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Vitamin E - our bodyguard

Andrea Zentai, Nutritionist

An easy way to remember which vitamins are fat soluble is to memorize the letters of the mosaic word DEKA: vitamins D, E, K and A. Now, you might think that since they get solved in fats, there is no need to pay a conscious attention to their intake in as much as they automatically become part of our daily meals unless we are on a strict diet. However, without attention, it can by no means be taken for granted that the body receives the right amount of vitamin E (in the same way as we often suffer from the insufficient supply of vitamin D and its damaging effects on health).

Why is it important to have a sufficient supply of vitamin E?

Vitamin E, or tocopherol, has an essential role in anti-oxidative processes as a protecting factor, in inhibiting aging processes and in ensuring the healthy development of the fetus during pregnancy. Certain studies claim that it is essential to sexual functioning as well. Primarily, it protects the cell membrane of the cells and is one of the elements of the defense mechanism against free radicals produced in the body. Free radicals are harmful because they cause a change in the structure of the target molecule, launching a reaction chain, producing newer and newer radicals. The process stops only if a radical can enter into reaction with another radical, creating a non-reactive product. Now, these free radicals, which get produced in every body, prefer to enter into reaction with vitamin E, due to its high oxidizing effect, rather than with the cells of the body. This distinctively beneficial effect can give protection against cardio-vascular diseases and diabetes, and support the body in everyday situations such as when we are engaged in highly demanding sport activities or when we are smoking or staying in a polluted environment.

Recommended daily dose:

Naturally, it depends on various factors such as life style or environment (e.g. in regions with higher pollution)

babies
0-6 months of age: 4 mg/day
7-12 months: 5 mg/day
children
1-3 years: 6 mg/day
4-6 years: 7 mg/day
7-10 years: 9 mg/day
11-14 years: 11 mg/day
adolescents
15-18 years: 15 mg/day
adults: 12 mg/day

As to the highest safe intake level (UL), it is 300 mg/day as stated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and 1000 mg/day as stated by the US Institute of Medicine (IOM).

What can best cover our vitamin E need?

The best sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils (walnut, flaxseed, sunflower, almond and pumpkin seed oils), wheat and other grain sprouts, oily seeds (pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, almonds, linseeds, walnuts) or celery. The vitamin E content of foods of animal origin depends greatly on the fodder they are given.

To conclude, make sure you consume 1-2 teaspoonful of quality cold-pressed oil every day. Prepare a salad dressing or mayonnaise, sprinkle it on your cream soup, add it to a shake or smoothies, or enjoy it with your breakfast muesli.

Alternatively, you can eat a handful or two of plain oily seeds, putting it in your breakfast muesli, enjoying it with an afternoon yoghurt or apple snack or in a salad at lunch time. Two spoonfuls (10 mg) of pumpkin seed oil covers an adult’s daily need of vitamin E.

The best sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils

Which types of fat to use?

Healthy alternatives

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