A guest blog by Talia Fuhrman

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Free radicals suck. They are like tiny malicious sparks from the wand of a great and powerful warlock out to destroy our radiant, perfectly normal functioning cells. Over time, these little guys strike a slow, insidious blow to our overall health as well as the health of our skin.  They stealthily attack our outer beauty by causing collagen damage, skin dryness, fine lines and wrinkles.

How do these tiny microscopic molecules manage to accomplish such damage to our skin cells, you say?

It is a rather simple concept. The atoms in our bodies take tremendous pains to maintain an even number of electrons in their orbits; this helps keep our atoms stable, at peace and functioning at optimal potential.  If an atom possesses an uneven number of electrons, it will greedily snag one from another nearby atom in an effort to maintain stability. Those avaricious little guys!

When we eat processed/junk foods, spend time under the sun’s beating ultraviolet rays, or bath our skin in harmful synthetic chemicals (Think I’m kidding about this? Check out the ingredients used in conventional makeup products. Nasty!) our bodies produce free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms with an uneven number of electrons and when they are produced on our skin they form a damaging chain reaction that results in the premature aging of our skin and cellular damage that leads to de-beautified, dull lookin’ skin. I wasn’t kidding when I said they are on the dark side.

In comes vitamin E to the rescue! Vitamin E is one of the most powerful antioxidants with proven skin-protecting properties.  However, our bodies can’t produce it, so we need to eat plenty of vitamin E-rich foods to create the formidable outer beauty shield we seek. Studies have even shown that consuming vitamin E-rich foods on a regular basis can reduce sunburns from exposure to UVB radiation.

Now onto the exciting part of this article in which we learn how to use the beneficent forces of plant-foods to defeat those evil free radicals.

The best vitamin E-rich foods are now comin’ at ya!

1) Spinach- We’ve got a clear vitamin E winner over here! Two cups of raw spinach provides 6% of the %DV. Two cup of raw spinach is a tiny 14 calories, so this means that spinach is one of the most concentrated sources of vitamin E per calorie. Because spinach is super low in calories, we can eat a lot of it to fill up and get our vitamin E, but we won’t be consuming many calories. I adore spinach in soups, wraps, salads and even in smoothies. Now whenever I eat spinach I will think of skin that is youthful, bright and clear!

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2) Tomatoes (both regular and cherry!)– One cup of cherry tomatoes is 26.8 calories and contains 4% of the %DV for vitamin E. I love tomatoes so much! Tomatoes are another highly delicious, nutrient-dense, low-calorie food. I adore roasted tomatoes and tomato sauce with garlic, basil, and other Italian spices. A significant chunk of my brain tells me I should have been born Italian given my love of Italian food, my foodie propensities and my love affair with Mediterranean culture, but I must say that it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Give me some homemade, chunky, steaming, perfectly seasoned tomato sauce over whole-wheat penne pasta, roasted vegetables and cracked pepper and I am a very happy camper. Oh and check out this deliciousVegan Roasted Tomato Soup recipe from LifeAsAStrawberry.com. I’ve been gazing at pictures of the recipe and my eyes are going wild with pleasure!

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3) Swiss Chard– this exceptional, absolutely exquisite nutrient-powerhouse of a green vegetable is loaded with vitamin E as well as plenty of beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, B vitamins and much more.  As such, it is a wickedly nutritious food that will naturally make your skin look ma’velous darling. It actually has the same amount of vitamin E as spinach. Goooo, green leafy vegetables! Now the trick is to learn how to cook it to make it tasty too! In all honesty, S to the C was never one of my favorite foods, or even on the tasty side of the spectrum on my food-liking scale, but it’s so gosh darn healthy that it’s worth playing around with in the kitchen to make it taste as scrumptious as it is healthy for our tiny, nutrient-craving cells. Check out all of these AMAZING swish chard recipes that should do a superb job of adding flavorful delight to any day we choose to prepare them. CLICK HERE, CLICK HERE, your fingers tell you! You know you want to start including more S to the C in your life!

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4) Sunflower seeds– these cute littl’ seeds pack 222% of the %DV in a 100 gram serving. As 100 grams of sunflower seeds amounts to 3.5 ounces or 0.42 cups, this is quite a bit of sunflower seeds to consume at one time. However, 222% is also a fantastically large percentage, so large in fact, that sunflower seeds happen to contain the most vitamin E per calorie of all foods. Wow, sunflower seeds, just wow. Way to rock the whole good for you thing. Actually I wrote a blog post about how incredible sunflower seeds are for us a little while ago. Check it out by clicking HERE and up your sunflower seed IQ! May you never look at sunflower seeds the same way again.

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5) Avocados– one whole avocado contains between 10-13% of the %DV depending on the type of avocado. Florida avocados tend to contain slightly more vitamin E than California avocados, but the difference is pretty trivial. What’s not trivial? Eating creamy avocados as often as I can! I actually just relished an avocado-filled, pesto sauce-enhanced whole-wheat pita sandwich before writing this blog post. I can testify that it was pretty much the best lunch a hungry girl could ask for. And now I’ve got plenty of vitamin E cruising through my bloodstream right now too. You can also count on avocados for an wildly high number of other nutrients including many in the carotenoid family. Think beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, neoxanthin, zeaxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, neochrome, beta-cryptoxanthin and violaxanthin. Wow, that was a type full (as opposed to a mouth full!). While you don’t need to remember the names, pronunciation or spelling of all of these funky-named nutrients, you do need to remember that all of them work together to strengthen our immune systems, combat free radicals, promote a healthy reproductive system and even aid in the absorption of other nutrients. Holy moly guacamole, that’s impressive. To read more about the health benefits of avocados, CLICK HERE.

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Clearly my next cooking endeavor will be creating a raw avocado cream pie recipe. Doesn’t the above picture look drool-worthy, knock-your-socks-off AMAZING?! It’s from KirbyCravings.com, but the recipe isn’t very healthy and is not dairy-free. Time to venture to the kitchen to make a non-dairy, healthier alternative!

And my Vitamin E runners up: almonds, peanut butter, pine nuts, hazelnuts, kale, turnip greens, broccoli, red peppers, tropical fruits such as papaya and kiwi, radicchio, paprika, red chill powder, and wheat germ. These runners up also pack a mean vitamin E punch! Leafy greens, nuts and seeds tend to contain the most vitamin E per calorie, so make sure you are consuming these foods often. The more vitamin E from real foods the better, I say!

Remember that no pill can take the place of the complex nutrient composition in real foods. Studies have shown that supplemental vitamin E offers no health benefits and may even be detrimental to our long-term health. For more information about the toxicity of supplemental vitamin E CLICK HERE and HERE.

I hope you have a delightful, vitamin E plant-foods rich week! Today is also my birthday, so happy birthday to me! I am now 21 + 5 but I think I look a solid 21 + 2 thanks to my buddies those plants.

TaliaTalia Fuhrman, the oldest daughter of Dr. Fuhrman, has a degree in nutritional sciences from Cornell University and is currently working on a manuscript of her own health and wellness book for young women. She is on a mission to help people of all ages understand that eating healthfully can be fun, delicious, and easy. A lover of cooking and writing, she understands that disease prevention must be made positively delicious! Talia has her own website with psychological musing, nutrition tips and recipes. In addition to her posts on Disease Proof, you can find her at TaliaFuhrman.com.