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Water-Soluble Vitamins

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Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins can easily dissolve in the watery fluids of your body. Because excessive amounts are generally excreted in the urine, there is less chance for toxic side effects but more chance for deficiencies. Therefore, it is important to regularly replenish these vitamins by eating healthy foods that supply ample amounts. Be extra careful during food preparation. Because some of these vitamins are easily washed away or destroyed by light, air, and heat, use small amounts of water, avoid overcooking, and only cut your fruits and vegetables right before eating them. The following provides a quick rundown on each of the nine water-soluble vitamins: eight B-vitamins and vitamin C.

Thiamin (B-1)

Thiamin is needed for the conversion of carbohydrate-rich foods into energy. B-1 also plays a role in keeping your brain, nerve, and heart cells healthy. A deficiency will lead to loss of energy, nausea, depression, muscle cramps, nerve damage, and muscular weakness. Although uncommon in the United States, a severe depletion of thiamin can result in the disease beriberi, causing potential muscle wasting and paralysis.

Foods rich in thiamin (B-1) include pork, beef, liver, peas, seeds, legumes, whole-grain products, oatmeal, and lamb.

Riboflavin (B-2)

Like its buddy thiamin, riboflavin plays a key role in the metabolism of energy. Furthermore, this vitamin is involved in the formation of red blood cells and is necessary for healthy skin and normal vision.

A riboflavin deficiency will cause dry, scaly skin, accompanied by cracks on your lips and in the corners of your mouth. If that's not enough, getting insufficient amounts can also make your eyes extremely sensitive to light.

Foods rich in riboflavin (B-2) include milk, yogurt, cheese, whole-grain breads and cereals, green leafy vegetables, meat, eggs, and beef liver.

Note: This vitamin is easily destroyed with exposure to sunlight; therefore, store these foods in the fridge, cabinet, or pantry.

Niacin (B-3)

This B-vitamin is also involved in energy-producing reactions in the cells that convert food to energy. In addition, niacin helps maintain healthy skin, nerves, and your digestive system. In some instances, you can use large doses of niacin as a cholesterol-lowering medication. However, you should only do this under the supervision of your doctor. Megadoses can cause hot flashes, itching, ulcers, high blood sugar, and liver damage.

In the rare case of a niacin deficiency, symptoms include diarrhea, mouth sores, changes in the skin, nervous disorders, and pellagra disease known to cause the “four Ds”: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia (mental confusion), and death.

Foods rich in niacin (B-3) include meat, poultry, liver, eggs, nuts, enriched breads and cereals, brown rice, baked potatoes, fish, peanut butter, milk, and whole grains.

Pyridoxine (B-6)

Vitamin B-6 is a vital component for chemical reactions involving proteins and amino acids. (Remember those protein-building blocks?) It also participates in the formation of red blood cells, antibodies, and insulin, in addition to maintaining normal brain function. Deficiency causes skin changes, convulsions in infants, dementia, nervous disorders, and anemia.

Foods rich in pyridoxine (B-6) include lean meats, fish, legumes, green leafy vegetables, raisins, corn, whole grain cereals, pork, bananas, lentils, mangos, and poultry.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Total Nutrition © 2005 by Joy Bauer. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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