Vitamin B

Vitamin B1 – Thiamine

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A Course In Nutrition:  Learning Your A, B, C’s

Welcome back to Part 2 of our multiple-part series on Vitamins.

In the last blog we talked about:

  • The importance of Vitamin A
  • What health challenges occur when there is a deficiency
  • What foods are packed with this very important vitamin
  • And, two easy recipes to make sure you’re eating enough Vitamin A daily

B Vitamins

In today’s blog, we will talk about Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine.  As the weeks go by, we will discuss the importance of all 8 B vitamins. They each have individual roles that support your optimal health and, they also work together, as a team.  Therefore, I don’t want you to rush to the store, after reading this blog, to pick up supplemental thiamine.

After learning about the importance of all the B vitamins, you might decide that you need a B complex, and we’ll talk about the best way to supplement with the entire complex.  Until then, please increase the foods that I will mention throughout this blog.

Quick Detour

Also, I realized that I forgot to mention a very important piece of information about Vitamin A, so give me a minute to do that, now. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin…which means it’s absorbed along with fats and can be stored in your fatty tissue for later use. This is important to understand because if you have had your gall-bladder removed (or have gall-bladder problems) it is hard to absorb the nutrients from fat-soluble vitamins.

If your gall-bladder is working well, you will want to make sure that you eat foods rich in Vitamin A along with healthy fats so that you can get all the benefits you’re looking for. Thank you for letting me take this little detour.

Vitamin B1 – Thiamine

Now, on to Vitamin B1 – thiamine.

This vitamin (and ALL B vitamins) are water-soluble, which means they dissolve in water and cannot be stored in your tissues. You must consume enough of these nutrients every single day to insure optimal levels.

healthy brain and heart

The role of B1 is to:

  • Turn your food into energy
  • Allow your cells to develop, function and grow
    • if your cells can’t develop or grow optimally, no part of your body is working optimally

As you can imagine, if you have a deficiency in this essential vitamin, there can be severe consequences.

Some of these severe consequences include:

  • Cardiovascular dysfunction
    • heart fails to function
      • leading to edema (fluid retention)
  • Nerve dysfunction
    • impaired reflexes 
    • symmetrical motor and sensory deficits in the extremities 
    • loss of myelin, without any acute inflammation
      • different from Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Multiple Sclerosis 
  • Brain dysfunction
    • causes neurological disorder known as Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (WKS)
    • also contributes significantly to alcohol–induced brain injury
      • including the most severe form known as alcohol–induced persisting dementia (i.e., “alcoholic dementia”)

There are specific health challenges that can increase your risk for deficiency and they can include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Gastric-bypass surgery
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Absorption problems 
    • celiac disease
    • chronic diarrhea
    • use of diuretics (Lasix, etc)
  • Pregnancy
  • Lactation

Here are a few signs that you MIGHT be deficient in this vitamin, especially if you have any of the health challenges listed above:

  • blurry vision
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • muscle weakness
  • nausea/vomiting
  • tingling sensation in arms and legs

The great news is that it really is easy to consume foods that will allow you to meet your needs daily. However, as was mentioned early on, this is a water-soluble vitamin, so you can’t store dietary excesses to use for a rainy day. It’s important to eat the right foods each and every day. If not, within 4 weeks of a deficiency, you can start to see some signs that you are deficient.

OK, OK…’re wanting to know what foods you should eat MORE of to make sure you meet your needs, right???

Here you go:

  • 6-oz pork chop (96% RDA)
  • 6-oz salmon filet (48% RDA)
  • 1 cup cooked Navy beans (36% RDA)
  • 1-oz sunflower seeds (35% RDA)
  • 1 cup cooked acorn squash (29% RDA)
  • 1 cup cooked asparagus (24% RDA)

Properly prepared grains can also be a good source of thiamine, with oats, quinoa, brown rice and grits containing between 15 and 30% of RDA.

Properly prepared nuts and seeds can also be a good source, with flax, macadamia and pistachios at the front of the crowd. (21-39% RDA)

Whether you choose keto, paleo, vegan or ‘everything in moderation’ approach to your nutritional needs, you can see that there are plenty of foods that will support you on your journey.

The ‘take-away’ points are:

  • B1 is water-soluble and can’t be stored
  • Its’ role is to extract energy from the food you eat
  • It’s also responsible for allowing all cells to develop, function and grow
  • Deficiency can severely impact heart, brain and nerve health
  • There are many foods that have a good source of B1, so it should be easy to meet your needs every day, if you choose to eat a wide variety of nourishing foods

Of course, it wouldn’t be an NTI blog, without a nourishing recipe, so here you go:

Grilled Pork Chops:


  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Eight 1/2-inch bone-in pork chops (about 3 ounces each)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Begin by making the marinade
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, oil, vinegar, cumin and red pepper flakes 
  3. Sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper and place in a re-sealable plastic bag with the marinade 
  4. Let rest on the counter for 1 hour 
  5. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat
  6. Remove the pork chops from the bag and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper
  7. Place on the grill and cook until the pork chop releases from the grill, about 4 minutes
  8. Flip and cook on the other side for another 3 minutes

And, since you’ve already got the grill going, why not throw on a batch of asparagus for 3 minutes?

You’ll need:

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus spears, trimmed  
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Lightly coat the asparagus spears with olive oil
  2. Season with salt and pepper, to taste
  3. Grill for 2-3 minutes, to your desired tenderness

It’s a perfect ‘thiamine-rich’ meal. Great for your heart.  Great for your brain. Great for nerve function.Win-Win

Until next time, when we dive into Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), please do one thing, each day, that will improve your health and the health of your family.

If you don’t know where to start, there are many Nutrition Therapists who will be honored to help you on your journey.  Or maybe you’d like to attend Nutrition Therapy Institute to get in depth nutrition training that you can use to help yourself and others. Learn more by attending an informational webinar.

About the author:

Dr Becky Spacke is a course instructor at Nutrition Therapy Institute. Additionally, she has a private practice focused on minimizing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease as a qualified ReCODE practitioner. You can learn more about her work at


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Learn more about our school by attending an informational webinar.

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