Vitamins C and E are both antioxidants, but they differ in many ways. For example, vitamin C is water-soluble, which means it isn't stored in your body, while vitamin E is fat-soluble, so any extra you consume can be stored in your fat cells. Vitamin E also requires dietary fat for proper absorption. The two vitamins have different functions in the body. Relatively few foods contain significant amounts of both of these nutrients, but they are found separately in a variety of foods.
Best Sources of Both Vitamins
Each cup of cooked broccoli has about 168 percent of the daily value for vitamin C and 10 percent of the DV for vitamin E. Eating a medium red bell pepper will also provide you with significant amounts of each of these vitamins, with 9 percent of the DV for vitamin E and 253 percent of the DV for vitamin C. Dark green leafy greens can be a good source of vitamins C and E as well. For example, a cup of cooked spinach has 29 percent of the DV for vitamin C and 18 percent of the DV for vitamin E. Turnip greens and Swiss chard are two other good choices if you're trying to increase your vitamin C and E intake.
Other Good Sources
It may be easier to meet your vitamin C and E needs if you get them from separate foods. Guavas, kale, kiwi, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, berries, citrus fruits, peas, tomatoes, papaya, cantaloupe, honeydew and pineapple are all excellent sources of vitamin C. For vitamin E, eat tofu, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, avocado, shrimp, vegetable oils, swordfish, rainbow trout or butternut squash.
Potential Health Benefits
Vitamin C helps the body form collagen and heal wounds and also improves the absorption of iron. Vitamin E is important for proper immune function, cell signaling and preventing unwanted blood clots. Because they act as antioxidants, they may help decrease the risk for some health conditions, including heart disease and cancer, but research in this area is still preliminary and conflicting, with many studies finding no benefit.
Vitamin C Considerations
Not getting the recommended amount of vitamin C, which is at least 75 milligrams per day for adult women and 90 milligrams per day for adult men, could cause deficiency symptoms, including fatigue, easy bruising, nosebleeds, dry hair, weight loss and irritability. This is rare in healthy people in the United States, however, unless they follow very restricted diets. Getting more than the tolerable upper limit of 2,000 milligrams per day can cause diarrhea and headaches and increase the risk of kidney stones.
Vitamin E Considerations
Adults usually get the recommended 15 milligrams per day of vitamin E, and deficiencies aren't likely unless you have a health problem that impairs fat metabolism or you eat a very low-fat diet. Although getting high amounts of vitamin E through foods isn't dangerous, it can be risky to take high-dose vitamin E supplements. A meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in January 2005 found that taking vitamin E supplements in amounts of 400 international units per day or more could increase your risk for all-cause mortality and recommended that this be avoided.