Vitamin E is a water-soluble vitamin that is best known for its antioxidant properties. It is abundant in plant foods, and deficiencies, generally, are rare.
In this post, you'll learn everything you need to know about the vitamin, including what its benefits are, sources of the vitamin, and what deficiency symptoms to look out for.
What are the benefits of vitamin E?
The vitamin is particularly valuable for health as an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect against free radicals, which damage cells and promote chronic diseases, as well as aging. Moreover, the vitamin is anti-inflammatory, important for the immune system, and supports skin health.
In addition, vitamin E is needed for muscle maintenance and red blood cell formation. It may also help prevent atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus type II, Alzheimer's, and cancer.
How much Vitamin E should you consume daily?
The European Union recommends that women over the age of 15 take in 11 mg and men 13 mg every day. In the US, a daily recommended intake is 15 mg for both men and women.
Moreover, pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as smokers and patients undergoing chemotherapy, have an increased need.
Further, those who consume a large amount of unsaturated fatty acids might also benefit from a higher intake. The majority of ingested fats on a healthy plant-based diet are unsaturated. Therefore, it may be beneficial for vegans to consume more than the above-stated amount.
Unfortunately, dietary associations don't provide specific recommendations targeted to those on a plant-based diet. Thus, I encourage you to contact an (ideally plant-based) doctor if you have any questions or want more specific recommendations.
What are good sources of vitamin E?
The best sources are sunflower seeds, spinach, almonds, hazelnuts, and Swiss chard.
Further, asparagus, beans, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, fennel, carrots, oatmeal, corn, rye, kale, mango, and chickpeas are also good sources.
A lot of times, vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil, soybean oil, or rapeseed oil, are recommended as a source. However, oils are often not a part of a healthy diet. (You can read more about the reasons for this here.) Still, even without consuming vegetable oils, getting enough of the vitamin is usually not a problem.
How can you increase absorption?
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, so you can promote uptake by adding some healthy fats (nuts, seeds) to your meals.
Do animal products contain vitamin E?
Only plants and certain bacteria produce the vitamin. Nevertheless, animal foods such as milk, eggs, and meat contain it because animals eat plants as food.
How can you meet the vitamin E requirement?
The vitamin is abundant in plants. Therefore, meeting the need on a healthy, plant-rich/vegan diet tends to be simple.
To support a good supply, it's helpful to incorporate vitamin E rich foods into your diet regularly, ideally with a healthy source of fat.
Moreover, the vitamin is sensitive to heat and light, so you should store vitamin E rich foods in the dark, well-sealed, and avoid excessive heat when cooking.
What are the symptoms of vitamin E deficiency?
As mentioned above, deficiencies are rare and usually occur as a result of other diseases or problems with absorption. If a deficiency does occur, it can weaken the immune system and lead to a breakdown of red blood cells. Moreover, if you don't get enough of the vitamin, you benefit less from its protective antioxidative function.
Common symptoms are:
- Increased susceptibility to infection
- Blurred vision
- Muscle weakness
- Liver and kidney problems
How can you check if you are getting enough vitamin E?
If you or your doctor suspect a deficiency, you can test for it with a blood test. Depending on the laboratory, the reference values are between 5.5 and 17 mg/l.
Is it harmful to take in too much vitamin E?
The vitamin is non-toxic, even in very high doses. Nevertheless, if you consume too much for a prolonged time, you may experience gastrointestinal problems, headaches, nausea, and an increased risk of bleeding.
Moreover, taking supplements may be harmful to health and increase mortality. Therefore, it's better to rely on whole plant sources.
Everything you need to know at a glance
What is your favorite vitamin E rich food?
Currently, I am all about those sunflower seeds 😅🌻