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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Introducing Vitamin K

Learning the Fundamentals

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One often hears the term ‘it’s a matter of life and death’ but this is literally the case for Vitamin K! Vitamin K, also known as phylloquinone or menaquinone, has a vital role in blood clotting and thus also supports wound healing.

More than a dozen different proteins and the mineral calcium are involved in making a blood clot. Vitamin K is essential for the activation of several of these proteins. When any of the blood clotting factors is lacking, hemorrhagic disease (uncontrolled bleeding) results. Vitamin K also participates in the metabolism of bone proteins, most notably osteocalcin. Without vitamin K, osteocalcin cannot bind to the minerals that normally form bones, resulting in poor bone mineralization.

Storage and primary sources of vitamin K

Vitamin K is stored in the liver. Vitamin K is found in plant foods as phylloquinone (K1). Bacteria in the lower intestine can synthesize vitamin K as menaquinone (K2), which is absorbed by the body. 

Sources of phylloquinone are green leafy vegetables (i.e., parsley, spinach, collard greens, and salad greens), cabbage, and vegetables oils (soybean, canola, olive). Menaquinones are also found in fermented foods such as fermented cheese, curds, and natto (fermented soybeans).

Bioavailability of vitamin K

Absorption of vitamin K from food sources is about 20%, and dietary fat enhances absorption.

Risks related to inadequate or excess intake of vitamin K

Deficiency of Vitamin K is rare as it is widely available from the diet and is also provided by gut bacteria. Thus, deficiency is generally secondary to conditions such as malabsorption or impaired gut synthesis. However, there is growing interest in the role of vitamin K in optimising bone health. Supplementation with vitamin K has been found to be beneficial for improving bone density among adults with osteoporosis because it drives synthesis of a special protein called matrix Gla protein.

Vitamin K is poorly transferred via the placenta and is not found in significant quantities in breast milk, so newborn infants are especially at risk for bleeding. This innate vitamin K deficiency is treated with intramuscular injection or oral administration of phylloquinone. Supplementation with vitamin K has been found to be beneficial for improving bone density among adults with osteoporosis because it drives synthesis of a special protein called matrix Gla protein.

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 an easy way to incorporated vitamin K into your next meal. 

Spinach, aubergine and chickpea curry*

Ingredients

1kg fresh spinach
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium red onions, chopped
200g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fresh hot green chillies, halved and thinly sliced, seeds included
1 tbsp coriander seeds, ground
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 large aubergine, approx. 400g/14oz, cut into 2cm (3/4in) dice
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
salt

Directions

Cook the spinach in boiling water for two minutes, then cool it under cold running water and squeeze gently to remove most of the liquid. Place in a food processor and chop the spinach to a coarse purée. Meanwhile, heat half the olive oil in a large pan and cook the onion, chickpeas, garlic, chilli and spices for five minutes over a medium heat. Next, add the remaining olive oil and the aubergine to the pan. Cook for ten minutes, stirring often, until the aubergine is colored. Then add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the aubergine is soft. Stir in the spinach purée and serve.

*Adapted from BBC Food Recipes

 

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Introducing Vitamin E

A Powerful Antioxidant

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Ever wondered why leading cosmetic companies add Vitamin E to their products? One very good reason is that Vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant protecting our cells against oxidative damage from free radicals thus maintaining healthy skin.

Vitamin E 

Vitamin E founded by Herbert M EvansVitamin E, also know as α-Tocopherol, is a group of eight lipid-soluble compounds synthesised by plants, tocopherols and tocotrienols. α-Tocopherol accounts for 90% of the vitamin E in human tissues and acts as an antioxidant (i.e., stops the chain reaction of free radicals producing more free radicals). Vitamin E protects cell membranes, proteins, and DNA from oxidation and thereby contributes to cellular health.

Sources of Vitamin E and Storage

Vitamin E is stored in the liver and is safe even at high intakes. Vitamin E in the α-tocopherol form is found in edible vegetable oils, especially wheat germ, and sunflower and rapeseed oil. Other good sources of vitamin E are leafy green vegetables (i.e., spinach, chard), nuts (almonds, peanuts) and nut spreads, avocados, sunflower seeds, mango and kiwifruit. 
 Vitamin E Primary Natural Resources

One of the best source of vitamin E is almonds while leafy green vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard are popular as well. Other excellent sources include animal products like cheese and eggs or plant oils.

Bioavailability of Vitamin E

Vitamin E StructureVitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient. As such, absorption of this vitamin is enhanced in the presence of fat in a meal. Risks related to inadequate or excess intake of vitamin E Individuals whose diets consist mostly of starchy staples – with inconsistent intake of edible oils or other vegetable sources of vitamin E – are at a higher risk of inadequate vitamin E intake.

Deficiency of Vitamin E

Vitamin E deficiency is not common. When deficiency of Vitamin E is present it leads to red blood cell breakage and nerve damage. Recent studies from Bangladesh link low vitamin E blood levels to an increased risk of miscarriage. In other studies vitamin E supplementation has been successfully used for the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition widespread in overweight and obese people. Excessive intake of vitamin E from food is very rare.

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 healthy recipe to incorporate vitamin E into your breakfast. 

Avocado Toast

Avocado Toast Fried Egg

Ingredients

1 Avocado
1 Tablespoon lemon or lime juice
4 Eggs
4 Slices whole grain toast
Salt and pepper to tast

Directions

First, mash the avocado, lemon or lime juice and pinch of salt together and set aside. Next, fry the eggs in a pan over medium heat and toast the whole grain bread. Then spread the avocado mixture evenly on the toast and place the fried egg on top. Season with salt and pepper to your liking or get creative with hot sauce, cheese, cilantro or other herbs.

 

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The Micronutrient Forum

An Essential Catalyst and Convener

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micronutrient

Sight and Life supports the new Micronutrient Forum and its critical role as an important catalyst and convener. The Micronutrient Forum is a consultative group, which brings together people from a wide array of sectors who share an interest in reducing micronutrient malnutrition – including researchers, policy-makers, program implementers, and the private sector.  

The Micronutrient Forum facilitates dialogue, fosters collaboration, and disseminates up-to-date research to improve the design and implementation of scalable programs, and identify and facilitate the filling of key evidence gaps.

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Introducing Vitamin A

Understanding the basics

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‘’Mommy, Mommy’’, the little girl screams in the middle of the night. A bad dream and afraid of the dark she calls to her mommy who switches on a light. Calm is restored. But what if the girl wakes and cannot see? For many children in the developing word this is a reality. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. Today Vitamin A deficiency remains a public health problem in more than half of all countries, especially in Africa and South-East Asia, with young children and pregnant women in low-income countries at greatest risk.

What Vitamin A Does

Vitamin A plays a central role in our vision, skin, genes, growth, and immune system. It is especially important during the early stages of pregnancy in supporting the developing embryo. Infections and fevers increase the requirement for vitamin A.

Retinol

Three different forms of vitamin A are active in the body: retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid. These are known as retinoids. The cells of the body can convert retinol and retinal to the other active forms of vitamin A as needed.

Each form of vitamin A performs specific tasks. Retinol supports reproduction and is the major transport form of the vitamin. Retinal is active in vision and is an intermediate in the conversion of retinol to retinoic acid. Retinoic acid acts like a hormone, regulating cell differentiation, growth, and embryonic development. Foods derived from animals provide retinol in a form that is easily digested and absorbed.

Carotenoids

Foods derived from plants provide carotenoids, some of which have vitamin A activity. The body can convert carotenoids like β-carotene, α-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin into vitamin A. The conversion rates from dietary carotene sources to vitamin A are 12:1 for β-carotene and 24: 1 for β-cryptoxanthin.

Sources of Vitamin A 

Retinol: Liver, Egg Yolk, Butter, Whole Milk, and Cheese

Carotenoids: Orange flesh fruits (i.e. Sweet Potatoes, Melon, Mangos), Green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli), Carrots, Pumpkins, Red pam oil

Bioavailability of Vitamin A 

The degree to which it is absorbed in our bodies, bioavailability, of vitamin A derived from animal sources is high – about 70–90% of the vitamin A ingested is absorbed by the body. Carotenoids from plant sources are absorbed at much lower rates – between 9% and 22% – and the proportion absorbed decreases as more carotenoids are consumed.

Dietary fat enhances the absorption of vitamin A. Absorption of β-carotene is influenced by the food matrix. β-carotene from supplements is more readily absorbed than β-carotene from foods, while cooking carrots and spinach enhances the absorption of β-carotene. Diarrhea or parasite infections of the gut are associated with vitamin A malabsorption.

Risks of Vitamin A

About 90% of vitamin A is stored in the liver. Vegetarians can meet their vitamin A requirements with sufficient intakes of deeply colored fruits and vegetables, with fortified foods, or both. Vitamin A deficiency is a major problem when diets consist of starchy staples, which are not good sources of retinol or β-carotene, and when the consumption of deeply colored fruits and vegetables, animal-source foods, or fortified foods is low. Vitamin A plays a role in mobilizing iron from liver stores, so vitamin A deficiency may also compromise iron status. Excessive intakes of pre-formed vitamin A can result in high levels of the vitamin in the liver – a condition known as hypervitaminosis A. No such risk has been observed with high β-carotene 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 are some recipes to easily incorporate Vitamin-A rich foods in your diet!

Sweet Potato Fries 

Betacarotene, vitaminIngredients
95g of sweet potato
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (substitute with whatever spices you have available locally such as chill flakes or chill powder)
½ tsp rapeseed oil

Method
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6. Put the sweet potato fries on a baking tray and mix with the rapeseed oil and cayenne pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 mins

Spanish Tortilla

EggsIngredients
300g of baby spinach leaves
Large white onion, chopped
4 tbsp olive, sunflower or rapeseed oil
25g butter
400g potatoes (peeled and finely sliced)
8 eggs beaten
2 cloves of garlic

Method
Put the spinach in a large colander and pour over a kettleful of boiling water. Drain well and, when cooled a little, squeeze dry, trying not to mush up the spinach too much.

1. Put a large non-stick frying pan on a low heat. Cook the onion slowly in the oil and butter until soft but not brown – this should take about 15 mins. Add the potatoes, cover the pan, and cook for a further 15-20 mins, stirring occasionally to make sure they fry evenly

2. When the potatoes are soft and the onion is shiny, crush 2 garlic cloves and stir together with the spinach followed by the beaten eggs

3. Put the lid back on the pan and leave the tortilla to cook gently. After 20 mins, the edges and base should be golden, the top set but the middle still a little wobbly. To turn it over, slide it onto a plate and put another plate on top, turn the whole thing over and slide it back into the pan to finish cooking. Once cooked, transfer to a plate and serve the tortilla warm or cold.

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