Food sources and facts of Thiamine (Vitamin B1)


Also known as thiamin or thiamine, vitamin B1, was identified in the 1930s and was one of the first substances to be classified as a vitamin. Along with the other water-soluble vitamins (except vitamin C and choline), thiamin is a B-complex vitamin. The most salient role of B-complex vitamins is their involvement in energy metabolism. One of its primary functions is to help release energy from carbohydrate. Its coenzyme form, thiamin pyrophosphate (TPP), participates in reactions in which carbon dioxide (CO2) is released. Such reactions are particularly important in the body’s ATP-producing energy pathways, which involve the breakdown of carbohydrates and certain amino acids. Thiamin also functions in chemical reactions that make RNA, DNA, and neurotransmitters.

Vitamin B1 plays an essential role in the production of energy from dietary fats and carbohydrates, is found in small amounts in almost all foods. Yet much of the vitamin B1 in foods is destroyed during storage, refining, and food processing. Vitamin B1, which is water soluble, is also easily damaged by heat from the stove or oven, as well as warming in a microwave. As a result, it is relatively easy, especially among those who eat a good deal of processed food, to become vitamin B1 deficient. Vitamin B1 is a strong supporter of the nervous system, and it plays a key role in the structure and integrity of the cells in the brain. Because it strengthens the immune system and improves the body’s ability to cope with stress, vitamin B1 is sometimes referred to as an anti-stress vitamin. The body is unable to produce any vitamin B1; it must be obtained from food and/or supplementation.

What Foods Have Thiamin?

Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin B1. Very good sources of vitamin B1 include sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, green peas, Brussels sprouts, spinach, beet greens, eggplant, romaine lettuce, cabbage and crimini mushrooms. There are countless good sources of vitamin B1. These include navy beans, black beans, barley, dried peas, lentils, oats, sesame seeds, peanuts, sweet potatoes, tofu, tuna, pineapple, oranges, broccoli, green beans, onions, summer squash, carrots, tomatoes, cantaloupe, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, watermelon, bell peppers, cauliflower, grapefruit, garlic, cucumbers, and sea vegetables. Vitamin B1 is generally included in multivitamins and B-complex vitamins, and it is sold as an individual supplement.

Food name Weight (g) Thiamine (mg) DV%
Rice bran 118 3.249 270.25%
Spirulina 112 2.666 222.17%
Hyacinth beans 210 2.373 197.75%
Black beans 194 1.746 145.5%
Lentils 192 1.676 139.67%
Chicken 130 1.66 138.33%
Navy beans 208 1.612 134.33%
Macadamia nuts 134 1.601 133.42%
Sesame seed 128 1.542 128.5%
Yardlong beans 167 1.481 123.42%
Green peas 196 1.409 117.42%
Pinto beans 193 1.376 114.67%
Semolina 167 1.354 112.83%
Pigeon peas 205 1.318 109.83%
Mung beans 207 1.285 107.08%
Japanese chestnuts 155 1.243 103.58%
Lupins 180 1.152 96%
Mothbeans 196 1.102 91.83%
Oat bran 94 1.1 91.67%
Pistachio nuts 123 1.070 89.17%


How Much Thiamin Do We Need?

The Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health cites the following recommendations for vitamin B1. Lactating women should take in 1.4 mg per day, while pregnant women should take in 1.1 mg per day. Males who are 19 years or older should take in 1.2 mg per day, while females who are 19 years or older should take in 1.1 mg per day. Males between the ages of 14 and 18 years should take in 1.2 mg per day, while females between the ages of 14 and 18 years should take in 1.0 mg per day. Children between the ages of 9 and 13 years should take in 0.9 mg per day, while children between the ages of 4 and 8 years should take in 0.6 mg per day. Children between the ages of 1 and 3 years should take in 0.5 mg per day, while infants between the ages of 6 and 12 months should take in 0.3 mg per day. From birth to six months, infants should take in 0.2 mg per day. There are no tolerable upper intake levels for vitamin B1.

Health Benefits of Vitamin B1

The health benefits which Vitamin B1 offers:

  1. Provides energy

Sugar is a fundamental source of energy where it is oxidized for forming utilizable form of energy incurring to the presence of Vitamin B1. It is a part of complex enzyme mechanism called pyruvate dehydrogenase system basically assist in sugar oxidation. It is required for operation of enzyme mechanism releasing energy for various bodily functions.

  1. Nerve health

Vitamin B1 enables development of myelin sheaths around nerves. Deficiency of Vitamin results to degeneration of these coverings resulting in nerve damage and death.

  1. Slow down aging

Thiamine acts as an antioxidant which safeguards body against signs such as wrinkles, age spots and similar conditions which normally impact organs.

  1. Digestive health

Thiamine helps to release hydrochloric acid which is crucial for thorough digestion of food.

  1. Prevent Alzheimer’s

Thiamine helps to slow the onset of Alzheimer’s. Thiamine supplements are helpful for providing relief to the patients.

  1. Memory enhancement

Thiamine is well-known for promoting concentration power and memory. It manages various nervous system dysfunctions such as multiple sclerosis and Bell’s palsy. It has memory enhancement properties and is able to provide positive impact of nervous health. This vitamin is also named as morale vitamin. It increases energy, prevent memory loss and combat chronic tension. Study shows that Vitamin B1 results faster reaction times and clear headed sensations in stressful tests.

  1. Promote appetite

Like improvement in mental alertness, Vitamin B1 effectively improves appetite. Being a water soluble vitamin, it is discharged through urine. It is essential for maintaining well-balanced diet loaded with required amounts of Vitamin B1.

  1. Strengthen immunity

Vitamin B1 assists in maintaining muscle tone with walls of digestive tract, a place where immune system is situated. Digestive health is required for absorption of Vitamin B1 since healthy digestive tract allow body to derive nutrients from food consumed that enhance immunity and prevents from being ill. It helps to release hydrochloric acid required for full digestion of food and nutrient absorption.

  1. Treatment for alcoholism

Vitamin B1 reduce the chances of development of brain disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, a condition represented by nerve damage, difficulty walking and reflex muscle movement fatigue. This disorder is due to deficiency of thiamine and found typically in alcoholics especially those having poor diet. Alcohol has adverse impact on the ability of body in absorbing Vitamin B14 from foods.

  1. Promote mood

Thiamine enhances body’s ability to combat stress so B vitamins are considered as anti-stress vitamins. Low energy level lead to bad mood and poor motivation. Thiamine prevents depression and anxiety and improves mood having positive impact on brain.

  1. Vision health

Studies shows that Vitamin B1 minimizes the chances of vision problems such as cataracts and glaucoma. It is possible due to its ability to influence muscle and nerve signaling which is essential to convey information from eyes to brain.

Does Thiamin Break Down During Cooking?

Similar to vitamin C, thiamin is not very stable during cooking processes. Convection cooking of meat may result in destruction of roughly half of its thiamin content. The baking of breads and the pasteurization of milk may result in destruction of approximately 25 percent and 15 percent of thiamin content, respectively. Being water soluble in nature, it could be washed away in a thaw drip, a watery fluid that drains from thawing meats. Plus, some fish or shellfish comprises of natural thiaminases, an enzyme which break down thiamin. Favorably, cooking inactivates these enzymes.

What Happens If Too Little Or Too Much Thiamin Is Consumed?

In the United States, almost 20 percent of the population over the age of two years is believed to be deficient in vitamin B1. In fact, if not for the enrichment of wheat flour, that figure would be much higher. People with certain medical problems, such as heart failure, gastrointestinal disease, diabetes, and/or a dependence on alcohol, have an increased risk for vitamin B1 deficiency. And because of a reduction in the ability to absorb vitamin B1, the elderly may be deficient. People who have had bariatric surgery to lose weight or are living with HIV/AIDS may easily be deficient. People who are deficient in other B vitamins, especially folic acid and vitamin B12, may have problems absorbing vitamin B1. People who eat a good deal of raw freshwater fish or shellfish may be at risk for deficiency. The raw fish contain chemicals the kill vitamin B1. (Cooking the fish destroys these chemicals.) Medical concerns associated with vitamin B1 deficiency include loss of weight and appetite, headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, irritability, depression, abdominal discomfort, confusion, memory loss, muscle weakness, and heart problems. Severe vitamin B1 deficiency may result in diarrhea and the compromised absorption of other nutrients. Though rare in the United States, severe vitamin B1 deficiency may lead to an illness called beriberi, which causes tingling and numbness in the feet and hands, loss of muscle, and poor reflexes. A more common vitamin B1 deficiency illness in the United States is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which may affect people with alcoholism or other chronic health problems. It provokes tingling or numbness in hands and feet, severe memory loss, confusion and disorientation. There does not appear to be any toxicity associated with the excess consumption of vitamin B1; excess vitamin B1 is excreted in the urine. In a case report published in 2013 in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, two physicians from Jerusalem commented that vitamin B1 deficiency is always considered when dealing with patients with chronic alcoholism. However, with other patients, “its recognition in developed countries is often poor and delayed.” Medical providers may fail to connect the myriad of symptoms associated with vitamin B1 deficiency. “Timely treatment may be curative, whereas poor awareness of the multiple predisposing circumstances and the many guises of the syndrome . . . lead to the common delays in diagnosis.”

Can Alcohol Consumption Affect Thiamin Status?

Mild alcohol consumption doesn’t impact thiamin status in the body. However, the heavy, chronic alcohol consumption of an alcoholic increases the risk for thiamin deficiency for a couple of reasons. Diet in alcoholism is low in thiamin with other fundamental nutrients. Moreover, it has reduction in ability to absorb thiamin in digestive tract of alcoholic people, with an accompanying increase in metabolic need for this vitamin.


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