle! It needs its comrades to fully work it’s protective magic.
It is also important to be weary of supplementation because while diets high in Vitamin E are also associated with decreased risk of cancer (similarly to Vitamin A), there is not much evidence that supplemental Vitamin E, by itself, decreases risk of cancer [I]. Problems with supplementation have also arisen in conjunction with cardiovascular disease, so for this reason, Vitamin E supplementation is not recommended for those with cardiovascular disease.
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
15 milligrams (mg)/day (22.5 IU) for men and women age 14 and older
Upper Level Dosage (UL) is 800 mg/day (1,200 IU)
Food Sources of Vitamin E
Animal Sources: salmon, anchovies, mackerel, tuna, beef, and eggs in small amounts
3.5 ounce king salmon— 1.5 mg
2 ounce can anchovies in oil— 1.5mg
1 large hardboiled egg— 0.5 mg
Plant sources: nuts and seeds, unrefined cold pressed vegetable oils, and green leafy vegetables
1 ounce sunflower seeds— 9.3mg
1 ounce almonds— 7.3mg
1 tablespoon hazelnut oil— 6.4mg
1 tablespoon flaxseed oil— 2.4mg
1 tablespoon palm oil— 2.2mg
1 tablespoon olive oil— 1.9mg
1 cup turnip greens— 1.6mg
1 cup asparagus— 1.5 mg
1 cup spinach— 0.6 mg
1 cup mustard greens— 1.1mg
As you can see, small amounts of Vitamin E can be found in animal sources, but obtaining this nutrient can be much easier by reaching for a handful of nuts and seeds or using unrefined oils on salads.
Mixing in turnip or mustard greens to your salad and topping it off with sunflower seeds is a great way to get your body up to par on this nutrient. Adding in a homemade salad dressing with hazelnut oil will put you into Vitamin E heaven!
[I] “Vitamin E: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals”. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health, 2016. Web. May. 2016. <https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/>.