Average read time: 8 minutes
So many vitamins are necessary parts of a healthy diet that they’ve been assigned nearly every letter in the alphabet. Today, we’ll take a closer look at one of them. What is Vitamin E, and why is it a necessary part of your diet?
This vitamin is actually a broad term for eight different compounds. The one that’s most active in the human body is known as alpha-tocopherol. This vitamin is found naturally in many foods and acts as an antioxidant. It’s also a fat-soluble, which means it’s stored in the body’s fat cells. If you don’t get enough Vitamin E in your diet, your body can draw on the vitamin stored in your cells.
What role does vitamin E play in the body? It helps to support immune function as well as repair damaged cells. On a genetic level, having enough vitamin E helps with the expression of genetic traits and a number of metabolic processes. Studies have also shown that getting enough vitamin E in your diet can help prevent or delay a host of medical conditions, including cancer, coronary heart disease, cognitive decline, and disorders of the eye.
The various grades of vitamin E include:
In addition to the role it plays as a nutrient, vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant. You can often identify foods containing high levels of antioxidants by their color — intensely colored fruits and vegetables are usually higher in antioxidants.
When a molecule loses an electron, it can generate something called a free radical. This process is known as oxidation — the same process causes iron to rust. These free radicals can cause damage to cells, which can lead to everything from premature aging to cancer.
Vitamin E helps to reduce the damage done by free radicals and can also help to protect people who might have other risk factors like smoking or exposure to pollution or UV rays. Using a vitamin E fortified sunscreen can help beef up the sun protection.
Vitamin E deficiency can be dangerous — and roughly 90 percent of the population is deficient in Vitamin E. A lack of vitamin E can cause nerve damage. On the other side of the coin, a higher dose of vitamin E, even in a natural supplement, can increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke because it interrupts blood coagulation. It can also cause symptoms like headache, nausea, and fatigue.
The American Heart Association recommends getting plenty of Vitamin E from a well-balanced diet, but if deficiency is a problem, instead use supplements. Even if you choose a natural vitamin E supplier, it’s possible to overdose on supplements, so they should be avoided unless prescribed by your doctor.
Where can you find Vitamin E in your diet? Stick with fresh fruits and vegetables. Mangos have eight percent of your daily value of the vitamin. Tomatoes have four percent, kiwis have six percent, and leafy greens have upwards of 20 percent of your daily value of Vitamin E. Some fish, like trout, also contain Vitamin E. Sources of healthy fat, like avocado, nuts, and olive oil, can contain anywhere from 10 to 34 percent of your daily value of Vitamin E. Sunflower seed kernels are among your best options — one ounce of kernels contains 37 percent of your daily value of this essential fat-soluble vitamin. Adding some avocado to your sandwiches or just snacking on nuts or sunflower seeds can help you get more Vitamin E into your body. It’s an essential part of your diet, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough of this fat-soluble vitamin as part of a healthy diet.
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