Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects the body from oxygen damage and may help fight against certain cancers.
When your body turns food and air into nourishment, it produces toxic by-products. For example, you take in air, extract the oxygen for the body’s use and produce carbon dioxide, a toxin, as a by-product. These toxic by-products are called free radicals and are thought to cause damage to the body’s cells.
This damage may result in cancers and other diseases. But free radicals are rendered inactive by antioxidants, including water-soluble vitamin C and fat-soluble vitamin E. Some studies have shown that people who have diets high in vitamins C or E tend to have lower incidences of heart disease.
Does this mean you should start taking massive doses of these vitamins? Not by any means. It does mean eating lots of highly nutritious foods over a lifetime with an occasional vitamin supplement when your diet isn’t what it should be.
Most people are aware of the need for vitamin C and go out of their way to include oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, kiwi, strawberries, peppers and chilies in their daily diet.
Until recently, though, not too many people thought about their vitamin E intake. And that was just fine. Vitamin E deficiency is rare, since so many popular foods contain adequate amounts of it, and the body’s needs are so small.
People who feel they can benefit from more antioxidants may make try to increase the amount of vitamin E in their diet. But there is one caution: Vitamin E is fat soluble, and can be stored in the body. For that reason, it is possible to take toxic doses of vitamin E if using supplements. This is unlikely to happen if you get vitamin E from food.
Vitamin E is actually a group of compounds, called "tocopherols," which can be found in lots of foods, including:
Great sources: Total and Product 19 cereals; whole-grain hot and cold cereals; sunflower seeds; almonds; cottonseed and soybean oil; margarine; and strawberries. If you’re into whole grains, check out amaranth, farro, kasha and quinoa. These ancient grains are tasty, versatile and packed with vitamin E.
Good sources: commercial vegetable-oil based salad dressings; corn oil; margarine; peanuts and peanut butter; tomato juice and processed tomatoes, such as tomato purée and tomato paste; and leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, beet, mustard greens, collard greens, Swiss chard, kale and Romaine lettuce.