Vitamin E and vegetables may not be synonymous, but leafy greens like spinach, beet greens, and turnip greens are a great way to get in the nutrient. Asparagus, broccoli, squash, and sweet potatoes are crowd pleasers that can help. And don’t forget herbs like basil, oregano, or parsley which contain the vitamin too!
If you are looking for vitamin E from sources other than nuts, seeds, fish, or vegetable oils, fresh vegetables are a good bet. After all, you may not always want a fishy meal like abalone or sardines or may be looking for a lighter, less calorific means to the vitamin than oil or nuts. Here’s a look at some of the best vegetable sources of vitamin E and how you can incorporate them into your diet.
Antioxidant Vitamin E Plays A Role In Overall Health
You need vitamin E to keep some basic muscle and nerve function going. Which is why a deficiency of the nutrient can cause you to lose sensation in the arms and legs or lead to muscle weakness in general. This antioxidant vitamin helps fight oxidative stress – a problem that’s been linked to everything from heart problems and eye problems/macular degeneration to graying of hair, wrinkle formation, and other signs of aging. Equally important, it seems to play a role in immune function and may help protect you from having long or frequent bouts of illness.1
Try And Get 15 mg of Vitamin E Daily From Your Diet
Adults require 15 mg of vitamin E a day, according to the standards set by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies. This RDA (recommended daily allowance) number is slightly higher for lactating mothers – if you are nursing, get 19 mg a day.2
When it comes to the nutrient-richness of the foods you eat, you can look to the daily value (DV) numbers set by the United States Food And Drug Administration (FDA). This gives you a sense of how much a food contributes to your daily intake of the vitamin. With vitamin E, the DV is also 15 mg – so a good source of the vitamin should contain 3 mg or more to cross the 20% DV mark, a benchmark for the nutrient-richness of a food.3 While foods like nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils cruise comfortably into this range, vegetables may not always have as much. That said, there are some which are over 20% DV. The list that follows tells you about these as well as the next best veggie options you could try.
A cup of cooked spinach: 3.74 mg of vitamin E (24.9% DV)
If you are vegan or vegetarian, chances are you’ve either tried or considered having spinach for its nutrient benefits. Even without any diet restrictions, up your intake of spinach if vitamin E is on your mind. This vegetable has an impressive 3.74 mg or 24.9% DV of the nutrient in a standard cup-sized serving.4 Tuck into a spinach and cheese frittata for a heart and easy midweek meal. Or make a delicious spinach and artichoke dip. You could even experiment with spinach done Filipino style with an adobo inspired sauce. A tofu miso dressing salad can become even more nutritious with the addition of spinach. And when you are yearning for the familiar, nothing hits the spot quite like pillowy ricotta and spinach filled ravioli.
2. Other Leafy Green Vegetables
Don’t limit yourself to the most familiar. A host of other green leafy vegetables can get you your vitamin E, besides containing dozens of other micro- and macronutrients like vitamin K, folate, calcium, or vitamin C. You can use these greens in stir-fry recipes with Asian sauces or just simply toss them in a pan with a little garlic, salt, and pepper. Alternatively, dehydrate leaves like kale in an oven at a low temperature to create the most moreish healthy chips. Greens also boost the goodness of a pasta sauce. Add them to a tomato-based sauce or make them the hero of the dish by keeping it simple with just some herbs and spices. But how much vitamin E do all these leaves contain?
- Turnip greens, 1 cup, boiled: 2.71 mg (18.1% DV)5
- Beet greens, 1 cup, boiled: 2.61 mg (17.4% DV)6
- Mustard greens, 1 cup, boiled: 2.49 mg (16.6% DV)7
- Kale, 1 cup, boiled: 1.9 mg (12.7% DV)8
- Collards, 1 cup, boiled: 1.67 mg (11.1% DV)9
A cup of cooked boiled asparagus: 2.7 mg of vitamin E (18% DV)
Asparagus doesn’t take too much effort to prepare. You could just roast it off in the oven or grill it on a pan and you’d still get rave reviews for the meal. All it takes is a touch of seasoning, a twist of lime, a pat of butter (or all three) and you are on your way! For a little bit of a sinful twist on this, grate some cheese and sprinkle some bread crumbs over before baking. Even a simple omelet or pasta can taste a million times better with some asparagus added in. A cup of the cooked boiled vegetable has an impressive 2.7 mg of vitamin E, that’s 18% DV.10
4. Butternut Squash
A cup of cooked squash: 2.64 mg of vitamin E (17.6% DV)
Does the smell of roasting squash, sprinkled ever so lightly with spices and toasty caramel color at the edges, send your taste buds into overdrive? This humble yet heavenly vegetable is a good source of vitamin E, with 17.6% DV or 2.64 mg of the nutrient in a single cup of the cooked squash.11 Top some focaccia with strips of the squash or make a winter lasagna for vegetarians with squash at its heart. For a simple-to-put-together meal, toss all the ingredients for a lentil and squash stew into your pressure cooker and sit back and relax as the flavors meld together.
A cup of boiled broccoli: 2.4 mg of vitamin E (16% DV)
If a beautiful green head of broccoli seems inviting, you’re in luck because just a cup of the boiled brassica vegetable has 16% DV of vitamin E with 2.4 mg of vitamin E to the serving. You stand to gain plenty by having this fiber-, folate-, and vitamin-rich food.12 Make a simple roasted broccoli when time is at a premium or marinade a full head of broccoli in yogurt and spices and bake it when you need something quick and easy but utterly delicious. Add it to your favorite quiche filling or toss it into an Asian pork or beef stir-fry. In summer, amp up the vitamin intake from a cold noodle recipe with sesame and kale by adding in some broccoli too. When cooler weather swings around, whizz up a warming broccoli soup or combine it with lamb for a hearty stew.
6. Sweet Potato
A cup of baked sweet potato: 1.42 mg of vitamin E (9.5% DV)
A cup of sweet potato flesh, from a spud that’s been baked in its skin, will give you 1.42 mg of vitamin E. Which means tucking into a cup-sized serving of creamy mash made from these potatoes could get you 9.5% DV of the vitamin.13 Not too shabby! You can also experiment by swapping out sweet potato in other potato-based recipes – oven baked chips are a favorite with most. You might also like to dabble in some sweet recipes like a sweet potato pie or swing the other way with a spicy vegetarian chili that uses sweet potatoes to add volume (and deliciousness!) to the meal.
Two teaspoons of dried oregano: 0.66 mg of vitamin E (4.4% DV)
Given the relatively less variety of vitamin E-rich vegetables on offer, it won’t hurt to consider some herbs as well. Oregano, while not strictly a vegetable, is also a good source of vitamin E. Add just two teaspoons of the dried herb to a recipe and you’ll have 0.66 mg of vitamin E or 4.4% DV.14 Typically used in its dried form, oregano can be a star in Italian recipes like pizza, pasta, and meaty stews. The pungent herb also works well in a range of other Mediterranean recipes like Greek style chicken skewers or moussaka. If you are baking your own bread, try adding some dried oregano to it for a delicious flavor boost.
A tablespoon of dried basil: 0.48 mg of vitamin E (3.2% DV)
There’s nothing quite like a herby hit to elevate a recipe. Condiments and sauces like pesto built on a foundation of basil can make a meal truly special. Sprinkle dried basil into your favorite casseroles, pasta recipes, or breads to make them smell and taste divine. A tablespoonful of the dried ground herb contains 0.48 mg of vitamin E, so even if you use just a couple of spoons in a recipe or wind up having just a spoonful yourself, that’s 3.2% DV without much effort.15 Combine it with other vitamin E-rich foods and the numbers will start to matter more. For instance, you could have a pasta with leafy greens like spinach and then add basil to season. While fresh basil has vitamin E too, it is present in smaller amounts, so it is better to use the dried version to amplify benefits.
A tablespoon of dried parsley: 0.14 mg of vitamin E (1% DV)
Parsley can be much more than garnish or an afterthought to a recipe. Some salads and even meaty marinades and salsas put parsley centerstage and with good reason too. If you use the fresh leaf to whip up a chimichurri sauce or walnut, raisin, and parsley salad to go with your main meal, you’ll use a cup of the leaves or more. Expect 0.45 mg of vitamin E from this quantity of the fresh chopped herbs – that’s 3% DV.16 Use dried parsley in recipes like pasta sauces, roast potatoes, or marinades for meat and you’ll get 0.14 mg (around 1% DV) to the tablespoon.17
Now that you have a ready reckoner of vegetables that contain vitamin E, work out ways to combine these with other vitamin E-rich foods like nuts and seeds or even fish. Not only will you elevate your dietary intake of this all-important nutrient, you’ll also have a variety of delicious foods to choose from.