Vitamin E vs. Omega 3

Almonds on a wooden table.
Almonds on a wooden table. (Image: angelacolac/iStock/Getty Images)

Individually, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids carry out different roles in your body. But they are both essential, and together, when consumed as part of an overall healthy and balanced diet, they help promote health and well-being.

Why You Need Them

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for immune health and plays a role in cell communication as well as gene activity. It's also an important antioxidant.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that are necessary for brain function, growth and development, and reducing inflammation.

Both vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids play important roles in protecting you from chronic illness. As an antioxidant, vitamin E defends your cells from damage by free radicals, which may delay the onset of illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. By reducing inflammation, omega-3s may also decrease your risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as arthritis.

Additionally, both vitamin E and omega-3 fats may inhibit the formation of blood clots that increase risk of stroke.

How Much You Need

The Institute of Medicine has established recommended dietary allowances for the amount of vitamin E you should get each day, which is 15 milligrams for both men and women.

Omega-3 fatty acids are not a vitamin, and while they are essential, guidelines for the amount you need to consume are based on health outcomes. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 250 milligrams of eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, a day, which are the omega-3s found in fish.

Vegetarians can meet their omega-3 needs eating plant sources of the nutrient, which is in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. suggests 3 grams of ALA a day.

What to Eat

The best food sources of vitamin E are nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts; seeds such as sunflower; and vegetables oils such as sunflower and safflower. You can also meet some of your vitamin E needs eating avocados, spinach, broccoli, kiwi fruit, mangoes and tomatoes.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends you eat 8 ounces of fatty fish a week, such as salmon or mackerel, to meet your daily needs. Other sources of omega-3 fats include flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, soybeans, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. Soy oil is a source of both vitamin E and omega-3 fats.

Getting Too Much

While it may be difficult to overdose on vitamin E or omega-3 fats eating food, if you take supplements there are risks of getting too much. Consuming more than 1,000 milligrams of vitamin E a day or more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids may increase your risk of bleeding. Consult your doctor before adding supplements to your daily routine.

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