Vitamin E, or tocopherol, is a liposoluble vitamin, i.e., it is soluble in fats. There are eight different forms of Vitamin E compounds (alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherols and alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocotrienols). The form most frequently found in nature is alpha-tocopherol. This is also the most biologically active form.
Role in the body
The primary characteristic of Vitamin E is its antioxidant properties : it protects the body's cell membranes by trapping free radicals and preventing them from spreading. Vitamin E works together (synergistically) with the body's other antioxidant defense systems (free radical scavengers, enzymatic systems, regeneration system, etc.). In addition to its antioxidant action, Vitamin E contributes to platelet aggregation (by preventing excessive aggregation) and inflammatory responses.
Sources in vegetables and other foods (source: Ciqual, 1995)
Since Vitamin E is liposoluble, it is therefore found primarily in fats. The most important sources are plant-based: oils and margarine, oleaginous fruits, germs of cereals. Fruits and vegetables are the second largest source of Vitamin E. They do not contain high levels of Vitamin E (between 1 and 1.8 mg per 100 g for the richest sources), but the size of the portions consumed (we eat 10 g of oil and between 100 and 200 g of vegetables) makes them a significant source of Vitamin E nonetheless: between 12 % and 18 % of our Vitamin E intake comes from fruits and vegetables.
Foods with the highest Vitamin E content
Wheat germ, hazelnuts, almonds
Groundnut oil, canola oil, soya bean oil
Olive oil, walnut oil
Peanuts, eel, fish oil
Walnuts, butter, egg yolk, dandelion, sweet potato
Spinach, asparagus, chickpeas, cress, chestnuts, broccoli, tomatoes, smoked salmon, omelette, wholegrain bread
RNA in mg/day
Children ages 1-3
Children ages 4-6
Children ages 7-9
Children ages 10-12
Adolescents and adults
Pregnant and nursing women
Deficiencies / Excess
In most cases, a deficiency is the result of serious and prolonged difficulty with lipid absorption and metabolism.
Epidemiological studies indicate that about 5 % of the French population consumes very little Vitamin E. Nonetheless, values below the threshold indicating a biological deficiency are not found among the overalll population.
Excess Vitamin E does not appear to be toxic. However, there is currently no absolute certainty that prolonged moderate or significant intake of Vitamin E is harmless.
Vitamin E is not notably sensitive to heat, but it is sensitive to light and oxygen. Therefore, foods that are rich in Vitamin E should be stored in a dark place (such as a cupboard) and in firmly sealed containers.
Tips / advices from the nutritionist
Who said fats weren't good for you? In addition to providing essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, non-hydrogenated vegetable oils contain this antioxidant vitamin that protects your cells. And there's no need to add a lot to get the benefits of vegetable oils: just a dash on raw or cooked vegetables will enhance their Vitamin E content. Vitamin C and beta-carotene from the vegetables and Vitamin E from the oil...truly an anxioxidant cocktail!