What is vitamin E?

Discover how getting enough vitamin E helps to maintain good health. Learn how much we need, which foods are the best sources and which recipes to try.

Spinach in pot on white table

Vitamin E is an important nutrient which helps our bodies function at their best. It is fat-soluble, which means it can be stored in the body – making it more difficult to excrete when recommended levels are met.

Naturally occurring vitamin E (tocopherol) exists in eight chemical forms (alpha (α)-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherol, and alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocotrienol). α-tocopherol is stored in the liver, which incorporates the vitamin into lipoproteins – a group of soluble proteins that combine with and transport fat in the blood to body tissues.

Why do we need vitamin E?

α-tocopherol has an extremely important role in the body as it acts as an antioxidant, preventing the formation of tissue-damaging free radicals in cells and lipoproteins. Vitamin E has been shown to be effective against the signs of ageing, arthritis and cataracts. Some evidence also suggests vitamin E may be involved in strengthening the immune system.

A selection of nuts in a bowl

How much vitamin E do we need?

The NHS recommends a daily intake of 4mg a day for men and 3mg a day for women. Intakes of 3.8-6.2mg a day appear to be satisfactory for pregnant and lactating women.

You should be able to get all the vitamin E you need from a balanced and varied diet.

What are the effects of consuming too much vitamin E?

Some studies show that large doses of vitamin E may inhibit vitamin K, and therefore interfere with blood coagulation. In addition, use of vitamin E supplements may also increase the risk of bleeding in individuals taking blood thinners such as heparin and warfarin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel or other medications including aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.

Speak to your GP if you are concerned about nutritional deficiencies or considering taking supplements.

Which foods are good sources of vitamin E?

Rich sources of vitamin E include high-fat foods such as safflower oil, margarine, wheat germ, nuts, nut butters and seeds. It's also found in avocados, spinach, eggs, tuna, herring, Swiss chard, tomatoes, broccoli and fortified cereals.

salad on table with candle and flatbread

Recipes high in vitamin E

More on vitamins and minerals


This article was published on 25th June 2019.

Emer Delaney BSc (Hons), RD has an honours degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Ulster. She has worked as a dietitian in some of London's top teaching hospitals and is currently based in Chelsea.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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