Mean Ole B

If for some reason you thought that the B complex referred to a psychological fear of Bee stings that make it impossible to cope, then you should probably read this article on vitamin B

the softer side of Vitamin B 

terrifying image of chihuahua moments before deadly fit of rage.

I have to be honest with you. I’ve been avoiding the B vitamins like a rabid chihuahua (terrifying mental image). At first glance they are just a little intimidating, the nutritional deep end of the pool. However, I owe it to you, my fellow information seekers, to bring you the facts, raw and uncut. Today we are crashing this academic adult swim called the vitamin B complex. The shirts are coming off and we’re going full frontal in the name of science (metaphorically of course). Let’s get to it.

Let’s talk about absorption

Life is a day to day struggle. You can break your back just trying to fit in all the essential vitamins and nutrients your body needs in one day only to have to do it all over again the next and why is that? The answer is solubility my friends. Vitamins like C and the members of the B complex dissolve in water (water soluble) like so many spoonfuls of powdered, orange Tang. The advantage to this is that in small amounts they can be readily transported throughout the body. The downside is that like vitamin C, what we can’t use immediately will get excreted as waste rather than stored. So a fresh supply of B vitamins must be sought through our diets and via dietary supplements daily.

There are boat loads of chemically distinct B vitamins but we typically focus on eight. Hey, eight is plenty. Luckily, the B vitamins all play quite well together and are found, naturally in a lot of the same foods, which is why they were originally thought to be a single vitamin and have been grouped together in recent years.

and now a confession…

random assortment of grains and beans that capture the warrior spirit of the B complex

random assortment of grains and beans that capture the warrior spirit of the B complex

Ok here’s the thing, I’m really lazy. There is a small part of me that feels obligated to describe in great detail the amazing super powers of each B vitamin. The problem is that the B complex is all over the place. They maintain muscle control, nerve impulses, cellular metabolism, a healthy immune system, digestion, red and white blood cell production, hormone regulation, the construction of DNA molecules, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they somehow prevented dry, split ends. They have so many different applications that not only do I NOT care to memorize them all, but I doubt that you care to sift through a long, boring list of them. So this is me not listing them. My deepest apologies. Moving on…

All Star Players

vitamin B1 street name: Thiamine

vitamin B2 street name: Riboflavin

vitamin B3 street name: Niacin

vitamin B5 street name: Pantothenic acid

vitamin B6 street name: Pyridoxine

vitamin B7 street name: Biotin

vitamin B9 street name: Folic acid

vitamin B12 street name: Cobalamins

All roads lead to riboflavin

a small furry rodent...not to be confused with quinoa, the South American seed crop

a small furry rodent…not to be confused with quinoa, the South American seed crop

So where can you get your lipsmackin supply of B vitamins? I would be more than happy to break down each individual vitamin and tell you exactly which aile to steer your grocery cart down in the whole foods store, but you really don’t need to hunt down each one. Honestly, all you really need to do is EAT YOUR GRAINS. Yup, the bulk of these vital compounds can be acquired in robust amounts in foods that we love to avoid like oat bran, brown rice, BEANS (which house a ton of nutrients on their own), oatmeal, multigrain pastas, and quinoa, which always makes me think of a small furry rodent for some reason.

I will say that your B7 through B12s are a bit more abstract and not quite as abundant in plants. For these I might recommend looking either to the sea (fish, shellfish and the like) or let a little egg and dairy into your life.

When vitamins attack

6820213_f260Vitamins, not unlike teen celebrities, do not like to be ignored. Leaving out just one or two of your essential vitamins can lead to some pretty nasty consequences. In the case of pellagra, a serious vitamin B3 (niacin) deficiency, those consequences include skin lesions, madness, severe diarrhea, and death, neither of which can make for the best summer ever. Early Mesoamerican cultures like the Aztecs whose diets revolved mainly around corn, developed a method for processing their corn into ground meals with a mixture of wood ash and alkali that chemically unleashed the vital B vitamin. The Spanish conquistadors would later crash their tortilla party and swipe their corn but not their knowledge of processing it. This of course set up the conditions for a great deal of nutritional woe in the form of massive pellagra outbreaks in the years to come, not just for Spain, but all other cultures adopting the unprocessed corn as their staple food source. Hey don’t worry, they figured it out eventually and so did we. I just love happy endings 🙂

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