Vitamin E

Vitamin E. It's a fat-soluble vitamin, which means (1) it needs fats to be absorbed in the body, (2) it's stored in the liver and fatty tissues, and (3) because it's stored (and the body is able to draw on those stores), it's not needed as often as water-soluble vitamins.

Now that that's out of the way, who knows what this vitamin does for us? Here's a hint: vitamins C and E share a very important role. That's right - they're both antioxidants, which means they help protect us from unstable and harmful atoms or molecules (also known as free radicals). What does that mean? Well, if left to their own devices, free radicals can promote inflammation and cell damage, which are associated with cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases. In other words, vitamin E is IMPORTANT.

There are a few groups of people who are particularly susceptible of deficiency, including people who have diseases associated with fat malabsorption or have problems with their liver, gallbladder or pancreas (all organs that are involved in fat digestion). People whose diets are extremely low in fat are also at risk of deficiency. But whether caused by disease or diet, deficiencies manifest the same way - as damage to our red blood cells and our nerves.

Given its importance, Americans typically fall below the recommended 15 mg per day. To give you an idea of how much that is, a tablespoon of mayonnaise has 3 mg, 3 tablespoons of sunflower seeds have about 6 mg.

So, you can either eat five tablespoons of mayo everyday...OR go the delicious route and supplement your diet with extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds guessed it, leafy greens - they all contain vitamin E. Mediterranean diet, anyone? Throw some nuts on your salad, have some nut butter with your next banana, or add spinach to your pasta dish. Try this recipe. Or this one. Or this one. The possibilities are endless, folks!

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