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Happy 80th Birthday, Vitamin E!

  [ 53 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • May 23, 2002

MODESTO, Calif. — Vitamin E was discovered by Dr. Herbert Evans in 1922. Today, Evans’s discovery is known as an important antioxidant and a cellular super hero of sorts, as researchers have discovered more about it every year since.

For example, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) now recommends adults get 15 milligrams of only the alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E daily, and emphasizes healthful natural sources such as whole foods. Alpha-tocopherol is the form of vitamin E that the body prefers and uses best. Though 15 milligrams doesn’t sound like a lot, most Americans are getting only about half that amount.

A new analysis provides surprising facts on the quality of our vitamin E sources. A new analysis from Tufts University shows that adults aren’t getting alpha-tocopherol from good-quality food sources. Most of the vitamin E adults get now comes from foods like white bread, cookies, donuts and cakes, which actually provide very little of the vitamin, the analysis shows.

Two slices of white bread, for instance, contain less than one milligram, as do two sugar cookies. Instead, we’d easily reach the daily recommendation by eating foods that are better vitamin E sources. The key is to know which foods to choose.

Make smart food choices: Think almonds. Of the many whole food sources containing alpha-tocopherol vitamin E, almonds lead the pack by far — more than any other nut and more than other foods. An ounce of almonds gives you more than 7 milligrams of alpha-tocopherol — meaning just a handful of almonds provides half the daily requirement.

Plus, at just 164 calories per ounce, that same handful also provides other important nutrients like protein, dietary fiber, unsaturated fat, calcium, zinc and magnesium.
"It’s helpful to think of calories in terms of a daily spending allowance — most people want to spend their money wisely, so why not spend your calories wisely?" says registered dietitian Elizabeth Ward. "Almonds are a true power food. That handful is a concentrated source of vitamin E and a host of other nutrients. For the same number of calories per serving for foods like pretzels or potato chips, almonds clearly deliver much more nutrition bang for the same buck."

Trailing farther behind almonds as natural alpha-tocopherol sources are whole foods including hazelnuts, avocados, mangos and peanuts.

Why we need vitamin E. Vitamin E may do a number of things Dr. Evans didn’t live to know. As an antioxidant, it defends cells against damage on a daily basis. It may reduce oxidative stress, helping head off the complications of diabetes, reduce the rate of aging, lower cancer risk, boost immunity and slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. It also may slow the progress of LDL cholesterol in the arteries, and prevent blood cells from sticking to each other and clogging blood vessels.

Looking for easy ways to you get your E? World-renowned television chef and cookbook author Graham Kerr has a favorite vitamin E recipe — an almond and fruit mix (recipe enclosed). "My wife Treena and I use it to garnish oatmeal and muesli, pancakes and muffins, salads and fresh berry and yogurt desserts," Kerr said. "In this way we have concentrated energy with powerful nutrition benefits, along with great taste, aroma, color and texture — which I call T.A.C.T. We literally scatter it on our food from sun up to supper."

For more information about vitamin E, including a quiz to see how much you’re eating now and tips on food choices, visit And for almond recipes and information, visit Happy Birthday, vitamin E!

The Almond Board of California administers a grower-enacted Federal Marketing Order under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture. Established in 1950, the Board’s charge is to promote the best quality almonds, California’s largest tree nut crop. For more information on the Almond Board of California or almonds, visit

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