How much do you know about vitamin E? Find out all about this important vitamin, how to eat it, supplement, and why you need it!
By Danielle, Contributing writer
Vitamin E is a crucial, fat-soluble vitamin that aids in neurological, organ, and digestive processes. It is made up of two isomers, tocopherol (the more commonly found form) and tocotrienol, which act as powerful antioxidants in the body. Vitamin E can only be found in plant foods, so eating those foods is the best way to get your needed amount of this vitamin.
What Does Vitamin E Do in the Body?
1. Destroys Free Radicals, Limits Inflammation, and Prevents Aging
We have all heard about inflammation, free radicals, antioxidants, and oxidative damage, but how does that all work? Free radicals are naturally present in your body or are toxins which sneak their way inside. They can damage the healthy cells in your body, leading to cell degeneration, death, or cancer. When these cells oxidize, they can become even more powerful. Antioxidants, very simply, help stop and limit free radicals and the damage they cause.
Vitamin E contains a high number of antioxidants which helps fight against this process happening in your body.
2. Fights Cholesterol
Just like your cells, cholesterol can oxidize and become dangerous. The antioxidants in vitamin E can prevent cholesterol oxidation, and repair its damage. Cholesterol is needed for proper function of the body, so don’t believe the bad rap it’s been given. It just isn’t good when it oxidizes.
If you’ve been told you have high “bad” cholesterol, look into supplementing vitamin E, and also the damage that sugar causes in your blood vessels (and how poor, old cholesterol is just trying to bandage it).
3. Helps Hair Grow and Strengthen, and Promotes Good Vision
Vitamin E has been shown to prevent eye degeneration, including diseases which can lead to blindness. It also promotes blood circulation to the scalp and new hair growth. Applying a few drops of vitamin E oil to your hair also strengthens and moisturizes it (naturally!)
4. Supports Healthy Skin
Vitamin E strengthens the small capillary walls in your skin, creating more elastic, tight skin, while also fighting oxidative stress to the skin which causes aging. It provides a protective layer of moisture, which also prevents aging and helps heal any damage or scarring. In combination with vitamin C, it is useful to treat scars, sunburns, and any skin damage.
5. Helps Balance Hormones
While vitamin E is essential to help balance hormones because of its great antioxidant load, it also helps neurological functions that keep hormones firing at the right amount and time. Orally-consumed vitamin E has been shown to reach the brain, and affect the areas which control hormones.
6. Also Helps Balance PMS and Menstrual Hormones
The majority of women today would say that they struggle with PMS symptoms monthly on a moderate basis, but Vitamin E is essential to having healthy hormones, including the hormones which manage your monthly cycle. In fact, the concept of cycle seeding, eating certain (flax and pumpkin, then sunflower and sesame) seeds during certain times of a woman’s cycle can help with negative cycle issues, such as PMS, excessive bleeding, cramping, and irregular cycles. These seeds have high levels of vitamin E that help your hormones release at the proper times.
7. Crucial During Pregnancy
Vitamin E is essential for neurological development and growth, and so it’s important to obtain enough vitamin E throughout pregnancy, as well as before conception and during your child’s first years.
8. Lower Cancer Risk and Assist Cancer Treatment
A handful of studies have shown that vitamin E can help limit cancer tumor growth, possibly by cutting off the blood supply to tumors, and cancer cell death because of the powerful antioxidants. It has been used to defer the effects of prescription drugs that cause hair loss and lung damage, as well as the harmful effects of radiation for cancer treatment.
9. May Help Treat Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases
Studies have shown that the powerful antioxidants in vitamin E may help prevent and even treat Alzheimer’s and some forms of dementia, especially when taken in combination with vitamin C.
10. Aid in Muscle Recovery After Exercise
The antioxidants in vitamin E reduce the oxidative damage to your cells, resulting in quicker recovery times after vigorous exercise. Many long-distance runners ensure they maintain adequate levels for this reason, as it allows their muscles to recovery from consistent damage and build endurance.
Though you can supplement vitamin E, like all vitamins and minerals, it’s best to get this through natural, raw foods, which are the most bioavailable for your body to process and use. Try adding these foods to your diet to reach your daily needs of the vitamin:
- Seeds: Almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and flax all contain high amounts. Adding a handful of these to your daily snack schedule can ensure you have enough of this essential vitamin.
- Fruits: Mangoes, avocados, and kiwis are also rich in this vitamin. Mangoes and avocados will contain about a quarter of your daily needs, while you will need to eat four kiwis to reach that level.
- Veggies: Squash, spinach, broccoli, and tomato all are good sources. One cup will get you around 10% of your daily value, so consider these a good “add-on.”
- Other: Wheat germ contains your daily needs in just one cup.
Supplementing Vitamin E
As stated above, most supplements only contain one of the vitamin E isomers, tocopherol, and leaves out its important buddy, tocotrienol. However, research has shown that both of these isomers are essential for the vitamin’s amazing benefits, so both should be considered when supplementing. The easiest way to do so is eating vitamin E rich foods, as these are easiest for your body to digest and assimilate. However, if you cannot eat these foods, you can find some good supplements on the market. I am a fan of Carlson brand supplements, including their full E-complex vitamin.
The USDA’s suggested daily intake of vitamin E:
Children aged 0-6 months: 4 mg
Children aged 7-12 months: 5 mg
Children aged 1-3 years: 6 mg
Children aged 4-8: 7 mg
Children aged 9-13: 11 mg
Adult males and females, including during pregnancy, should take 15 mg. Lactacting mamas should bump their levels up to 19 mg.
Remember that vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means you can take too much. The USDA reports that food consumption of vitamin E has never reported any issues, but over supplementation of alpha-tocopherols can lead to hemorrhage and blood coagulation issues. Do not supplement vitamin E if you are taking niacin or blood anticoagulants.
Do you supplement vitamin E? How has it helped you?