The vitamin B complex family works to keep your body running efficiently. B vitamins as a whole help your body convert essential nutrients to fuel so that you can groove through your busy life.

Part of this larger spinning gear is vitamin B1, which serves its own unique functions. Here’s why incorporating vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, into your diet is so important.

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1. What is Vitamin B1?

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Vitamin B1, or thiamine, is a coenzyme that is needed to extract nutrients from the foods you are eating and repurpose them into ATP energy. The ATP energy molecule is necessary for the transfer of chemical energy within cells. Without thiamine, molecules found in protein and carbohydrates cannot be used to their fullest potential to carry on their necessary functions.

According to Dr. Sherry Ross of Providence Saint John’s Health Center, vitamin B1 is involved in many bodily functions. It works with the heart, nervous system, and muscles, and additionally aids in carbohydrate metabolism and enzymatic processes.

The two best reasons to consume vitamin B1 are for proper energy metabolism and central nervous system functioning. Without it, a thiamine deficiency could cause complications to the brain, muscles, heart, and gastrointestinal system.

2. How Vitamin B1 Affects Energy Metabolismbiking

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Vitamin B1 plays a major role in the metabolism of energy. This is because it works to metabolize carbohydrates, turning starches into sugars to give you a boost of energy.

Thiamine is capable of metabolizing carbohydrates due to its coenzyme functions. As a coenzyme, it works as a helper molecule to activate other enzymes responsible for biochemical processes in the body. This factor makes it responsible for the metabolic reactions decarboxylation and transketolase. Decarboxylation produces energy, while the latter yields simple sugars responsible for nucleic acid synthesis.

In addition, vitamin B1 aids in the conversion of carbohydrates to glucose and breaks down other proteins, promoting a great source of energy. The need for this vitamin is especially placed on thiamine when consuming a diet high in simple carbohydrates.

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To boost your metabolic system, it’s important to get B1 and other B vitamins to turn food into fuel for your body!

3. The Central Nervous System and Vitamin B1

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The most widely spread neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, relay messages from the brain to stimulate muscle contractions and behavior. It also functions in the brain region to promote cognition and proper memory attainability.

Vitamin B1 is important to the central nervous system because it aids in the synthesis of acetylcholine. This vitamin works as a cofactor with acetyl-CoA, a molecule responsible for lipid metabolism, to produce this neurotransmitter.

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Acetylcholine functions as an activator and inhibitor in the central nervous system as well as the peripheral nervous system. The signals it sends is what causes skeletal muscles to bend, and activates the cholinergic system, which plays a role in neural modulation. This neurotransmitter also plays a part in the sensation of pain, learning, regulation of the endocrine system, REM sleep cycles, and sending important messages to the heart.

Without the production of acetylcholine aided by vitamin B1, fatigue, and poor short-term memory could ensue.

To help give your central nervous system a boost, a healthy dose of foods rich in Vitamin B1 could significantly help!

4. The Best Sources of Vitamin B1 

Nutritional Yeast/One Green Planet

The best plant-based sources of vitamin B1 can be found in certain seeds, nuts, beans, and enriched grain products. The top sources are:

  1. Nutritional Yeast contains 790% of your DV of thiamine in a 1/4 cup serving. Nutritional yeast is also rich in other B vitamins, including B12!
  2. Seaweed (especially Spirulina) has a DV of 216% of B1 in just one cup! It is also a good source of Vitamin K, Magnesium, and Potassium.
  3. Sunflower Seeds contain 82% of your DV in 1/2 cup serving.
  4. Macadamia Nuts have 132% of your DV of B1 in one cup.
  5. Black Beans contain 48% of your DV in just one cup, and are also loaded with fiber and protein.
  6. Enriched Grain Products (rice, pasta, oats) contain added doses of thiamine.

If you are looking for meal inspiration when it comes to recipes rich in vitamin B1 try this Cheesy Garlic and Onion Tofu Scramble, Coconut Spirulina Superfood Smoothie, Spelt-Flax Crackers with Sunflower Seed Pate, Coconut Snowballs with Macadamia Core, Tempeh Black Bean Burgers with Creamy Dill Sauce, Protein-Packed Breakfast Quinoa Bowl, or this Pasta Salad with Chili Lemon Sauce.

Supplementing with a B-complex vitamin which includes vitamin B1, will ensure you’re getting what you need. Some brands to consider that offer a vegan B-complex vitamin are VegLife, Garden of Life, and EZ Melts!

For more information on B1 like B Vitamins: How to Get Them in a Vegan Diet, we recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

Lead Image Source: Marco Verch/Flickr