‘B' healthy with B-vitamins

Is fatigue, hair loss and a lack of appetite dogging your days? Then increase your intake of vitamin B, the veritable powerhouse of mind and body

Updated - September 29, 2011 08:57 pm IST

Published - September 29, 2011 08:45 pm IST

Several generations ago, cooking in India was considered a fine art, one that took up the better part of the day. Women pounded their own spices, had access to pesticide-free produce, stored their own grains and prepared every meal with fresh ingredients. Family members ate together, and savoured every morsel.

Today, technology has transformed not just the way we do business, but our personal lives as well.

Preservation of food has indeed made some things simpler—it's now possible to throw together a meal in less than 15 minutes.

However, most packaged food that's ready to serve on supermarket shelves come at a cost that goes much beyond the price tag—these are laced with preservatives that strip our bodies of essential vitamin B.

Perils of processed foods: While providing you with a quick and tasty meal, fast foods and packaged products rank poorly in nutrition. In the long-term, this can take a toll on your health and wellbeing.

“Several studies have demonstrated that diets high in fat and low in nutrition place individuals at higher risk of vitamin B deficiency. The more processed the food, the lesser the vitamin B it will contain. Processes which include heating, radiation, prolonged exposure to atmosphere (oxidation), cooking with acids (such as vinegar etc) destroy most of the B1, B12 in the food.

Vitamin B12 and B6 deficiency is also common in strict vegetarians who do not drink milk or dairy products,” says Geeta Shenoy, a registered dietician based in Chembur, Mumbai. “‘B' vitamins are required by the body for production of energy, proper functioning of the nervous system, metabolism of fats and proteins, and formation of red blood cells. If you're experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, body aches, tingling of nerves, weakness, hair loss, lack of appetite, this could be related to a vitamin B deficiency.”

B 6--The Queen ‘B': Among the B vitamins, vitamin B6, experts say, is especially significant. ”Because of its key role in the formation of new cells, vitamin B6 is crucial to the healing of wounds and for the repairing of body tissues. Many skin disorders (like eczema) have been associated with this deficiency. Another critical role played by this vitamin is in the formation of red blood cells. So a B6 deficiency can also result in anaemia and fatigue,” says Seema Singh, head nutritionist at Alchemist Health Institute, a hospital in New Delhi.

Involved in over 100 chemical processes that take place every minute in our bodies, Vitamin B 6, Singh says, is a good vitamin to befriend. “It aids in weight loss, so it's important that you make sure you're getting enough. This vitamin facilitates the breakdown of glycogen (a form of starch) stored in our muscle cells and liver and helps in improving athletic performance.”

A recent study published in the Journal ‘Circulation', has linked low vitamin B6 levels with higher risk for stroke and heart attacks.

Since food is the only source for Vitamin B6 (as your body cannot produce it on its own), you must include it in your daily diet. “Excellent sources of vitamin B6 include spinach, bell peppers, turnip greens and Shiitake Mushrooms,” says Singh.

“Other good sources are garlic, tuna, cauliflower, mustard greens, banana, celery, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and watermelon.”

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