Vitamin E is a group of antioxidant compounds that are essential for healthy cellular functioning. There are eight chemical forms of vitamin E, but alpha-tocopherol is the one that has been the most examined and is present in the highest quantities in healthy individuals.

Why Is Vitamin E Important?

Vitamin E is crucial because of the antioxidant protection it offers. Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals, which are molecules that have an unshared electron. Unshared electrons react in unpredictable and dangerous ways when they combine with oxygen. Free radicals damage cells and contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Vitamin E strengthens cellular membranes, making the cells less susceptible to free radicals and other toxins, more resilient, and more resistant to disease. Vitamin E also supports immune function, reduces inflammation, and contributes to the healthy regulation of gene expression and metabolism

Vitamin E is proving very helpful in protecting eyesight. In research studies it has been shown that people with high vitamin E intake are 20 percent less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration. It can also help prevent cataracts and other eye challenges as we age.

It also has the potential to help prevent heart disease. Vitamin E inhibits the oxidation of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Oxidation of LDL cholesterol is a significant contributor to atherosclerosis (clogged arteries). Vitamin E is also a mild blood thinner, and can help prevent the formation of dangerous blood clots.

Lastly, vitamin E is a useful natural preservative. It protects fats from free radical damage before we eat them, and so is often added to processed foods to extend their shelf life.

How Much Vitamin E Do We Need?

According to the US Department of Agriculture, adults need to get 20 milligrams of vitamin E each day. Lactating women should get a little more to ensure their babies are receiving adequate amounts of this important nutrient.

It does not seem possible to get too much vitamin E from food sources. Very high doses of alpha-tocopherol supplements (more than 4000 iu per day) can cause hemorrhage and interfere with proper blood coagulation. To give perspective, that would be the equivalent of over 100 cups of sunflower seeds, the highest whole food source of vitamin E.

Food Sources of Vitamin E

Vitamin E is fat-soluble, which means it must be eaten or taken with dietary fat in order for the body to absorb it. Luckily, many sources of vitamin E are healthy fats, so the food provides the necessary fat. But if you are getting your vitamin E from greens or other vegetables, be sure to have a little (raw) extra virgin organic coconut oil or olive oil with your meal. Cooking, processing, and time all reduce the amount of vitamin E in foods, so fresh and raw is usually the best way to go.

1. Wheat Germ Oil For those who can tolerate wheat, one tablespoon provides 100 percent of the USDA RDI (recommended daily intake).

2. Sunflower Seeds – 1/4 cup provides 80 percent of the RDI.

3. Almonds 1/4 cup provides 40 percent of the RDI.

4. Spinach – 1 cup provides 24 percent of the RDI.

5. Hazelnuts 1/4 cup provides 21 percent of the RDI.

6. Swiss Chard 1 cup provides 22 percent of the RDI.

7. Peanuts – 1/4 cup provides 20 percent of the RDI.

8. Asparagus 1 cup provides 18 percent of the RDI.

9. Mustard Greens – 1 cup provides 16 percent of the RDI.

10. Broccoli 1 cup provides 15 percent of the RDI

11. Beet Greens – 1 cup provides 10 percent of the RDI.

12. Avocado – 1/2 cup provides 10 percent of the RDI.

13. Olive Oil (unheated extra virgin) 1 tablespoon provides 10 percent of the RDI.

14. Red Bell Peppers 1 cup provides 9 percent of the RDI.

15. Kale 1 cup provides 7 percent of the RDI.

16. Raspberries 1 cup provides 7 percent of the RDI.

17. Tomatoes – 1 cup provides 6 percent of the RDI.

Vitamin E is a vital nutrient that protects our cells and supports the health of our joints, heart, eyes, and immune system. Luckily, we can get all we need from a diet that is full of green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils. Enjoy your healthy diet, knowing that you are taking good care of your body simply by eating delicious, nutrient-rich whole foods.