Vitamin E is a collective group of eight fat-soluble compounds that together offer important health benefits. Vitamin E is a source of powerful plant-based antioxidants found in many nuts, seeds, vegetables, and oils, making it easy to incorporate into your diet.
You can also take it in supplement form, but because our body requires fat to absorb vitamin E, make sure to take it with a meal or opt for vitamin-E rich foods instead. Research shows that adequate amounts of vitamin E in your diet help maintain skin health, preserve good eyesight, and strengthen your immune system.
Why You Need Vitamin E
Vitamin E plays a role in several bodily functions, and scientists are still researching its additional health-promoting effects. Adults should get at least 15 milligrams a day of vitamin E, which is easy to achieve in a well-balanced diet. As a fat-soluble vitamin, your body also stores excess vitamin E you consume to use when needed.
Vitamin E deficiencies are rare and usually due to fat-absorption problems caused by gastrointestinal issues. Over time, a deficiency can lead to symptoms like loss of balance, muscle weakness, or damage to your eye’s retina.
Research also shows that low vitamin E levels at birth can adversely affect a baby’s developing nervous system. Doctors advise pregnant women to ensure they get the recommended 15 milligrams a day, and breastfeeding women should increase their daily intake to 19 milligrams.
Getting enough vitamin E in your diet may benefit:
Your Immune System
As you age, your immune system’s ability to fight off infection and disease may decline. The antioxidants in vitamin E — especially one called alpha-Tocopherol — have been shown to enhance our body’s immune response. These antioxidants also fight age-related cell damage that is linked with many chronic diseases, including cancer.
Vitamin E’s antioxidant activity may also support long-term eye health. There is conflicting research on whether its effects are strong enough to treat issues like cataracts or age-related vision loss. However, studies show that maintaining recommended levels of Vitamin E may promote healthy eye function that reduces your risk of developing these conditions.
Some studies suggest that vitamin E can prevent memory decline or slow the progression of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. These potential effects are still being researched, but scientists believe that vitamin E’s antioxidants, together with nutrients like vitamins A and C, can help maintain long-term brain health.
Vitamin E may help maintain healthy heart function. While research is ongoing, some studies show that getting enough vitamin E as a part of a healthy diet reduces the risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease.
Foods With Vitamin E
Most people have no trouble getting enough vitamin E in their diet. Additionally, many breakfast cereals, fruit juices, and spreads available today are fortified with vitamin E as well.
These eight foods are the best natural sources of vitamin E:
1. Wheat Germ Oil
At 20 milligrams per tablespoon or 135% of your daily value, wheat germ oil is the richest natural vitamin E source. It can be used as a substitute for most other cooking oils, although cooking it with high heat can reduce its vitamin content. Other oils like hazelnut, almond, and safflower oils are good sources of vitamin E as well — but contain about a quarter of the amount present in wheat germ oil.
One ounce of almonds — about 23 nuts — contains 7.3 milligrams of vitamin E. While helping you meet your daily requirement, studies also link almonds to a variety of health benefits, including reducing your risk of obesity and heart disease.
3. Sunflower Seeds
Most seeds are great sources of vitamin E, but sunflower seeds are particular powerhouses. One ounce added to a smoothie, cereal, or salad has 7.4 milligrams of vitamin E, half of your day’s requirement. Sunflower oil only has about one-third of the vitamin E content of whole seeds, but it is still a great source of the vitamin.
4. Pine Nuts
Although almonds are the nut highest in vitamin E content, pine nuts also add a significant amount to your diet, at about 3 milligrams per two-tablespoon serving. While expensive, pine nuts are often included in pesto, baked goods, and spreads.
Avocados are a rich source of many nutrients, like potassium, omega-3s, and vitamins C and K. Half an avocado also contains up to 20% of your vitamin E requirement. Mangos and kiwis also have vitamin E, but they have slightly less vitamin E content than avocados. All three fruits are great options, however, especially for people with nut allergies or sensitivities.
6. Peanut Butter
Peanuts and peanut butter are high in vitamin E as well: you can get about 18% of your daily value in a two-tablespoon serving. For the best health benefits, make sure to choose a natural product without added preservatives or sugars or make your own peanut butter at home.
Fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, essential nutrients for both physical and cognitive health. Research shows that, in addition to its own individual health benefits, vitamin E can also help protect and promote omega 3’s effects in your body. Fish high in vitamin E include Atlantic salmon at 4 milligrams per fillet and rainbow trout at 2 milligrams per fillet.
8. Red Bell Peppers
Sweet pepper varieties have a range of nutrients, and research shows that red bell peppers’ vitamin and mineral content is especially potent. A medium raw pepper has around 2 milligrams of vitamin E, although cooking it reduces this content by about half.