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While looking at diet and cardiovascular disease risk many of us immediately consider our saturated fat intake however Vitamin B6 should not be overlooked. Together with folate and vitamin B12, vitamin B6 is required for maintenance of normal blood homocysteine levels. Raised homocysteine is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin B6, comprises 3 forms: pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. All three forms of B6 can be converted to the coenzyme PLP. Vitamin B6 in its coenzyme form is involved in more than 100 enzyme reactions, many concerned with protein metabolism. 

Along with its central role in the metabolism of amino acids (protein), it is fair to say that Vitamin B6 is required for the majority of biological reactions in our body including neurotransmitter synthesis, red blood cell formation and metabolism and transport of iron.

Vitamin B6 is stored in muscle tissue.

The Primary Sources of Vitamin B6

There are many good sources of vitamin B6, including chicken, liver (cattle, pig), fish (salmon, tuna) from animals.

In addition, chickpeas, maize and whole grain cereals, green leafy vegetables, bananas, potatoes and other starchy vegetables are ideal sources from fruits and vegetables. Vitamin B6 can also be found in nuts and chickpeas. 

Bioavailability of Vitamin B6

If consuming a mixed diet, the bioavailability of vitamin B6 is about 75%. Vitamin B6 is destroyed by heat but it remains stable during storage.

Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Vitamin B6

Deficiency of vitamin B6 alone is uncommon; usually it occurs in combination with a deficit in other B-vitamins. Individuals at risk for poor intakes are alcoholics and those taking tuberculosis medication. Signs of vitamin B6 deficiency include microcytic anemia due to inadequate synthesis of hemoglobin, depression, nerve problems, and irritability. No adverse events have been observed with high intakes of vitamin B6 (from food or supplements).

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate vitamin B6 into your next dinner with this delicious recipe below. 

Casserole Roast Chicken with Autumn Herbs*

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients

1 chicken (3½ lbs (1.575kg) free range if possible
1 oz (30g) butter
4-6 teasp. chopped fresh herbs eg. Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon, Chervil, Chives, Marjoram
¼ pint (150ml) light cream
¼ pint (150ml) home-made chicken stock
*Roux, optional
1-2 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs
1 oval casserole

Method

Remove the wish bone and keep for the stock. Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper and stuff a sprig of tarragon inside. Chop the remaining tarragon and mix with two-thirds of the butter. Smear the remaining butter over the breast of the chicken, place breast side down in a casserole and allow it to brown over a gentle heat. Turn the chicken breast-side up and smear the tarragon butter over the breast and legs. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover the casserole and cook in a moderate oven for 13-12 hours.

(To test if the chicken is cooked, pierce the flesh between the breast and thigh. This is the last place to cook, so if there is no trace of pink here and if the juices are clear the chicken is certainly cooked.) Remove to a carving dish and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.

Spoon the surplus fat from the juices, add a little freshly chopped tarragon, add in the cream and stock if using* boil up the sauce until it thickens slightly. Alternatively bring the liquid to the boil, whisk in just enough roux to thicken the sauce to a light coating consistency. Taste and correct seasoning.

Carve the chicken into 4 or 6 helpings, each person should have a portion of white and brown meat. Arrange on a serving dish, nap with the sauce and serve.

*Adapted from Daria Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School

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