Vitamin E

Vitamin E is important for all-round health. Just as oxygen causes an apple to go brown when cut up, it also causes oxidation and the formation of ‘free radicals’ in our bodies. Vitamin E is our strongest defence against free radicals, and this is why it’s often referred to as an antioxidant. Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties may also reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease and some types of cancers.

How much vitamin E do we need?

 

Age
(years)

AI*
Vitamin E (mg/day)

Infants

7-12 months

5

Children

1-3

5

 

4-8

6

Boys

9-13

9

 

14-18

10

Girls

9-13

8

 

14-18

8

Men

19-70+

10

Women

19-70+

7

Pregnant women

14-18

8

 

19-50

7

Breastfeeding women

14-18

12

 

19-50

11

*Adequate Intake (as alpha tocopherol equivalents)

Who needs more and why?

Smokers are another group at high risk for vitamin E deficiency, as smoking readily destroys vitamin E in the lungs. Also at risk of vitamin E deficiency are adults on very low fat diets, those with fat malabsorption and prem infants born with low vitamin E stores. 

Which foods contain vitamin E?

The main food sources of vitamin E are polyunsaturated oils - canola, corn, sunflower and soybean- and foods containing these oils including avocadoes, nuts, seeds, some margarines and wheat germ. There is also vitamin E in meat, fish and a few vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli but in smaller amounts.

Vitamin E content of foods

  Vitamin E (mg)
Half Avocado 1.6
1 tablespoon Canola Oil 1.9
1 tablespoon Sunflower Oil 6.0
10 almonds 3.1
5 walnuts 3.8
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds 5.7

Ways to include more vitamin E in the diet?

  1. Use a vegetable oil sparingly in cooking.
  2. Enjoy a handful of raw nuts - almonds, walnuts, hazel nuts - as a healthy daily snack.
  3. Sprinkle toasted seeds over a salad.

Vitamin E deficiency or toxicity

Vitamin E deficiency is rare in New Zealand as we eat enough polyunsaturated fat in oils and margarines which are good sources of vitamin E.  As vitamin E is stored in the liver, it is possible to eat too much, although this is unlikely unless large doses of supplements are being taken. 

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Page reviewed April 2013