Food First: Vitamin E

Overview

This month we will be discussing another member of the antioxidant family: Vitamin E! Vitamin E, also known as alpha-tocopherol, is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it requires fat in the diet in order to be absorbed by the body. In addition to its role as an antioxidant, vitamin E is important for immune function and can help to prevent plaque formations within blood vessels [i].

Daily Recommendations

Women and Men age 14 and older: 15 mg/day [i]

Vitamin E Deficiency

In cancer, supplementation of any antioxidant, including vitamin E, is currently not recommended, unless under the direction of you healthcare practitioner. As discussed in previous months, antioxidants in the form of supplements have the potential to inhibit the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, however food sources of antioxidants have not been shown to have this same negative effect [ii].

Vitamin E is also a fat soluble vitamin, which means that patients who are having difficulties with fat absorption such as those with pancreatic or hepatic (liver) cancer may experience a deficiency of vitamin E. It should be noted however that overt vitamin E deficiency is incredibly rare and even those who consume a diet low in vitamin E rarely develop a deficiency. This tends to be the case with most, but not all, fat soluble vitamins. Signs of a vitamin E deficiency can often mimic the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, which is why it is always very important that you discuss any of your symptoms with your doctor. Symptoms include: numbness or tingling of the extremities, heart palpitations, vision changes and increased infection [i].

** If instructed by a medical professional to take a vitamin or mineral supplement, it is important that these instructions are followed. In some cases, food sources of vitamins and minerals will not be sufficient for addressing nutritional inadequacies. **

Sources of Vitamin E

Below is a list of the most common food sources of vitamin E:

  • Wheat germ
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Spinach
Vitamin E-rich Recipe: Wheat Germ Pancakes
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  2. ½ cup whole wheat flour
  3. 3 tablespoons sugar
  4. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
  6. 1 banana, mashed
  7. Milk (or milk alternative like soy or almond), enough to make 1 ¼ cups when combined with banana mash
  8. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  9. 2 eggs
  10. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  11. 6 teaspoons wheat germ
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Instructions
  1. Heat griddle or pan.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Mash banana in a large measuring cup. Add a little milk and stir together, then add more milk to reach 1 ¼ cups.
  3. Whisk in oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix the wet and dry ingredients until the ingredients are just combined. Be sure not to over-mix.
  4. Spray your pan or griddle with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle the pancake batter onto the griddle and add ½ teaspoon of wheat germ to the tops of each. Pancakes are ready to flip when bubbles have formed in the center of the pancake and have popped, leaving craters. Cook on the other side until the pancakes have turned a golden brown.
  5. Serve with your favorite pancake topping (maple syrup, whipped cream or fresh fruit). To increase the vitamin E content of these pancakes, serve with a spread of peanut or almond butter! Enjoy!
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Adapted from Crazy for Crust
Adapted from Crazy for Crust
Savor Health http://savorhealth.com/

References:

[i] Vitamin E: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals 2018; https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/.

[ii] D’Andrea, G. M. (2005), Use of Antioxidants During Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy Should Be Avoided. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 55: 319–321. doi:10.3322/canjclin.55.5.319

Rebecca MacLean

Rebecca MacLean is a dietetic intern and graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University. Rebecca received her undergraduate degree in Human Nutrition and Food Science with a minor in Sustainable Food Systems from the University of Maine. In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys home cooking and spending as much time as possible in the outdoors. She currently resides in New York City.

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