When it comes to vitamins, you may know your ABC’s (and even D), but do you know about vitamin E?
You might be familiar with the practice of applying vitamin E topically to the skin to soothe blemishes and help prevent stretch marks during pregnancy… but there’s much more to this vitamin than that. In fact, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps maintain the health of your heart, immune system, brain, eyes, and yes – your skin.
Not Just One Vitamin – But Eight!
Here’s the first thing to know: Vitamin E isn’t just one molecule. It actually comes in eight different forms. Four of these forms are known as “tocopherols” and the other four are known as “tocotrienols.”
If this sounds confusing, don’t worry… you don’t have to keep track of all of them. But there is one form that it’s extremely helpful to know about, and that’s “a-tocopherol.” This is the primary form of vitamin E found in your body.1
A-tocopherol is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that your body stores it in your fat tissue.2 Since fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body, they don’t necessarily need to be replenished every day. This differs from water-soluble vitamins like C and B-complex, which must be replenished every day.3
So, what’s so great about vitamin E? Here are a few of its standout benefits for the body:
1. Provides Antioxidant Defense
One of the biggest benefits of vitamin E is its antioxidant status. Antioxidants have the unique capability of being able to protect your body from the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that are formed when your body converts food to energy. They can also be generated when you’re exposed to environmental pollutants, like cigarette smoke, heavy metals, and UV rays.
Free radicals contain unpaired electrons. Now, think back to chemistry class – electrons are meant to be paired. And when they’re not? They’ll react with oxygen to create a condition called “oxidative stress.”
And oxidative stress can contribute to the risk of chronic illness and premature aging.4
This is where antioxidants like vitamin E come in. Antioxidants have the amazing capability of being able to fight off, or neutralize, the effects of free radicals. This may help slow or prevent the onset of illness or premature aging.5
2. Protects Your Skin
One of vitamin E’s most impressive benefits is its capacity to help protect your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays.6 This can help prevent sunburns and the development of certain health conditions, as well as slowing the signs of aging on the skin.
Vitamin E can also help soothe your skin, relieving symptoms such as redness, itching, and irritation.7
Of course, nothing is a substitute for daily sunscreen use and other sun protection measures, but vitamin E may just be a great supplement to your skincare routine.
3. May Help Maintain Good Vision
Crystal clear vision is hard to come by, especially with age, but vitamin E may be of some help. The jury is still out on just how big a role vitamin E plays in eye health, but there is some promising research being done.
One study has demonstrated that vitamin E supplementation is associated with a lower risk of cataracts. Other studies have found that high levels of vitamin E are linked with clearer vision and a slowing of age-related vision problems.8
4. Boosts Cardiovascular Health
Antioxidants are thought to be powerful tools in the fight against cardiovascular disease. And vitamin E may be helpful in a very particular way. It seems that individuals with blood sugar issues can especially reap heart health benefits from high intake of dietary vitamin E.9
5. Promotes Brain Health
Oxidative stress tends to increase with age, and unfortunately, it’s strongly associated with cognitive decline and memory impairment. For that reason, it’s incredibly important to be sure your body — and brain — are getting plenty of antioxidants. And research suggests vitamin E may be especially helpful when it comes to boosting brain health.
For example, a study followed a group of nearly 3,000 individuals, ages 65-102, over a period of three years. The study found that individuals who consumed high levels of vitamin E were less likely to experience cognitive issues than those who consumed low levels of vitamin E.10
6. Boosts The Immune System
Vitamin C gets a lot of credit for its role in boosting the immune system, and rightly so. But vitamin E deserves some attention, too.
It seems that vitamin E stimulates the body’s defense system and plays an important role in keeping the body from sickness. Vitamin E seems to be particularly beneficial in boosting the immune response of older people.11
Vitamin E Deficiency
Serious vitamin E deficiency is relatively rare in developed countries. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen… it just isn’t that common. Inadequate levels of vitamin E may result in certain types of blood-related conditions or neurological deficits.12 If you’re concerned about a vitamin E deficiency, be sure to check in with your doctor.
Now, there is a caveat:
While a true vitamin E deficiency is uncommon, many people still don’t get adequate levels of vitamin E in their diets.
In fact, about 60 percent of people are not getting enough vitamin E.13 This is concerning. Since vitamin E does so much to help protect your body from oxidative stress, there’s a good chance that suboptimal levels can lead to an increase of health issues and premature aging.
So, just how much vitamin E should you be getting each day? Experts recommend about 15 mg a day for adults.14
Sources of Vitamin E
Want to make sure your body is getting enough vitamin E? A great way to start is with increasing the number of vitamin E-rich foods you eat. And knowing which foods contain the most vitamin E can help give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Now, you might be tempted to buy “fortified” breakfast cereals, which often contain high amounts of added-in a-tocopherols. This might seem like a no-brainer way to get more vitamin E foods, but keep in mind – cereal is a no-no on the Plant Paradox diet. And there are plenty of other food sources of vitamin E that are Plant Paradox-friendly. (And they haven’t even been “fortified”!)
Vitamin E tends to exist in small amounts in food, so at first glance, it might not seem like any of these foods are loaded with vitamin E. But small things do add up, and with healthy, mindful eating, you’ll be getting adequate amounts of vitamin E in no time.
- Collards: 1 cup, cooked: 2.1 mg
- Asparagus: 1 cup, cooked 2.2 mg
- Olive oil: 1 tablespoon: 1.9 mg
- Swiss chard: ½ cup chopped and boiled: 1.6 mg
- Broccoli: ½ cup chopped: 1.1 mg
- Brazil nuts: ¼ cup: 2 mg
- Pine nuts: ¼ cup: 3 mg
- Spinach: ½ cup, cooked: 2-4 mg
- Dandelion greens: 1 cup: 2 mg
- Avocado (half): 1-4 mg
- Canned tuna: 2.5 oz: 2 mg
- Canned sardines: 2.5 oz: 2 mg15,16,17
Getting a good amount of vitamin E in your diet is essential to maintaining good health. With plenty of vitamin E foods, you’ll get a healthy dose of antioxidants – and benefits for your eyes, brain, immune system, and skin. Now, how about some vitamin E-packed creamed spinach? It’s delicious!