The B-vitamins comprise a group of eight water soluble vitamins that perform essential, closely inter-related roles in cellular functioning, acting as co-enzymes in a vast array of catabolic and anabolic enzymatic reactions. Their collective effects are particularly prevalent to numerous aspects of brain function, including energy production.
In this 2 part article we are going to take a close look at what B Vitamins are, some food sources for each and how a deficiency could affect your health.
Attaining Balance In Nutrition
For our bodies to properly function and remain healthy, it’s imperative that you follow a nutritious diet.
We can categorize the foods that we eat into 6 different nutrient classes, these are
Failure to achieve the right balance of the 6 will make it difficult to live a healthy life and macronutrients are the backbone of achieving any fitness or weight loss goals you may have. As we break down each of these, you’ll see why they’re so essential to a healthy lifestyle.
• Protein – Foods containing protein are broken down as amino acids, which repair and build muscle tissue. Protein is especially helpful for active people who exercise regularly. It improves the speed of recovery, so it’s vital that your body gets enough of it. It also aids the nervous and immune systems.
• Carbohydrates – Think of your body as a racecar, and nutritious foods fuel that racecar. Racecars have their tires and oil changes to ensure its performance is maintained. The same must be done for your body, because failure to do so will result in it breaking down. Carbs provide you with the energy you need to properly function through your day. When you eat carbs, the pancreas releases insulin, which helps with carb storage.
• Fats – You may have heard that eating fats makes you fat; this is false because without proper fat intake you’ll die. Fat stores in the body are the main source of energy, and keep us warm in the winter months. Fats oil the joints, keeping muscles mobile for improved workouts, keeping muscles mobile for improved exercise. Additionally, vitamins A, D, E, and K re stored in body fat. The problem comes when people don’t take the time to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats and balancing their intake. This means eating more healthy fats, including monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, less of saturated fats and avoiding trans fats.
• Vitamins & Minerals – Our bodies need these nutrients to function, and also to facilitate a faster rate of chemical reaction. These are just as necessary to our health as the three macronutrients we discussed above, but in smaller amounts. Vitamins and minerals support a wide variety of internal body process, and B vitamins offer key health benefits, including the breakdown of carbohydrates to provide the body with energy.
• Water – One of the main issues that unhealthy (or overweight) people are guilty of is not properly hydrating. Rather than drinking a sufficient amount of water, they drink sugary fruit juices, or sodas. Water makes up a large portion of our body, and it’s critical to our survival. It’s vital to a healthy diet, and acts as a cleanser to the body.
What Are B Vitamins
B vitamins are actually a group of eight distinct vitamins known as the vitamin B complex, which includes:
B vitamins play a crucial role in maintaining our bodies, one of which is the function of converting food to fuel in support of sustained energy throughout the day. Many of these vitamins work together, but each of them has their own specific benefits, from preventing migraines and memory loss to promoting healthy skin.
That doesn’t mean you have to jump into stockpiling the vitamins just yet, because if you’re eating a healthy, well-balanced diet you should be getting plenty of them in the foods that you eat.
People do turn to supplements, though. Often the elderly, vegans and vegetarians, heart patients, obese people, and alcoholics suffer from vitamin B deficiencies. These deficiencies have been linked to memory function, dementia, cognitive impairment, depression, and psychiatric disorders.
Advocates claim that B vitamins can help with acne, skin problems, fatigue, depression, anxiety, PMS, and even heart disease.
Additionally, those who do take vitamin B vitamins tend to see an increase in energy, improved mood and memory, stress relief, and hair growth.
We’ll break down each of the B vitamins, their food sources, why you need it, and how much you should be getting.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
This is known as the anti-stress vitamin, as it works to protect the immune system. It also helps to create new cells in the body. It’s vital in carb loading cases because it helps break down simply carbohydrates.
You can find vitamin B1 in wheat germ, beans, whole grains, kale, peanuts, spinach, and blackstrap molasses.
Vitamin B1 Deficiency
A vitamin B1 deficiency affects the brain, nervous system, and heart, though it’s fairly uncommon in developed countries. Conditions that impair vitamin B1 levels include anorexia, alcoholism, Crohn’s disease, those taking loop diuretics, or patients on kidney dialysis.
There are two major health issues that the deficiency can cause: Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and beriberi.
The former is two different disorders, with Wernicke’s causing mental decline, a loss of muscle coordination, visual impairments and affecting the nervous system. If it is not treated, it results in Korsakoff syndrome, which permanently impairs the brain’s memory functions.
Beriberi affects alertness, breathing, heart function, and eye movements. The disease is a result of pyruvic acid building in the bloodstream; this is an effect of the body failing to convert food to fuel.
Both of these diseases can be treated with thiamine supplements or injections, however, it cannot repair the permanent damage Korsakoff syndrome does to the memory.
The daily-recommended allowance from the National Academy of Sciences is as follows:
• Men aged 19 and older 1.2 mg
• Women aged 19 and older 1.1 mg
• Breastfeeding or pregnant women – 1.4 mg
Vitamin B2 – (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 is an antioxidant, and it fights free radicals that cause oxidative stress and promote premature aging. It can prevent heart disease and early aging. It’s also vital for the production of red blood cells, which we require to transport oxygen through the body.
While sunshine is good for the body, it can reduce the vitamin B2 content of food. Milk is an excellent example of this, which is why it should be purchased from in an opaque container that protects the vitamin content.
You can find vitamin B2 in almonds, eggs, yogurt, wild rice, leafy green vegetables, spinach, soybeans, chicken, turkey, fish, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, and kidney beans.
Vitamin B2 Deficiency
Vitamin B2 deficiencies aren’t common in developed nations, as many of our refined carbohydrates are riboflavin fortified. It’s also contained in meat and eggs, which are commonly, consumed products.
However, there are a number of symptoms related to a deficiency of vitamin B2, including: anemia, nerve damage, sores or cracks around the mouth, fatigue, sore throat, sluggish metabolism, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and inflamed skin.
Vitamin B2 is water soluble, so you need to be sure to get it daily in order to prevent a deficiency. The best way to get your recommended daily allowance is by eating a healthy, balanced diet. It’s vital to the function of every cell within the body, in reducing inflammation, balancing hormones, the digestive system, and metabolism, as well as the health of the nerves, blood, skin, health, and eyes.
The recommended daily allowance, according to The National Academy of Sciences:
• Women aged 19 and older- 1.1 mg
• Men aged 19 and older- 1.3 mg
• Pregnant or breastfeeding women – 1.4 mg
Vitamin B3 – (Niacin)
Niacin is a member of the B complex vitamin family; it shouldn’t be confused with nicotinate, tryptophan, niacinamide, or inositol niacinamide. It’s taken by those with high levels of cholesterol, as well as to treat circulation issues, migraines, dizziness, diarrhea (as caused by cholera), and Meniere’s syndrome. It can also be used in treating schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, muscle spasms, edema, alcohol dependence, muscle spasms, motion sickness, hallucinations, depression, and swelling of the blood vessels.
You can find vitamin B3 in yeast, chicken, fish, beans, red meat, eggs, nuts, green vegetables, and whole grains.
It serves many purposes in the body, including aiding in the function of the skin, nervous system, and digestive system. Just like the rest of the B vitamin family, it helps in the breakdown of macronutrients, as well as in liver function.
Its role is to produce hormones in the adrenal glands, detoxifying the liver. In addition to treating high cholesterol, it can be used for stroke patients. Strokes are the result of blood vessel obstructions, and niacin can aid the growth of new blood vessels.
It can also aid in maintaining an erection for men with severe ED, for acne, and in helping cancer patients.
The recommended daily allowance, according to The National Academy of Sciences:
• Women – 14 mg
• Men – 16 mg
• Pregnant women, up it to 18 mg
• Breastfeeding Women – 17 mg
You can read part 2 of this article about B Vitamins HERE