Introducing Vitamin B1

Creating Energy to Burn

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Wondering how to optimize your energy levels? Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamin, has an important role to play in the energy puzzle. Vitamin B1 helps break down and release energy from the food we eat by converting carbohydrates, lipids and proteins into energy. As a result thiamin requirement is very much related to the amount of energy we consume. Thiamin also plays a key role in nerve and muscle activity.

The Primary Sources of Vitamin B1

A variety of sources offer vitamin B1 from animal products and grains to fruits and vegetables. A few examples are offal (liver, kidneys, heart), fish, meat (pork), whole grain cereals, leafy green vegetables, asparagus, eggplant, fruits , legumes (beans and lentils), nuts, soymilk, squash, and brewer’s yeast.

Bioavailability of Vitamin B1

There is no data on bioavailability of vitamin B1, but we know that levels in foods are very susceptible to heat, cooking times, and length of storage. Vitamin B1 is also lost in the milling process, where the bran layer and some of the germ layer that contain vitamins are removed from grains.

Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Vitamin B1

People who consume diets consisting of primarily refined grains (mostly milled flours and polished rice) are at risk for thiamin deficiency. The risk of inadequacy is less when food manufacturers fortify refined grains with vitamin B1. Clinical vitamin B1 deficiency is called beriberi, a condition which still occurs in South-East Asia. In beriberi, there is damage to the nervous system characterized by muscle weakness in the arms and legs, or damage to the cardiovascular system which is characterized by dilated blood vessels, causing the heart to work harder and the kidneys to retain salt and water, resulting in edema. No adverse effects have been associated with excessive thiamin intakes.

Additional information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies is available though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Here is a creative way to include vitamin B1 in your next meal. 

Lentil Curry*

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1 salad onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp mild curry powder
2 green cardamom pods
1 tbsp tomato purée
100g/3½oz canned lentils, rinsed and drained
50ml/2fl oz hot vegetable stock
50ml/2fl oz double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 hot ready-made chapatis

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and then add the onions and garlic and fry for two minutes, until soft. Next incorporate the spices and cook through for two more minutes. Then add the tomato purée, lentils, and vegetable stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Finally, mix in the cream and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. 

To serve, pour the lentil curry into a warm bowl with the warm chipattis served on a plate alongside.

*adapted from bbc food recipes

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