Vitamin B-1, also known as thiamine, is a key player in the body’s production of energy. Thiamine takes the energy in carbohydrates and fats and helps to regulate the process of converting that energy into a form that is usable by your body. Vitamin B-1 is especially vital to the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. Your brain is constantly burning energy.
Vitamin B-1 Deficiency
Because your whole body needs energy, vitamin B-1 deficiency can affect how your whole body functions. In addition to the nervous system, areas that are particularly sensitive to lack of B-1 include the heart and digestive system. Vitamin B-1 deficiency, though rare in developed countries today, was once widespread due to over-processing of foods. Beriberi is a thiamine deficiency disease that affects the heart and nervous system particularly. Historically, beriberi has appeared in countries that are dependent on rice in their diet. Polishing the rice in an attempt to preserve it removes the thiamine rich outer coating and puts those who eat only polished rice at risk for thiamine deficiency.
Alcohol abuse plays a huge role in vitamin B-1 deficiencies. Metabolism of alcohol robs the body of thiamine and puts heavy drinkers at risk for the same type of nervous system and heart damage that occurs in severe vitamin B1 deficiency. As we get older, it becomes harder for the body to properly metabolize thiamine, making elderly people particularly at risk for vitamin B-1 deficiency.
Food Sources of Vitamin B-1
Thiamine is present to a small degree in most of the foods that we consume. As with anything else though, some sources are better than others. The best dietary sources of B-1 include whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, and whole grain wheat flour and rye flour. Because processing removes the thiamine rich outer coating of the grain, processed white flour is required to be fortified with thiamine and other nutrients before being sold in the United States and other countries.
In addition to whole grains, other good sources of vitamin B-1 include asparagus, sunflower seeds, leafy greens such as spinach, cabbage and kale, and brussels sprouts and broccoli. Legumes such as dried beans and green peas are also good sources of thiamine.
Advantages of Raw Food
Vitamin B-1 is very sensitive to heat. Cooking has been shown to destroy 50% or more of the thiamine content in foods. Be sure to consume at least some of these thiamine rich foods in their raw forms. A Caesar salad, containing raw Romaine lettuce or coleslaw with fresh cabbage would be good sources of vitamin B-1. Want a fast, easy serving of vitamin B-1? Eat a handful of sunflower seeds. A quarter cup of sunflower seeds contains almost half of your daily recommended intake of vitamin B-1.
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