Vitamin C? You’re likely eating all the vitamin C you need from your diet. Vitamin E? Now that might be a nutrient that you might not be consuming enough of—and it's time to get on that.
In terms of your general health, vitamin E is key. “Vitamin E strengthens the immune system and helps your cells communicate with each other, but it’s best known for being a powerful antioxidant,” says Kim Yawitz, a registered dietitian and gym owner in St. Louis, Mo.
“It’s no secret that pollutants like cigarette smoke, ultraviolet light, and smog aren’t great for your health. This is partly because they expose your body to harmful molecules called free radicals, which can attack and weaken your cells,” says Yawitz, adding that you might not realize that these molecules can build up in your body even if you tend to avoid environmental contaminants. “For example, free radicals often form as byproducts of life-sustaining functions (like eating and breathing).”
This translates to not-so-great outcomes in the long-haul: “Over time and in large amounts, these molecules can leave you vulnerable to heart disease, cancer, and other health conditions. And because it helps neutralize free radicals, vitamin E could help decrease the risk of certain chronic diseases,” says Yawitz, noting that some studies have linked higher intakes of vitamin E with lower rates of heart disease, blood clots, age-related macular degeneration, and advanced prostate cancer (at least in high-risk groups like smokers).
“For example, in one recent study, adults who ate the most vitamin E-rich foods were 43 percent less likely to have heart disease than those who ate the least,” says Yawitz.
Despite all these potential benefits of vitamin E, you don’t want to go overboard on consuming the nutrient, however.
“More vitamin E isn’t always better, and the jury’s still out as to whether supplements can lower the risk of chronic disease,” says Yawitz. “So if, like most American adults, you don’t get the recommended 15 milligrams of vitamin E per day, your best bet is to eat more foods that are rich in it.”
Though incredibly rare severe deficiency is mostly seen in people with Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and other disorders that cause fat malabsorption. “This is because about 90 percent of the vitamin E in our bodies is stored in fat tissue,” she says.
Lots of foods that are good sources of vitamin E also contain fat, which is needed for the vitamin to absorb into your system. “Adding a bit of fat to fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are naturally low in fat can help ensure you’re getting enough vitamin E,” she says.
Ahead, a look at some of the best foods that are high in vitamin E to add into your diet.
1. Black beans
“Per cup of black beans, you get 3 milligrams of vitamin E, making the food a good source of the nutrient. Beans also supply an excellent amount of protein and fiber per cup, making them a very satiating choice,” says Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Plant Based with Amy.
“Beans are delicious added to veggies and rice, and I also love enjoying them in Harvest Snaps Mango Chile Lime baked black bean snacks—black beans are the very first ingredient.”
For other nutritious beans, read the six healthiest beans you can eat.
2. Wheat germ oil
This nutty-tasting oil is well worth adding to your shopping list. “One tablespoon of wheat germ oil provides a whopping 20 milligrams of vitamin E, which is more than adult men need in an entire day,” says Yawitz. “Used in homemade salad dressing or drizzled over pasta, it’s a great way to hit your daily vitamin E quota if you don’t eat a lot of nuts or seeds.”
FYI: “There’s some evidence that the vitamin E content of wheat germ oil decreases when it’s stored in warm temperatures for long periods of time, but buying small bottles and keeping them in a cool place in your kitchen can help,” says Yawitz.
3. Sunflower seeds
“Topping your salad with an ounce of sunflower seeds adds some satisfying crunch and also gives you nearly half of the vitamin E you need in a day (7 milligrams, to be exact),” says Yawitz. Along with their vitamin E content, Gorin is also a fan of these super seeds since you also get six grams of satiating protein, as well as fiber and heart-healthy fats.
4. Dry-roasted almonds
Yawitz says that dry-roasted almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E with 7 milligrams of the nutrient per ounce.
“I keep single-serving portions in my bag for healthy snacks on the run (and sometimes mix in a broken up square of dark chocolate if I’m craving sweets),” she says. “Shaved or chopped almonds also pair well with yogurt or oatmeal at breakfast.”
5. Peanut butter
As if we have to tell you to eat more of the good stuff. “A two-tablespoon serving of peanut butter provides 3 milligrams of vitamin E. It’s not the best source of vitamin E, but it’s definitely one of the most versatile,” says Yawitz. “Swapping it for the butter on your toast at breakfast, spreading it over apple or banana slices for a snack, or just eating it off a spoon are some easy ways to boost your vitamin E intake throughout the day.”
“Per cup, this green veggie provides 1.52 milligrams of vitamin E, making it a good source,” says Gorin. “Asparagus also provides 3 grams of fiber per serving! The fiber benefits satiety and cholesterol,” adding that she loves to make lemon-garlic roasted asparagus for a simple side dish.
“In a cup of mango, you get 1.48 milligrams of vitamin E, making it a good source of the nutrient,” says Gorin. “Mango also delivers an excellent amount of immunity-helping vitamin C—you get 60 milligrams per serving. Mango is a delicious snack sliced up, or you can mix it into oatmeal.”
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