Vitamin Breakdown Series (Part 6: Vitamin B5

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This week marks the half way point of discussing all of the B vitamins. Just to recap, in prior weeks we have discussed thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), and we discussed whether a vitamin B4 existed. I have attached the links to these posts at the bottom of this post. This week we discuss the next B vitamin in the vitamin B family. Vitamin B5 is also known as Pantothenic Acid. So let’s discuss the background history and some basic information that might not be so basic to everyone. Continue reading

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Vitamin Breakdown Series (Part 5: Vitamin B4?)

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Well this is another week into the vitamin series with a little twist. In previous weeks I have discussed about vitamin A, thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and niacin (vitamin B3). This week we continue the vitamin breakdown series but this week we discuss exactly what vitamin B4 is? And if its even a vitamin. So lets begin breaking down what this bad boy really is.  Continue reading

Tips to Reduce Stress

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What comes to mind when you hear the word stress? It’s a word that’s around us every day and feels as we older and older it gets bigger and bigger. It’s something intangible that drives all of us crazy and we would love if we never had it in our entire life. For most people, it’s something everyone seeks to avoid when in reality it’s the wrong approach. Rather than avoiding stress, it should be handled and managed appropriately. I know that’s easier said than done but here are some tips that I have found useful in managing your various amounts of stress levels.

  • Breathe Deeply: This can come in the form of yawning, sighing, or simply taking a long breath. Personally, I’m a big “sigher.” For some reason, sighing is associated with tragedy, stress, and has a negative connation but I use this technique throughout my day and has worked well for me. To be honest, it’s actually quite relaxing. It’s almost like a good morning stretch that can be done throughout the day.
  • Go for a walk: I know this sounds cliché and simple but when going on these walks, silence your phone. Trust me sometimes you must leave your Twitter followers and Facebook friends behind for a bit. While walking it’s the perfect time to just watch the world go. If you’re in an office, walk around your business property, or set yourself a goal to walk for 15 minutes straight. When you’re starring at a computer screen all day this can help you from feeling like a zombie.
  • Drink some water: Another no brainer right? This technique can also help with breathing deeply by allowing yourself to refocus on the task at hand. This is a great technique because water has underrated health benefits and has great ability to pick your body back up. And since you are already stressed, I can bet money that you haven’t eaten properly. Water can help with this so you don’t end up overeating.
  • Get up and stretch: If you are crunched on time and don’t have the ability to do any Stressmajor physical activity to take your mind off of things I highly recommend stretching. I’m not talking about doing any midday yoga type stretches in your office but keeping it simple. Stretches such as touching your toes to stretch your back, reaching for the sky to stretch your abdomen and back, and swinging your arms in small circles all can be great stretches. The purpose here isn’t to break a sweat but to take a small break to re-gather yourself and move the blood around in your body.
  • Exercise: This is perhaps my favorite technique to relieve stress as this technique not only helps reduce stress but it’s a way to hit a reset button to your mind. There are so many advantages to exercise that it should leave you a bit guilty for not doing this more often. Exercise means many things for individuals but remember this should help relieve stress not add more stress to you. I recommend doing some light jogging, perhaps shooting some hoops indoor or outdoor, playing a quick game of racquetball, or logging some miles on a stationary bike even if it’s for 30 minutes. Exercise encompasses so many things that I’m sure you can find some kind of activity.
  • Laugh: This is perhaps the hardest to do when you are crunching to meet a deadline or complete a project on time but it’s rather simple to do especially on your lunch hour. Take a break to find a kneeslapper online. This can be quite easy to do as you can search for practically anything online from the latest funny memes and gifs or simply watching videos on YouTube about the latest pranks being committed across the nation. Trust me there is always something funny going on and a good hard chuckle might be the extra push you need to make it through the day.
  • Go for a drive: Keep in mind when I say go for a drive it doesn’t mean going on a getaway trip but rather to focus on the task of driving. It’s quite similar to going for a walk as mentioned above. This is a great time to just have some “you time.” There is nothing wrong with that but to fully get value out of this time I recommend not turning on the radio and rolling down your window and listening to the music of the streets.
  • Play some music: I don’t know about you but music always puts me in a good or better mood so I use this to my advantage. I’m not saying for you to blast your music instead I recommend you play certain types of genres to keep you on the right track. ninjaThis is where websites like Pandora and Spotify are perfect because all you do is type in the genre and enjoy. These might not be your hit music tracks but they will keep you concentrated. I recommend classical, jazz, or piano stations.
  • Turn off the lights: Ever think you’re always in the spotlight even though you’re really not. Maybe that’s because you are always under the lights, figuratively speaking. If you ever feel this way, then turn off the lights for a bit to put your mind at ease. If you can’t or work in a facility where you don’t have access to the light switch I recommend you put a towel over your eyes to use this technique. The way I look at this technique is like ninjas do. They do their best work in the dark and maybe you can too.

Try one of these techniques or try several different combinations of these techniques to see what works best for you.  If you are currently using other techniques I would love to know of other methods. Feel free to leave your comment below.

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Vitamin Breakdown Series (Part 4: Vitamin B3)

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Welcome back for week 3 of discussing another B vitamin. This week I focus my time on the third child of the B vitamin family, B3. Just because it’s the third B vitamin in the B vitamin family it doesn’t become any less importance than any of the previous B vitamins. Let’s begin to discuss how this vitamin became known to the world.

Background History: 

So this little vitamin was discovered by Conrad Elvehjem originally as nicotinic acid in meat and yeast in 1937. This vitamin was a critical discovery because it helped create a cure for pellagra as mentioned last week in discussing vitamin B2 (Riboflavin). Vitamin B3 is often used interchangeably with Niacin so don’t get be confused if you hear niacin more often. The recommended daily dosage to this vitamin is anywhere from 2mg for kids to up to 16mg for adults.

niacin-300x295Basics that are not so basic:

This vitamin is a water-soluble vitamin that is critical to our bodies as it can help reverse high cholesterol by boosting the good kind of cholesterol and lowering the bad type of cholesterol. Individuals with high cholesterol should know that taking high amounts of this vitamin might reduce your cholesterol  but one big side effect is that it can potentially lead to stomach and liver problems. For other users you would have to consume 2-6 grams per day to feel those kind of side effects, so don’t worry. Like other B vitamins, it is important for growth and it also impacts our nervous system. So that means it affects our brain, spinal cord, and sciatic nerve. So you wouldn’t want to be deficient with this vitamin.

Food sources for Vitamin B3:

Niacin is prevalent in many foods it just depends on the type of food you want to eat them in. This vitamin can be found in animal sources such as chicken, fish, and eggs. Or if you prefer to eat just fruits and vegetables, niacin can be found in avocados, leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, and asparagus. So be sure to eat your fruits and vegetables because at the very least you can be helping yourself win the cholesterol battle and ensure you are getting enough niacin in your system. Like always feel free to leave any comments you may have otherwise feel free to connect with me on twitter. 

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The Untold Story of Caffeine

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In today’s age drugs and alcohol are prevalent. But one of the least talked about but heavily consumed drugs is caffeine. Think about for a second. How many people do you know that DON’T consume caffeine on a regular basis. I can bet you currently drink some form of caffeine yourself. And if you don’t, I bet you know someone that does. Women go to Starbucks to chase the newest latte or frappuccino while guys are chugging down their favorite energy drinks. Not to mention that most of the U.S. population has to have their morning coffee in order to get their morning started. So let’s face it, we are all addicted to caffeine. But wouldn’t it make sense to know a little bit more about this chemical and what’s potential side effects are on our bodies. Well lets analyze and look further into caffeine.

So caffeine is derived from many different sources. These include both natural sources and artificial sources. Natural sources include tea, coffee beans, and cocoa plants. However, artificial sources of caffeine are more prevalent in many more products than just energy drinks and sodas. They can also be found in weight loss pills, ice cream, and some pain medicine. In fact caffeine is also found in decaffeinated coffee. Kind of ironic don’t you think?

Since caffeine can affect your body like other stimulant, this drug should not be taken lightly. But I’m pretty sure no one ever second guesses themselves to another 12 oz soda in the middle of they drink in the day. In caffeine-powderfact most people, consume more caffeine throughout the day in order to survive and get through their workday. It might sound like common sense but be aware of the amount of caffeine you consume daily. Caffeine does target your nervous system which causes you to be more alert and also increases your heart rate. This is why you get a case of the jitters after drinking a heavy amount of caffeine. Keep in mind caffeine can cause headaches as well.

Although overdosing on caffeine is hard to do unless of course you consume caffeine at it’s purest form, in caffeine powder (Which I might add is pretty easy to buy online however I wouldn’t recommend you open that can of worms). So just because its hard to overdose on caffeine doesn’t mean you can’t become addicted to this substance. Again, think about yourself or someone you know and their dependency on caffeine. Ask yourself, could you quit using caffeine in a heartbeat? If the answer is no then you’re definitely hooked. I myself am included with the rest of the U.S. population. However, I will say that I have limited the amount of caffeine to about 80 mg per day. I have even given up caffeinated products out of my life cold turkey. If nothing else, I do this to prove to myself that I still am the master and not the servant to this powerful substance and I strongly recommend you give yourself a caffeine check sometime.

I know I might not be able to influence you to quit drinking or consuming this substance but I will say that it’s time you show who’s the sheriff in town. Especially to this chemical. Otherwise, in the future you might not have a choice but to give this drug up in order to keep your life going. So make the investment in yourself now and begin to wean yourself off this addictive drug. Help spread the word by sharing this message to your friends and loved ones. Or send them my way on via twitter.

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Grain Differences You Should Know

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There are few aromas in my opinion that trump the smell of freshly baked breads.  I would have to say this is perhaps one of my most beloved food on this planet and my last meal would have to include bread of some kind. When entering a grocery store, this perhaps is my favorite section but it’s also one of the most confusing to understand especially with all the different grain types out there. This doesn’t even include the different kinds of breads such as bread rolls, french bread, or bread sticks. So in this blog post I simplify the process and explain in plain English what some of these differences are and the impact they have on your health.

Lets start with talking about what makes a bread bread. Bread is made using wheat kernels or wheat berries. These kernels are made up of three parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. In different kinds of breads parts of the wheat kernels are removed in processing them to flour. Hence this is why some breads are contain more nutrients.wheat kernel Now lets discuss how this affects breads and lets begin with white bread.

White Bread: Well white bread is exactly what it sounds like, bread that looks white. This has been a staple for me growing up but until recently I have made the switch to a healthier type of bread. This bread contains flour that has been “enriched” through various chemicals and bleaching processes giving this bread a longer shelf life. During this process, most of oil and B vitamins are removed from the bread. In this kind of bread, the bran and germ part of the wheat kernel is removed. This is why white bread is the the bread that has the least amount of nutrients of all the breads. In fact when eating this bread, it dissolves in your body as sugar. So it’s almost like your eating candy instead. Crazy right?

Wheat Bread: This type of bread is brown in appearance and is generally regarded as healthier than white bread. But be careful that this bread is often disguised in the United States as whole wheat bread. In reality it is nothing more than white bread that has received its caramel color through additional coloring. So in reality its the twin brother, or more like its fraternal twin since they technically don’t resemble each other figuratively speaking.

Whole Grain Bread: This is the real deal when it comes to wheat bread or any kind of bread for that matter. Unlike white bread this bread contains all three parts of the wheat kernel. So this bread keeps the oils, vitamins, and fiber intact in the bread. Plus in comparison to white bread it tends to have fewer calories and less carbs per serving. When shopping for this kind of bread, most of the time it will end up being a bit pricier than most other breads. Taste wise it might be hard to get use to at first so don’t go in with high expectations like I did or you may be disappointed.

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Multi-grain bread: 

This little guy would be the equivalent of a little brother trying to outdo and replicate what its big brother, whole wheat bread, has already done. This type of bread is often referred to as the 7 or 12 grain bread because of the different kinds of grains it may contain. Unlike whole wheat bread that only has one kind of grain, multi-grain bread can contain grains from various different sources such as flax, oats, or buckwheat. In terms of nutrition its slightly better than white bread but still below whole wheat bread.

There you have it. Some more knowledge you can take with you the next time you are picking the perfect bread for your next batch of sandwiches or grilled cheese. So I’m curious to know what kind of bread you prefer? And please don’t tell me that it “would depend” just to play it safe . You must choose one type of bread you like best and why. Feel free to leave your comment below or follow me on twitter. 

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Vitamin Breakdown Series (Part 3: Vitamin B2)

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Another week and another crucial vitamin discussed. This week we put the spotlight on the second sibling of the vitamin B octuplet family. I must warn you though, that in this week’s post I provide an extreme picture of an extreme deficiency of this vitamin. If you don’t have the stomach to see this picture I would understand. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about the picture if you decide to keep reading. Besides missing out on the picture that might change your thoughts about your skin, you might also miss out on the past names to this particular vitamin. So lets begin with this vitamin’s history.

Background History:

This lovely B vitamin has a colorful history. When I mean colorful, I mean its part of the reason why vitamin B2 has the nickname or formal name depending on who you ask as riboflavin. Riboflavin broken down literally means yellow sugar. So I wasn’t lying to you that it has colorful history. This vitamin is also known as lactoflavin to some as as well. This vitamin was first discovered in early 1900’s after it was found to be the root cause to the disease pellagra. Trust me it was a good thing they discovered this vitamin after you see what this disease can do to your skin. However, this vitamin wasn’t always known as vitamin B2, it was actually known as vitamin G. So don’t be fooled if someone ever randomly asks you about a vitamin G. Just be smooth and say “Oh you mean riboflavin?” Something tells me though you won’t be running into this issue anytime soon though since its an outdated term.

Basics that are not so basic:

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What Pellagra Looks Like

This B vitamin is needed because it helps support our bodies with energy production and like vitamin A it helps keep our hair and skin vibrant. Having a deficiency in this vitamin is all kinds of bad news especially for your skin. It results in a bad case of “crock skin. ” I would consider riboflavin to be a vitamin that a jack of all trades because it is involved in so many processes throughout our body. Some of these processes include helping our immune system function more efficiently, helping with our memory, preventing migraines, and preventing some blood disorders. Because this vitamin is water soluble its hard to really overdose but is still possible in theory.

 Food sources for Vitamin B2:

vitamin-b2-riboflavin-india-fitjog2Some great sources for vitamin B2 are milk, eggs, or any fatty fish like salmon. If you are allergic to any one of those then don’t sweat because this vitamin can also be found in leafy greens particularly at broccoli and spinach. Other foods high in this vitamin are almonds, mushrooms, and cheese. Keep in mind that some riboflavin can be lost in the light especially in milk. For those who love milk, you most likely won’t have a vitamin B2 deficiency anytime soon because time and time again studies have found milk to be the best source for this vitamin.

So do you have a new found respect for this vitamin? Keep in mind this is only the second vitamin B of a family of 8 ans hopefully you are beginning to see why this B-complex vitamin is so critical to our bodies. I would appreciate any comments or concerns you may have. Otherwise feel free to connect with me via twitter. 

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Spice Up Your Life

Cinnamon-300x185I have to say that I am a big fan of spices and my world might not be the same if spices were nonexistent. Okay that might seem a little overkill but the point I am trying to make is that I love my spices as much as I love any kind of ingredient. In my eyes without spices there wouldn’t be some of our delicious meals. I don’t consider this as a matter of opinion but a matter of fact. Think about it, the last time you ate something it was either good or bad for the amount of spice that was involved with this food. Either your food was over salted or it lacked enough flavor. Have I made my point? One of these spices I couldn’t live without is cinnamon.

So why cinnamon? Cinnamon to me is the perfect complementary spice that doesn’t exactly overwhelm you with its flavor. This spice isn’t the main attraction to a meal but it is a worthy supporting star in its own right. Its perfect on shakes, fruits, pies, ice cream, eggs, toast, and any baked goods. This is one of those spices that we should strive to add more into our diets because it kicks butt nutritionally and keeps us healthier. Let me give you five benefits to cinnamon.

1. Has anti-inflammatory properties: This alone is worthy of taking because most processed foods out there cause inflammation in our body one way or another. Cinnamon can help reduce this impact.

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Cinnamon Fern

2. Helps lower risk of getting cancer: When you consider 1 in 3 individuals in the United States will get cancer at some point in their life and cinnamon can help lower these risks I bet cinnamon starts sounding more appetizing to take now right? Trust me, I am for any food that will help reduce those odds.

3. Keeps you focused an alert: I don’t know about you but I can’t remember the last time I woke up saying that I wanted to be tired. If cinnamon delivers this benefit I will gladly accept it. It can help us wean away from caffeine.

4. Helps with Weight loss: Consider this as an ally in your battle with permanent weight loss and weight control. Having more natural aids is a good way of shedding those additional five pounds off our bodies for good.

5. Keeps your breath fresh: Ever wonder why there is cinnamon flavored gum out there?Think Big Red bubble gum. Or why there is cinnamon flavored mouthwash? Now imagine what natural cinnamon can do for your breath.

Cinnamon definitely is not for everyone but its made for anyone. You don’t have to be a fanatic of cinnamon and take it as religiously like myself but you should aim to take cinnamon more often. I mean what would the harm be if you took more cinnamon? You got some added health benefits when would anyone refuse those. Tell me what you think about cinnamon, do you love it or hate it? Or maybe its a roller coaster ride? Share your thoughts below. 

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Picking Protein Powders

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In our fast paced society, eating the right food can be difficult if we are very often on the go. I mentioned before that supplements are the perfect complement to our food. One supplement that I consume from time to time is a protein shake. I definitely like to drink a protein shake right after the gym but I also find myself also drinking a protein shake when I know I will have a busy day ahead and might not have time to eat a healthy meal. But how do you know what kind of protein powder you should be taking? Well the answer is simple but you must determine what you value in your protein powder and what your fitness goals are because there are literally hundreds of choices for protein powders and they all vary slightly. So in this blog post I will discuss some of the main protein powders out there.

To begin you must know where your protein powder is derived from. Is it an animal sourced protein or a vegetable derived protein? This is perhaps a fundamental factor that you must consider. Animal sourced protein are perhaps the most popular and better known proteins out there but plant sourced proteins are getting more buzz especially around the vegan and vegetarian communities. So lets begin with animal derived protein powders.

Animal Derived Proteinvs

  • Whey Protein: This is probably the most widely used protein out there. This is derived from milk and can be made into many different flavors. I personally love this type of protein because it offers a lot of bang for my buck. Plus this type of protein powder helps build up my immunity. However, there are three forms of whey protein out there that should equally impact your decision in determining if this protein is right for you. Essentially, the three different forms of whey protein relate to the amount of processing used to make the protein and how much protein per unit it contains. The three forms of this protein are whey concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. I discuss two of the three below.

1. Concentrate: This type of whey protein still contains fat and large amounts of lactose since it is derived from milk. However, it is the least processed of all of the whey protein powders and is a little less expensive than whey isolate.

2. Isolate: This whey protein has little to no fat and little to no lactose and might be better suited for individuals who have more delicate stomachs or are trying to remove fat from their diets. Keep in mind that although this whey protein has more protein content than whey concentrate it is more heavily processed and will cost you more at the register.

  • Casein Protein: Casein protein is also referred to as milk protein since the majority of this protein is derived from milk and shares many similarities to whey protein. This protein also comes in a variety of flavors but the biggest difference between casein protein and whey protein is when they are absorbed and digested in our bodies. Unlike, whey protein where it kicks in relatively quickly after consuming it, Casein protein takes a bit longer to be absorbed. If we use the rabbit and turtle race analogy, whey protein would be the rabbit and casein protein would be the turtle because of the slow and steady pace at which it is absorbed by our bodies. This is why this protein powder is perfect for later in the day if you like to snack late in the evening because it will keep you full so you won’t have to binge eat late at night.

Plant Derived Protein

  • Pea Protein: So now we discuss plant based protein powders. You might be thinking why would I consider this kind of protein powder. Well for starters this is an ideal protein powder if you are lactose tolerant but also if you get bloating from either whey or casein protein powders. In particular, pea protein is derived from peas that might better suit a vegan or vegetarian diet. Plus this protein protein plays well with other drinks in case you you might want to mix it with other drinks. Additionally, this protein powder has a low amount of carbohydrates so for folks trying to cut out carbs from their diet, this is a good protein powder to use. Again it comes down to your fitness goals.
Pea-Protein-Powder
Pea Protein
  • Soy Protein: This particular protein offers 8 amino acids and is derived from the soybean. Like whey protein, soy protein comes in different forms: soy concentrate, soy isolate, and in a textured soy protein. Each one of these soy proteins offers its own benefits and downfalls just like whey protein. More importantly this specific protein can be hard to mask if you are trying to mix with other drinks but it can be done. I would recommend using your favorite fruits or peanut or almond butter to accomplish this.
  • Rice Protein: Who would have thought that rice had protein right? Well as it turns out it does! In fact this protein powder shares many of the same characteristics as pea protein. This protein is perfect for individuals that are considered about their fat or calorie intake as this protein powder tends to be low in these categories.
  • Hemp Protein: This protein source is perhaps the most widely used source of protein that vegetarians and vegans use. Unlike soy protein, hemp protein is easier to digest and it also has low fat content compared to other types of protein powders specifically any concentrate powders. Some other advantages this protein has is that it contains no soy, dairy, or artificial flavors. So you either like the flavor or you don’t.

It doesn’t matter if your new to protein powders or if you’re a protein junkie like myself figuring out what protein powder can be difficult to determine. Hopefully, I have pointed in the right direction so you at least know what protein powder would work well with your body and be consistent with your fitness goals. I strongly recommend you sample a protein powder from each different type before finally settling on your favorite protein. Personally, I have tried them all of different brands and I would say it was a good experience to have. I highly recommend for everyone to do it too! Remember that selecting the type of protein powder is only one factor to consider when selecting your next protein powder. Other things to consider are flavoring, sweeteners, and other ingredients that are mixed in with the protein powder. Feel free to share below which type of protein powder you are currently taking and if you would recommend it or not.  

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Vitamin Breakdown Series (Part 2: Vitamin B1)

article-vitamin_b1Last week we discussed vitamin A (retinol) and its importance to our bodies. This week we talk about vitamin B1, one of the 8 vitamin B’s out there. Rather than summing up the entire vitamin B family in one gigantic post, I will discuss each vitamin B separately because in my opinion each vitamin B equally deserves the spotlight as they bring something different to the table. I want you to think about each vitamin B as one part of an octuplet family and this week we are focusing our attention on the first of 8 children.

Background History:

This vitamin was first discovered in 1897 by Christian Eijkman, a Dutch physician. He observed this while he was trying to find causes to beriberi (pronounced berry berry), a disease that can be fatal if you lack enough vitamin B1 in your body. After Eijkman, scientist Casimir Funk picked up where Eijkman had left off and in 1912 he coined the word vitamin while isolating the “anti-berberi factor.” This would eventually lead to the vitamin being named B1 as it was the first of the B vitamins to be discovered.

sources_of_vitamin_b1-compressedBasics that are not so basic:

Another common name to B1 is thiamine. This B vitamin is water soluble like the other seven B vitamins so it does not stay in our bodies and must be replenished. This vitamin is instrumental for multiple functions in our body which include converting food into energy, improving brain function, and improving our immune system. As mentioned before, without this vitamin in our bodies, it can lead to beriberi if left untreated but to other health problems as well. These health problems include fatigue, paralysis, and heart damage among other problems.

Food sources for Vitamin B1:

Some food sources that have high amounts of Thiamine include beans, lentils, nuts, beef, pork, and various grains such as cereal and oatmeal. Keep in mind that there has been some research that has found when consuming coffee and tea that Thiamine is not fully absorbed. Recommended dosages of this vitamin vary in men, women, and children based on aged. You should consult your doctor based on your individual needs.This wraps up this weeks discussion of vitamin B1.  Next week I discuss another B vitamin. If you have any questions feel free to ask away below or follow me on twitter. 

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