Access to all articles, new health classes, discounts in our store, and more!
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient that functions primarily as an antioxidant in the body and works closely with vitamin C. It also helps to support immunity. The best benefits come from preventing deficiency since adequate levels help to decrease the risk of bone fractures (supplementing with higher doses overall does not protect bone health, though).
What is Vitamin E?
The term vitamin E actually refers to eight different molecules. These molecules are broken down into two categories: tocopherols and tocotrienols. Each of these categories is further subdivided into alpha, beta, gamma, and delta vitamers. The most common vitamer that is referred to when there is discussion of vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol, and this is also the form that most commonly appears in supplements.
Vitamin E is stored in the liver in the alpha-tocopherol form. As an antioxidant, it helps to protect cells from being damaged by free radicals. Free radicals are formed in the body in response to things that cause oxidative stress, such as:
- Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
- Air pollution exposure
- Alcohol consumption
- Consuming too many PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids)
- Being exposed to toxins
- Having high blood sugar levels
- Having diabetes, prediabetes, or metabolic syndrome
- Eating too many processed foods
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive exposure to UV rays
When free radicals are not neutralized in the body because of too few antioxidants, they can cause cell damage that can result in problems like cancer or heart disease.
Health Benefits of Vitamin E
- Protects against free radical damage to cells
- Supports T-cell immune functionality
- Reduces the risk of bone fractures when adequate levels are maintained
- Protects against cognitive decline related to aging
- Serves as a signaling molecule within cells
- Helps regulate gene expression
Food Sources of Vitamin E
There are many foods that contain vitamin E. While many do not get optimal levels from food, actual signs of deficiency are rare.
Foods high in vitamin E include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Peanut butter
Vitamin E Supplements
Stand-alone vitamin E supplementation is rarely required, even though amounts from dietary sources typically fall short. Vitamin E is included in many multivitamin formulations.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient, so high-dose supplementation is risky. For vitamin E in particular, some evidence shows that more than 400 IU per day may lead to an increased risk of death as well as an increased risk of prostate cancer.
If you need to convert IU to mg, the formula to do so is:
- 1 IU of natural vitamin E = 0.67 mg of alpha-tocopherol
- 1 IU of synthetic (racemic) vitamin E = 0.45 mg of alpha-tocopherol
Vitamin E supplements can interfere with blood thinners, especially warfarin. Make sure that your healthcare provider is aware if you supplement with vitamin E.
(PPNF Note: When available, nutrition counseling is the best way to determine the supplements that are right for you. We understand that it is not always affordable or accessible. When taking supplements, follow recommended product guidelines unless a practitioner directs you otherwise.)
Today’s Simple Step
Nuts and seeds are good dietary sources of vitamin E, and there are plenty of ways to get them into your diet. For those with nut or seed allergies, spinach is also a good source of vitamin E.
This Almond Crusted Salmon is a great way to add vitamin E to your daily diet. If you struggle to digest nuts, you can soak or sprout them to reduce antinutrients like lectins and phytates. For some, this may make them easier to break down.