Foods Containing Vitamin E - Can You Get Enough from Your Diet?

Foods Containing Vitamin E - Vitamin E is a blend of not one but eight vital substances used by every cell in the human body. Bound with essential fatty acids in a variety of plant foods and also found in eggs, vitamin E in food is a potent source of antioxidants but also regulates important physiological processes in a variety of ways.

As you research foods containing vitamin E you'll find there are eight chemical constituents of vitamin E. They are alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienol. Of these eight, alpha-tocopherol is the best known. It is the most potent antioxidant, the most frequently studied component of the vitamin E complex, and also the cheapest of the vitamin E chemicals to make in the lab.

Alpha-tocopherol is the most abundant form of vitamin E found in the body. It recharges another heavy-duty antioxidant, vitamin C, but there are some tasks it does not perform. These are mostly carried about by its kinder, gentler cousin, gamma-tocopherol, the other major form of vitamin E in foods containing vitamin E.

This form of the vitamin is found in especially high concentrations in the natural oils of seeds and nuts. It has a special affinity for oils in the human body. The cholesterol-rich bile released by the liver has an especially high concentration of gamma-tocopherol. The bile carries gamma-tocopherol to the colon where it keeps cholesterol from being turned into harmful forms and protects colon cell DNA from changes that can lead to cancer.

Why do we need different forms of vitamin E? The human body stores alpha-tocopherol in its tissues to respond to critical needs for antioxidants during toxic exposure. The human body circulates gamma-tocopherol and the other six kinds of the vitamin for immediate use. Along with alpha-, beta-, and gamma-tocopherol, gamma tocopherol protects the linings of arteries from oxidized cholesterol. Alpha-tocopherol only works in the arteries if you get enough vitamin C. Gamma-tocopherol is your body's back-up system for use when vitamin C isn't readily available.

Gamma-tocopherol is the major form of vitamin E in foods containing vitamin E. So wouldn't you think that nutritional experts would include measurements of this vital form of vitamin E in RDAs and databases of the nutritional content of foods?

Well, they used to. But as more and more science shows that gamma-tocopherol is a key nutrient, the nutrition establishment has protected old products by dropping references to gamma-tocopherol from official databases. The US RDA only applies to one chemical in vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol. The vitamin-enriched cereals and breads you find in the store will give you 40% of the US RDA of vitamin E in every serving-but the US RDA only covers alpha-tocopherol.

Here's the US Department of Agriculture's new data for alpha-tocopherol in foods.

Foods Containing Vitamin E

Food Serving Size Vitamin E (micrograms) Percent of RDA
Almond oil 1 tablespoon 5.3 35.3
Almonds, dried 1 ounce 6.72 44.8
Apple with skin 1 medium 0.81 5.4
Asparagus, frozen 4 spears 1.15 7.6
Avocado, raw 1 medium 2.32 15.4
Corn oil 1 tablespoon 1.9 12.6
Corn oil (Mazola) 1 tablespoon 3 5
Cottonseed oil 1 tablespoon 4.8 32
Egg, whole, fresh 1 large 0.88 5.8
Hazelnuts, dried 1 ounce 6.7 44.6
Macaroni pasta, enriched 1 cup 1.03 6.8
Mango, raw 1 medium 2.32 15.4
Margarine (Mazola) 1 tablespoon 8 53.3
Margarine (Parkay, diet) 1 tablespoon 0.4 2.6
Mayonnaise (Hellmann's) 1 tablespoon 11 73.3
Miracle Whip (Kraft) 1 tablespoon 0.5 3.3
Olive oil 1 tablespoon 1.6 10.6
Palm oil 1 tablespoon 2.6 17.3
Peanut butter (Skippy) 1 tablespoon 3 5
Peanut oil 1 tablespoon 1.6 10.6
Peanuts, dried 1 ounce 2.56 17
Pistachio nuts, dried 1 ounce 1.46 9.7
Safflower oil 1 tablespoon 4.6 30.6
Soybean oil 1 tablespoon 1.5 10
Spaghetti pasta, enriched 1 cup 1.03 6.8
Spinach, raw 1/2 cup 0.53 3.5
Sunflower oil 1 tablespoon 6.1 40.6
Sweet potato 1 medium 5.93 39.5
Tomato juice 6 fluid ounces 0.4 2.6
Tomato, red, raw 1 tomato 0.42 2.8
Turnip greens, raw 1/2 cup chopped 0.63 4.2
Vegetable-oil spray 2.5 second spray 0.51 3.4
Walnuts, English 1 ounce 0.73 4.8
Wheat-germ oil 1 tablespoon 20.3 135.3

(Foods Containing Vitamin E Source: USDA, Nutrient Database Release 17, 2004.)

There are some other interesting data in this table about foods containing vitamin E. For instance, the Department of Agriculture advises us that spraying a non-stick pan with olive oil spray for 2.5 seconds will give you 3.4% of your daily requirements for alpha-tocopherol. Half a cup of raw turnip greens will give you 4.2% of your daily requirements for the same vitamin E chemical-but the tables don't tell you how much alpha-tocopherol is left if the turnip greens are cooked. The recommended foods include Mazola, Parkay, Miracle Whip, Hellman's, and Skippy.

If you want to find out how much gamma-tocopherol is in foods, you have to refer to the databases nutritionists can buy at prices ranging from $24.95 to $2495. Here are some sample values:

  • A 200-calorie serving of light tuna canned in oil provides 4 mg of gamma-tocopherol.
  • A 200-calorie serving of green Bell peppers sautéed in olive oil provides 11.9 mg of gamma-tocopherol.
  • A 200-calorie serving of butterhead lettuce provides 4.2 mg of gamma-tocopherol

How much butterhead lettuce do you have to eat to get about 1% of the gamma-tocopherol you get in one balanced-vitamin capsule? Those 200 calories correspond to 200 inner leaves weighing 1.2 kilograms or a little under 3 pounds of lettuce.

All you have to do to get a full dose of vitamin E from your green salad (no dressing) is to eat 300 pounds of lettuce a day. Is it any wonder most people don't get the vitamin E they need from the foods containing vitamin E they eat?

The bottom line is, however, no matter what foods containing vitamin E you eat, you can't get the amounts of vitamin E in foods containing vitamin E that medical studies tell us you need to prevent disease. Here are the best estimates of how much vitamin E you need to prevent various disease processes:

Alzheimer's disease. One study found that taking 2,000 IU of synthetic alpha-tocopherol daily for 2 years slowed the progression of Alzheimer's disease in persons suffering mild symptoms.

Cardiovascular disease. In two studies, studies, those individuals who consumed more than 7 mg of vitamin E in food were only approximately 35% as likely to die from heart disease as those who consumed less than 3-5 mg daily of foods containing vitamin E. The CHAOS study in Great Britain found that people in the beginning stages of heart disease who took either 400 or 800 IU of supplemental alpha-tocopherol every day were 77% less likely to suffer a heart attack over an 18-month period.

Prostate cancer. Among men who smoke, taking 50 mg (a little under 100 IU) of synthetic vitamin E every day reduced the incidence of prostate cancer by 34%.

Vaccinations. If you have to have a vaccination, take vitamin E. One study found that taking 300 IU of alpha-tocopherol every day for 3 months increased antibodies formed in response to vaccinations for hepatitis and tetanus.


The evidence is, if you're taking just alpha-tocopherol, you need a lot. If you're taking all eight constituents of vitamin E, you need a little.

To enjoy the full benefits of vitamin E without attempting to get your vitamin E in food, consider Total Balance. All of the 85 ingredients in Total Balance work in complete synergy without interfering with each other. You don't need high doses of any one form of vitamin E-just a highly concentrated, natural supplement providing all the vitamin E you are looking for in foods containing vitamin E.

We take Total Balance ourselves and are very satisfied with it.

Much more than foods containing vitamin E discussed back at The Vitamin and Supplement Guide home page.

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