Vitamin E

Health and nutrition : Nutrients found in vegetables

Definition

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

mg/100g

Sunflower oil

56

Margarine

43

Grapeseed oil

32

Wheat germ, hazelnuts, almonds

20-25

Groundnut oil, canola oil, soya bean oil

15-20

Olive oil, walnut oil

10-15

Peanuts, eel, fish oil

5-10

Walnuts, butter, egg yolk, dandelion, sweet potato

2-5

Spinach, asparagus, chickpeas, cress, chestnuts, broccoli, tomatoes, smoked salmon, omelette, wholegrain bread

1-2

 

Recommended intake

The RDA (Recommended Daily Amount) of Vitamin E is 10 mg/day. The RNAs (Recommended Nutritional Allowances) are given for the French public by age bracket in mg/day.

Age bracket

RNA in mg/day

Infants

4 mg

Children ages 1-3

6 mg

Children ages 4-6

7.5 mg

Children ages 7-9

9 mg

Children ages 10-12

11 mg

Adolescents and adults

12 mg

Pregnant and nursing women

12 mg

 

Deficiencies / Excess

 

Genuine Vitamin E deficiency is unusual in adult men. It is ususally characterized nervous system problems.

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.

 

Disadvantage

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!

Tip

Vegetables with the highest levels of vitamin E: Sweet potato, Dandelion, Spinach, Asparagus, Chick peas, Watercress, Chestnuts, Broccoli.

Additional info

Difference between RDA and RNA: RDAs (Recommended Daily Amounts) are the values used in legislation to give a benchmark figure for the average daily needs of the European adult population for each of the 16 most important micronutrients: magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2, PP, B5, B6, B8, B9, B12, and C. RDAs are therefore a concept of overall nutrition for regulatory use. Nutritionists use more sophisticated tables that take into account each individual’s age, gender, activity level and lifestyle. RNAs (Recommended Nutritional Amounts) are therefore strictly nutritional in nature (and not regulatory, like RDAs). These values are more precise than RDAs. They are specific to a population and provide information on the nutritional requirements of individuals based on their particular profile (age, gender, physical activity, individual physiology, and so on).

Random tip

Vegetables with the highest levels of fibre: Artichokes, Red kidney beans, Chick peas, Haricot beans, Salsify, Lentils, Broad beans, Chestnut, Parsley, Watercress, Peas.

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