Vitamins B-1, B-6 and B-12 are all water-soluble vitamins. A wide variety of foods supply these vitamins, as do multivitamins and supplements. Because only animal products offer vitamin B-12, supplementation is particularly important for vegans. Vitamins B-1, B-6 and B-12 offer many health benefits and may help prevent or treat some diseases.
Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water, and the body can digest them without the presence of fat, unlike fat-soluble vitamins. Once the body digests water-soluble vitamins, they are sent through the bloodstream to the tissues where they are needed, but the body can't store them. This means that to maintain adequate water-soluble vitamin levels, you should consume them every day. Soaking and cooking vegetables can reduce their levels of water-soluble vitamins. Storage is also an issue. Keep vegetables tightly wrapped in the refrigerator and grain away from strong light to limit the reduction.
Vitamin B-1, or thiamin, plays important roles in nervous system and muscle functions, balancing electrolytes, carbohydrate metabolism and the creation of hydrochloric acid, which is needed for digestion. It also helps prevent cataracts and may help treat Alzheimer's disease, congestive heart failure and certain cancers. The adult recommended dietary allowance for vitamin B-1 is 1.2 milligrams for men and 1.1 milligrams for women. Wheat germ cereal, fortified cereal, lentils, long-grain rice, wheat bread, nuts, spinach, oranges, cantaloupe and milk supply significant amounts of vitamin B-1.
Vitamin B-6 is vital for protein, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and absorption, red blood cell formation, cognitive development and maintaining a healthy immune system. It also helps the body use essential fats. Researchers are investigating whether vitamin B-6 could reduce the risks of heart disease, colorectal cancers, age-related cognitive decline, premenstrual syndrome and morning sickness. The adult RDA for vitamin B-6 is 1.3 milligrams for men and 1.2 milligrams for women. Foods rich in vitamin B-6 include chickpeas, beef liver, ground beef, yellowfin tuna, salmon, chicken, fortified breakfast cereals, turkey, cottage cheese and winter squashes.
Vitamin B-12 is essential to red blood cell formation and neurological health and helps the body build genetic materials. Research continues into whether vitamin B-12 can help reduce the risks of dementia and age-related cognitive decline. Studies into whether or not vitamin B-12 could enhance energy and endurance have proven fruitless. The adult RDA for vitamin B-12 is 2.4 micrograms. Clams, beef liver, beef, trout, salmon, tuna, haddock, dairy products and ham are all rich sources of vitamin B-12.
- Colorado State University Extension: Water-Soluble Vitamins
- Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: Thiamin
- MayoClinic.com: Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B6
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12
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