Monday, January 28, 2013

The Official “B” Cheat Sheet: Your Guide To Understanding B-Vitamins

We've all heard of B vitamins. We know that they’re important, and that we need them to stay healthy. But what exactly do they do for us? How much of each vitamin do we need each day? Most importantly, what’s the best (and, ahem, the easiest) way to work them into our diets?

Here are the keys to decoding these B’s

If we understand the roles they play in our bodies, it becomes easier to see why not getting enough of them every day will result in certain problems. As a group, the B’s work together to keep the cells in our bodies healthy – this goes for the skin, blood, and nerve cells. What does this mean for you? Well, if you are lacking in the B department, you’ll develop problems with the skin (rashes, acne) blood (anemia) and nervous system (numbness/tingling, altered brain function, birth defects). 

The B’s also work together to keep homocysteine levels in check. Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood that is broken down by the B vitamins. Research is still being done on the long-term effects on the body, but many studies have found a connection between high levels of homocysteine and an increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and bone fractures.

If that weren't enough, B’s play an essential role in turning the foods we eat into the energy we use every day, a process called metabolism. I’ll discuss metabolism in more detail in a later post.

Several simple sources of B-Vitamin Goodness

Ok, so now that we understand why these B’s are so important to us, which foods can we eat to give us our Vitamin B fix?  Different meats such as liver, beef, and fish are great sources of some of the harder-to-find B’s such as B5 and B12. Other good sources of B vitamins include: nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy products, mushrooms, whole grains, beans and leafy greens. B7 is a particularly difficult vitamin to find in generous amounts in food, but you'll find it in eggs, chard, peanuts and liver.

Fair enough, but how much do I need?

It can be tricky to make sure we’re getting enough of our B vitamins in our daily diet to stay healthy. Because of this, you may want to supplement with a multi-vitamin. Something important to remember: People who have restricted intake of certain foods as a result of vegetarian or vegan diets, or who are already managing certain conditions that deplete the B's in our body, may also need to supplement with whichever B they are lacking. Certain medications and even your age may also affect how well you can break down and use your B vitamins. Before starting any supplementation routine, please see your Doctor to make sure you take exactly what you need for your specific nutritional needs. Just like anything in life, too little OR too much of something can lead to problems.

Get to the good stuff!

Good news! I've compiled a nifty cheat sheet for you to use at home to help keep these B’s straight. Each section provides a mini-breakdown on how much of each B you need every day, what will happen if you’re not sneaking enough into your diet, and the foods that provide the highest B-bang for your buck.

 “But we are a practical group!” you cry out. “We demand recipes!” To reward your enthusiasm, I've included examples of meals packed to the brim with beautiful B’s at the end of this post.



How much do I need: 1.5 g per day
What if I don’t get enough: Altered brain function! Emotional disturbances! Weakness/pain in limbs! Irregular heartbeat! (Rare: Beriberi disease!)
Where can I get it: sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, pecans, pork, fish, cauliflower, eggs, kale



How much do I need: 1.2 mg per day
What if I don’t get enough: Cracked lips! Inflamed tongue! Skin disorders!
Where can I get it: milk, cheese, mushrooms, almond, dark leafy veggies



How much do I need: 14-16 mg per day
What if I don’t get enough: Insomnia! Skin disorders! Diarrhea! Dementia! (Rare: Pellagra disease!) 
Where can I get it: chicken, beef, mushrooms, peanut butter, legumes


Pantothenic Acid

How much do I need: 5 mg
What if I don’t get enough: Acne! Nerve dysfunction!
Where can I get it: meat, whole grains, broccoli, avocado



How much do I need: 1.5 mg
What if I don’t get enough: Anemia! Rashes! Depression! High blood pressure!
Where can I get it: grains, nuts, potatoes, starchy veggies



How much do I need: 30 micrograms
What if I don’t get enough: Thinning of hair! Rashes! Depression! Tingling in arms/legs!
Where can I get it: leafy greens, peanuts, eggs


Folic Acid/Folate

How much do I need: 400 micrograms
What if I don’t get enough: Depression! Anemia! Birth Defects!
Where can I get it: leafy greens, beans, lentils, sunflower seeds



How much do I need: 2.4 micrograms
What if I don’t get enough: Anemia! Depression! Constipation! Memory loss! Nerve dysfunction!
Where can I get it: fish, beef, cheese, eggs, yogurt, milk

White potato (large, baked, with skin); Salmon, (½ fillet); 1 cup cooked spinach with mushrooms

B1        [][][][][]     55% 
B2        [][][][][][][][][][]     95% 
B3        [][][][][][][][][][]     100%
B5        [][][][]    45%  
B6        [][][][][][][][][][][][][][]    140%
B7        minimal
B9        [][][][][][][][]    85%  
B12      [][][][][][][][]    80%

Hamburger, (beef patty, 90% lean) 1 Avocado, 1 cup mushrooms, wheat  bun;  ½ cup black beans, ½ cup brown rice

B1        [][][][][]    55%
B2        [][][][][]    55%
B3        [][][][][][]   60%
B5        [][][][]   40%
B6        [][][][]   40%
B7        0%
B9        [][][][][][][][]   80%
B12      [][][]    35%

1 cup of Lentils, 1 cup of Spinach, 1 Avocado, 1 cup mushrooms

B1        [][][][][][][][][][][][][][]    140%
B2        [][][][][][][][][]   85%  
B3        [][][][]    40% 
B5        [][][][][][][]    75%  
B6        [][][][][][][][][]   90%  
B7        minimal
B9        [][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][]   310%
B12      0%

2 Egg omelet with Spinach and Mushrooms

B1        0%
B2        [][][][][][][][][][][][][][]    130%
B3        0%
B5        [][][][][]    55%  
B6        0%
B7        minimal
B9        [][][][][][][][][]   95% 
B12      [][][][][]    50%  

1 cup of Oatmeal with ½ cup sunflower seeds

B1        [][][][][][][][]    80%
B2        []   15%
B3        [][]   25%
B5        [][][][][][]   65%
B6        [][][]    35%
B7        0%
B9        [][][][][][]   60%
B12      0%

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