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Alphabet Soup (Part 2)

Just for a moment let's go back to our school days and reminisce for a bit. It's the end of a semester and the time came when teachers handed out (or sent home) report cards. Were you the smart one that got all A's or were B's and C's more your style? No, I'm not asking you to divulge your GPA, but if you were in the latter group, I have a suprise for you (and your parents too)! What you ask? You're awesome! Why? That is the focus of my blog. Well, not specifically your grades, but you'll see what I mean if you stick around and continue reading.

While A's were most often the desired end result after hours of homework and studying, it wasn't always how things turned out....a few missed questions later can kiss that 90+% goodbye. Throw in a few unexpected test questions and...uh oh...I didn't see that coming! Two or three low scores later created an ugly finish to an otherwise enjoyable year and....can you say G-R-O-U-N-D-E-D? If you were fortunate to never experience a traumatic event such as this, I applaud you! But for those that did, you get a gold star too! Yes, you read that right...B's and C's are amazing! Way to go! Keep up the good work!

But coach, if that's the case, why did they always get me into trouble? Sorry, maybe I need to clarify things a bit. I don't mean school grades, but if you have been following my page, you probably knew there was a catch somewhere. The B's and C's to which I am referring are vitamins. Remember in my last post, we learned about fat soluble vitamins? This weeks topic is a sequel and will cover water soluble ones (vitamins B and C). Since vitamin B has a large family filled with lots of distant cousins, we should probably get started.

First off, before explaining each individually, I want to make a general statement regarding vitamin B. In total, there are eight B vitamins that make up what you might have heard called B complex. As a whole, these vitamin segments all work together to serve relatively the same purpose...building blocks of cells. They contribute to brain function, cell metabolism, energy levels and help fight off infections. Singularly, each one is named differently and may have additional functions which it performs.

Vitamin B1 (aka thiamin) helps keep the nervous system functioning normally so things like feeling full after a meal or our "fight or flight" response, for example, remain intact. Since our body doesn't make thiamin on its own, we need to get it in our diet. Breads, cereals, infant formula, dry pasta noodles and whole grains are fortified with vitamin B1. Other sources where it occurs naturally are acorn squash, asparagus, black beans, brown rice, fish, nuts, peas, pork, seafood, seeds, tofu and yogurt. There has to be something on this list that tickles your fancy and provides vital nutrients that help get you through your day. The RDA for thiamin is 1.2 mg daily for men and 1.1 mg for women. Pregnant females require 1.4 mg.

Next in line is riboflavin or Vitamin B2. Besides what is listed above as a general objective, riboflavin assists in the breakdown of medications. Little amounts are produced by bacteria in the gut but not in significant amounts so, like thiamin, we must rely on foods such as almonds, cheese, chicken breasts, eggs, lean meats, milk, organ meats, salmon, spinach and yogurt (again) to meet nutritional goals. Normally, vitamin B2 is used immediately after consumption so excesses do not occur at toxic levels. However, taking supplements increases the chance of extra riboflavin being stored in the liver. A telltale sign of too much vitamin B2 is bright yellow urine. Well much is necessary? Due to larger body sizes between men and women, the recommendations also differ. Adult males should strive for 1.3 mg whereas ladies amount is 1.1 mg. If pregnant or lactating, the need increases to 1.4 mg and 1.6 mg, respectively.

Following the numerical sequence, vitamin B3, in addition to the characteristics mentioned earlier, can decrease heart attack risk, ease arthritis, lower cholesterol, repair DNA and slow narrowing of the arteries. Niacin is found in bananas, brown rice, fish, fortified breads and cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds, poultry, red meats and sold in supplements. Its RDA is 16 mg for men and 14 mg for women. As for previous vitamins pregnancy requirements are higher at 18 mg.

Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) is used to synthesize coenzyme A which effiiciently metabolizes fatty acids and all three macronutrients. In case you don't remember what those are, you can go back a few sections and read my previous blogs "Complexity Made Simple," "Becoming A "Pro"tein At This," and "The Skinny On Fats" for a brief explanation. This vitamin, just as riboflavin, is produced in small quantities from bacteria in the gut but doesn't supply enough for the body to properly function. With that being said, eating a variety of foods like avocados, beef, broccoli, brown rice, chicken breasts, eggs, fortified cereals, milk, mushrooms, nuts and seeds, oats, organ meats, potatoes and yogurt will ensure you get the most out of what you put in. Unlike the other B vitamins up to this point, the RDA is the same regardless of gender at 5 mg per day.

A B vitamin with which you are probably less familiar is called pyridoxine or Vitamin B6. In recent studies it has been shown to prevent nausea during pregnancy making it a desirable vitamin for a special group of individuals as well as their mates! Women who are sure to stock up on bananas, beef liver, cantaloupe, chickpeas, dark leafy greens, fortified cereals, oranges, papayas, poultry, salmon and tuna and reduce the most annoying part of being with child. Your spouse will appreciate it too (and probably make multiple trips to the supermarket for you as well)! As we age, the RDA increases with vitamin B6. Up to age 50, the RDA for males and females is 1.3 mg; after age 50 it becomes 1.7 mg for men and 1.5 mg for women. Any pregnant ladies out there need 1.9 mg each day.

Biotin is unique vitamin. While its purpose is just like all the others having already been discussed, it has a special feature that makes it stand out from the rest of the B complex. Well...don't keep us in suspense...what is it? Inquiring minds want to know! Vitamin B7 is the only one that doesn't have an RDA. This is because there is not enough information out there to determine a specific one. Rather, a guideline referred to as AI (adequate intake) is used in place of RDA. In a nutshell, this is an assumption of what is adequate enough (which btw is 30 mcg) to not result in health complications as opposed to an RDA which has been based on clinical research. Although unique in that aspect, it ends there. Similar to other B vitamins, biotin can be found in avocados, beef liver, cooked eggs, nuts and seeds, pork, salmon and sweet potatoes.

Any of you that are anemic or have children have probably heard of folate or folic acid. Vitamin B9 is essential for DNA and RNA development in a growing fetus. It is commonly taken as a supplement because it is better metabolized in that form as well as given during pregnancy to regulate iron levels and produce healthy red blood cells in both mom and baby. Folate fun fact: in January 1998, the USFDA started requiring food manufacturers to add folate to the most widely eaten foods (primarily grain products) to lessen the occurrence of neural tube defects. It worked and now Americans consume 100 mcg more every day than before the enactment of the program and birth defects are down almost 25%! Although folic acid is best in supplement form, asparagus, beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, eggs, fortified foods, fresh fruits, fruit juices, liver, peanuts, romaine lettuce, seafood, spinach, sunflower seeds, turnip greens and whole grains are good sources. Four hundred (400) mcg is the current RDA for vitamin B9 unless you are a truly blessed lady doing everything for two. If this is the case 600 mcg is necessary on daily basis to ensure their bundles of joy come out happy and healthy!

An eighth and final B vitamin, B12, called cobalamin, aids in the formation of red blood cells and DNA. You might notice its similarity to is a close relative of folate and works hand in hand to perform many of the same tasks. Oftentimes, people think vitamin B9 and B12 are one in the same. The main difference between the two is that frequently folic acid or folate is given in capsule or tablet form while cobalamin is injected into a muscle belly. Frequently, you will hear of athletes receiving B12 injections to increase red blood cell production which, in turn, increases oxygen saturation and allows for better performance. In the most recent Kentucky Derby, several of the horses were also given this treatment to prevent early fatigue. Being that it is readily available over the counter and necessary for optimum health, it has not yet been banned worldwide from athletic competitions and sport in general. However, for those of us that don't enjoy our extremities becoming pin cushions, a much more pleasant way to get necessary nutrients is by ingesting these tasty items: cheese, eggs, fish, fortified breakfast cereals, fortified nutritional yeast, liver, milk, poultry, red meat, rice milk, shellfish, soy products and the ever popular yogurt. Recommended daily allowances for vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg or 2.6 mcg if pregnant.

We all try very hard to take care of ourselves by eating healthy and avoiding people who are sick. Occasionally though, things don't go as planned and here comes the runny nose, sneezing, stuffy head and/or watery eyes. What happens now? Most of us stay home and use our mother's or grandmother's soup recipe in hopes it will be a cure all. Some may reach for the Airborne or glasses of orange juice. Either way, we feel yucky and wish we didn't. Loading up on vitamin C has been a practice since Linus Pauling, a double Nobel laureate, introduced it in 1970. He thought the mega vitamin helped alleviate (and sometimes even prevent) cold symptoms and chronic diseases.

Vitamin C, known also as ascorbic acid, was discovered in 1932 when sailors were given citrus fruits to prevent a disease called scurvy which was killing them by the millions. Upon conducting further research, they found that lemons and oranges had antioxidant capacities that controlled infections and healed wounds. Continuing studies showed that other plant based products indeed had these medicinal qualities as well. Eaten raw, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kiwi, lemons, strawberries, tomatoes and lightly blanched brussels sprouts and white potatoes all contribute vitamin C. I don't know about you but with heat of the summer here, a fresh fruit salad sounds mighty tempting and will (fingers crossed) get us all through the summer w/o getting ill. Put enough fruit in it and voila! You almost conquered the 75 mg RDA in one delicious snack!

See! I told you B's and C's weren't a bad thing! So next time you see the teacher that issued them to you, be sure to say thanks! They might think you're crazy, but when you turn 100, it will prove just how far they got you! Yes a varied diet with lots of colorful fruits and veggies and lean animal proteins is the best way to guarantee a happy, healthy life for many years to come, also remember to get up, get out and get moving and put what you feed your body to good use! Until we read again...

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