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foods high in vitamin e

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps destroy and neutralize free radicals, which are chemical compounds that accelerate aging and disease progression by damaging cells. Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet, explains that many factors drive free-radical production in our bodies, including processed foods, excess sugar, environmental pollution, and chronic sleep loss.

Vitamin E also plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system by thwarting bacterial and viral invaders and helping red blood cells, which deliver oxygen throughout the body, develop properly. And vitamin E can help fight cancer by blocking the activation of an enzyme that helps the disease survive.

Reasons for Vitamin E Deficiency:

“Many of us eat a meat-rich, plant-poor, heavily processed diet. In refining grains, vitamin E levels suffer the most,” Bazilian says.

“Many of us eat a meat-rich, plant-poor, heavily processed diet. In refining grains, vitamin E levels suffer the most.”

Though serious vitamin E deficiency is rare, scientists at Tufts University determined that only 8 percent of men and 2 percent of women are meeting their optimal vitamin E requirements, making it one of the greatest nutrient deficiencies in the American diet. Bazilian says 15 milligrams per day of vitamin E is a good number to shoot for if you are generally in good health.

What Foods Contain Vitamin E?:

You’ll find vitamin E in foods containing fat, such as:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Flax oil
  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Whole grains
  • Dark leafy greens

It’s better to prioritize whole foods over supplementation when it comes to vitamin E, she says, because there are eight kinds of vitamin E compounds found in foods — all of them essential to our health — and many supplement manufacturers typically pack their products with only one form, called alpha-tocopherol. (Other forms like gamma-tocopherol appear to have powerful impacts on human health, such as helping fend off cancer.) “Taking high amounts of just one form of vitamin E may [cause] some health problems, including increased risk for internal bleeding and stroke,” Bazilian says.

If advised by a medical professional to use supplemental vitamin E, Bazilian suggests looking for one that offers a variety of vitamin E forms to better mimic what real food provides.

This was excerpted from “5 Critical Nutrients and What Happens to Your Body When They’re Missing” which was published in Experience Life.

Photography by: Andrea Bricco; Food Styling by: Alicia Buszczak
Matthew Kadey

Matthew Kadey MSc, RD, is a dietitian and food and nutrition writer.

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