Most American diets need more Vitamin E
Nearly all of us aren't getting enough of a critical vitamin that supports vision, brain health and even developing fetuses — vitamin E.
Zoom in: Vitamin E's major function is as an antioxidant. It quietly protects our cells from the oxidative damage caused by chemicals that are formed naturally when we convert food to energy.
- The consequences of oxidative damage — unchecked by vitamin E — include accelerated aging, deterioration of vision and higher risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
- "Vitamin E is kind of like having a fire department," says Maret Traber, a nutritionist at Oregon State’s Linus Pauling Institute. "You only need it if your house is on fire."
Vitamin E is also important during pregnancy, Traber says.
- It's critical in the development of a baby's nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord.
- One study showed that pregnant women with low levels of vitamin E were nearly twice as likely to experience miscarriages.
Here are our tips, culled from nutritionists, on how to include this crucial vitamin in your diet.
1. How much to take: The recommended daily level is 15 milligrams. Women who are lactating need slightly more, at 19 milligrams per day, the Harvard School of Public Health notes.
2. What to eat: Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds and plant-based oils, as well as dark greens. Think almonds and sunflower seeds; canola and sunflower oil; and kale, spinach and collard greens.
3. How to supplement: If the foods mentioned above aren’t a major part of your diet, consider supplementing. There are many ways to take vitamin E, including pills or oils — though the oils have a shorter shelf life, Traber says. You can also use multivitamins that contain vitamin E. And note that it's best to take your supplements with a meal.
- Multivitamins typically have lower levels of vitamin E than stand-alone pills or oils, so make sure you're getting the right amount. Healthline has a comprehensive review of vitamin E supplements.
4. Worth noting: There are prenatal vitamins on the market that do not contain vitamin E. Look for a brand that does, to keep you and your baby healthy, Traber tells us.
And here's what to watch out for: