Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble vitamin that's required for the proper function of many organs, enzymatic activities and neurological processes. Vitamin E’s main role is to protect polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA's) from a damaging oxidation called as lipid peroxidation; this is a form of oxidative damage. PUFA's have been in our diet for years and they cause free radicals resulting in the formation of various unwanted products.

Although vitamin E sounds like a single substance, it is actually the name of eight related compounds in food, including alpha-tocopherol. Each form has a different potency, or level of activity in the body. It also has a critical interaction with vitmain K.  Many of these are estrogenic and can lower testosterone. The available data on vitamin E is quite contradictory, our research shows that foods that contain vitamin E are:-

  • Almonds 1 oz, 23 nuts: 7.3 mg (49% DV)
  • Sunflower seeds, 1 oz: 7.4 mg (49% DV)    **Almonds and sunflower seeds are about equal looking at the research **
  • Spinach, 1 cup: 6.7 mg (23% DV)
  • Sweet Potato, 1 whole: 3.9 mg (26% DV)  ** A study showed that one boiled sweet potato contains 3.95mg **
  • Avocado, 1 whole: 2.7 mg (18% DV)

Wheat germ oil is often cited as a high vitamin E food. It is high in omega-6 and hence high in vitamin E, so the high vitamin E content is mitigated by the omega-6. It should not be heated due to the high PUFA content. The oil oxidises easily at room temperature and goes rancid.

Almonds and sunflower seeds are the best for vitamin E (but almonds contain quite high %PUFAs). Sweet potatoes would really help too. Take a look at eating watermelon, it's packed with natural antioxidants such as lycopene (huge amounts), vitamin C and citruline. Many studies point to the benefits of taking lycopene with vitamin E.

How much vitamin E do I need?

The amount of vitamin E you need each day depends on your age and your PUFA intake. Average daily recommended intakes are listed below in milligrams (mg) and in International Units (IU).

  • Birth to 6 months 4 mg (6 IU)
  • Infants 7–12 months 5 mg (7.5 IU)
  • Children 1–3 years 6 mg (9 IU)
  • Children 4–8 years 7 mg (10.4 IU)
  • Children 9–13 years 11 mg (16.4 IU)
  • Teens 14–18 years 15 mg (22.4 IU)
  • Adults 15 mg (22.4 IU)
  • Breastfeeding teens and women 19 mg (28.4 IU)

Vitamin E supplements

Vitamin E is fat soluble, so vitamin E supplements are usually in the form of the vitamin dissolved in vegetable oil in a softgel capsule. You don't know what you are getting in most supplements, so getting vitamin E via food seems the best option.  It is also advisable to take an E supplement that contains a range of vitamin E types (alpha being the most potent anti-oxidant).

A handful of almonds each day, a handful of sunflower seeds each day plus 2 or 3 few sweet potatoes each week would be more than enough. Plus you would be getting stacks of other micro nutrients too.