Healthy meal plans include an adequate supply of important vitamins. Vitamin B is one that you may not be getting enough of in your diet.
Healthy Meals Plans Supply Adequate Vitamin B
Healthy meal plans need to include foods rich in Vitamin B. B vitamins play a critical role in keeping our brains healthy. They also help convert food into fuel for energy, keeping our metabolism humming and our cardiovascular system and hearts strong.
List of the 8 B-Group Vitamins
Eight B vitamins work as a team to keep you in optimal health. They are:
• Vitamin B6
• Vitamin B12
• Folate (vitamin B9)
• Thiamin (vitamin B1)
• Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)
Healthy Meal Plans Emphasize Vitamins B12 and Folate
Health meal plans emphasize Vitamin B12 and folate. Vitamin B12 and folate are the two vitamins that are most important and likely to be lacking in our diets.
Of all the B vitamins, vitamin B12, which is important for red blood cell production and maintaining healthy brain and nerve function, gets the most notoriety.
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps our bodies make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. It’s estimated that 20% of older adults are deficient in this important nutrient. As older adults we need to monitor our B12 levels because our stomachs produce less hydrochloric stomach acid as we age. This acid breaks down our food and helps with digestion.
Unfortunately, even if you eat a healthy balanced diet, you may not be absorbing enough B12 from food. If you take Metformin for diabetes, or use drugs to control stomach acid, such as Prilosec or Pepcid, be aware that they interfere with vitamin B12 absorption.
If you suspect you might have a vitamin B12 deficiency don’t head for the vitamin aisle. Instead, head to the doctor. A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite and anemia. Nerve problems such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet can also occur.
If you suspect you might have a vitamin B12 deficiency don’t head for the vitamin aisle. Instead, head to the doctor. It’s important to treat a vitamin B12 deficiency as soon as possible.
Folate (Vitamin B9)
Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that’s naturally found in a variety of foods, especially dark green leafy vegetables.
Folate is important to maintain a healthy nervous system and there’s growing evidence that a lack of folate can affect mood and cognitive function in older adults. A folate deficiency negatively impacts the nervous system and can also result in anemia.
Vitamin B9 deficiencies are fairly common and may be caused by alcoholism, inflammatory bowel disease, or celiac disease. Folate is the name for B9 in its naturally occurring state. Folic acid is a synthetic version used in supplements and added to fortified foods.
The Institute of Medicine’s recommended intake of folate is 400 micrograms (mcg) per day. It has also set a safe upper limit of 1,000 mcg per day. If you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, don’t automatically reach for supplements and eat fortified food products under the misapprehension that more is better. It’s easy to inadvertently overdose on the synthetic variation.
For example, if you take one B-Complex supplement and eat a bowl of folate enriched cereal, you’ll ingest twice the recommended daily dosage.
Overdoing your intake comes with serious risks, including increased incidence of colon, lung and prostate cancers. High levels of folate can also mask a vitamin B12 deficiency, and cause neurological damage. It’s best to consult with your physician if you have a folic acid deficiency.
Habits that Can Hurt B Vitamin Absorption
Because B vitamins are water soluble, the nutrients will be lost in boiling or poaching. The best nutrient-preserving cooking methods are ones that use minimal amounts of water, coupled with short heating times. Microwaving and steaming fit the bill. Sautéing and stir frying are also good options because the addition of fat improves absorption.
Another well-known risk factor for a vitamin B12 deficiency is excessive alcohol intake. A recent randomized, diet-controlled, crossover study discovered that even consuming as little as one alcoholic drink per day over an 8-week period decreased vitamin B12 concentrations by 5%.
Healthy Meal Plans Can Derive B Vitamins from Plant Sources
Healthy meal plans for vegetarians or vegans you can still supply this important vitamin from plant sources.
Our bodies cannot store B vitamins, so it’s important to replenish our supplies frequently and get them from fresh meats, vegetables and whole unprocessed grains.
Many ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin B12 (check the side panel to be sure) and most multi-vitamin supplements include it as well.
Plant-based foods that are rich sources of B vitamins include:
• Nutritional yeast
• Pinto beans
• Navy beans
Click here to read a slightly different version of this article about the importance of B Vitamins in healthy meal plans which was first published in Lifetime Daily.