What is Vitamin E?
The first known discovery of vitamin E was published in 1922. However, Vitamin E is in fact, not a single vitamin. It's actually a group of compounds collectively known as vitamin E. There are eight total Vitamin E compounds, four of which are tocopherols and the other four are tocotrienols.
Vitamin E tocopherols include:
Vitamin E tocotrienols include:
Alpha-tocopherol is the most common form of Vitamin E, typically found in food sources as well as supplements. The other tocopherols and tocotrienols are less common in foods in high amounts, yet all have vital antioxidant functions in the body. In nutrition science, the term vitamin E can be used interchangeably to describe either one or two tocopherols or a mixed group of both types of compounds.
What is the role of Vitamin E in the body?
Unsaturated fats form part of the lipid layer of all cell membranes and have an important role as an interface point between other cells. Unsaturated fats by nature, are very susceptible to oxidation and damage from free radical compounds and chronic inflammation.
The shape and condition of cell membranes (cell walls) will influence greatly how well cells can communicate with and signal other nearby cells. These include hormones, immune cells and even localised bacteria. So, it's easy to see how important maintaining the integrity of cell membranes is for health.
In humans, alpha-tocopherol is the active form of vitamin E and is an important antioxidant compound that protects these fatty acids from free radical damage.
Vitamin E works synergistically with other vitamins and minerals, which is another reason that dietary intake of vitamin E is ideal for optimal health.
Let's review other ways vitamin E can help support the body and improve health.
Vitamin E maintains a healthy cardiovascular system
Aside from maintaining the integrity of cell membranes in the body, alpha-tocopherol protects against the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs). Lipoproteins are particles that transport cholesterol through the bloodstream, from the liver to peripheral tissues.
Research has shown that an increase in oxidised LDLs in the bloodstream is associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. So it’s important to keep up your antioxidant intake, with foods that include vitamin E to help take care of your vascular system.
Vitamin E supports skin barrier function
Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties help protect the skin from free radicals that can damage cells. Many skin conditions show improvement with the administration of either topical or oral vitamin E treatments. A recent meta-analysis showed that vitamin E levels were lower in patients with skin issues such as psoriasis, dermatitis, acne and vitiligo. Looking after your skin health often requires a multifactorial approach, addressing both diet and lifestyle. However, boosting your vitamin E intake could be an easy way to help maintain healthy skin.
The best food sources of vitamin E
Some of the best food sources of vitamin E include:
Not only do sunflower seeds contain vitamin E but they’re also loaded with other essential nutrients like magnesium, selenium and zinc. Sunflower seeds naturally contain high amounts of alpha-tocopherols. In fact, just ¼ cup of sunflower seeds contains about 25 mg of vitamin E, which is more than 100% of the recommended daily value.
These nutty delights are high in vitamin E, containing high amounts of alpha-tocopherol as well as a mix of the other tocopherols and tocotrienols. A 30-gram serving of almonds provides almost 25% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin E.
This oil is the first pressed juice from the olive fruit and is one of the highest sources of naturally occurring vitamin E compounds. It contains around 14 mg/100g of vitamin E and is also packed with other important plant polyphenols which have a host of health benefits.
Avocados are another superfood that supports fertility, is a natural skin-loving food and of course, is very high in vitamin E. Just one cup of sliced avocado provides almost 10% of your daily recommended intake.
Spinach is a leafy green that's also an excellent source of vitamin E, with just one cup containing 20% of your daily recommended intake. Spinach is also high in iron, folate and other important minerals for your general well-being and can help with healthy ageing. Make a delicious and nutritious morning smoothie with just a few ingredients, including spinach for an extra boost of vitamin E.
Other sources of vitamin E include:
- Ocean Trout
What are the symptoms of vitamin E deficiency?
The signs and symptoms of vitamin E deficiency may include:
- muscle weakness
- vision problems (retinopathy)
- hair loss
- poor circulation
- tingling in extremities
- very dry and cracked skin (heels and elbows)
- weakened immune system
- chronic diarrhoea
Can you have too much vitamin E?
Yes, you can have too much vitamin E. However, an excess of vitamin E is rarely due to the intake of vitamin E foods. According to the research, vitamin E toxicity is primarily due to very high vitamin E supplementation and can cause symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal discomfort and diarrhoea. In some extreme cases, vitamin E toxicity may increase the risk of internal bleeding and is a known anticoagulant. People currently taking blood thinning medications are most at risk for this issue.
The best way to maintain optimal health is to ensure you're getting all the essential nutrients your body needs. One way to achieve this is to eat a balanced diet that includes high-quality food sources of vitamin E. Not only will you be providing your body with a steady supply of vitamin E, but you'll also be consuming other essential vitamins and minerals that work together to support overall health. So stock up on almonds, spinach, sunflower seeds and avocado, as well as a range of other vitamin E-rich foods for optimum health.
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