Pork is the best natural source for "anti-stress" thiamine. Vitamin B1 can improve your mood.
What is thiamine and why is it important?
Thiamine (sometimes spelled thiamin and AKA Vitamin B1) is a water-soluble vitamin found in both plant and animal-derived foods. Since it’s water soluble, it rapidly breaks down and is consumed in 2-3 weeks (this is different from fat-soluble vitamins, which can accumulate for later use). This is why a constant supply of thiamine is important.
Like other B vitamins, thiamine’s main role is to help our bodies release energy from the carbohydrates, protein, and fats that we eat. It helps maximize our metabolism. It helps to build and repair our nerves and muscles, including the brain and the heart. It plays a role in healthy liver function and is needed for healthy skin, eyes, hair and nails. It also helps us be able to manage stress.
Basically, thiamine is needed for overall health. But, there may be something extra special about Vitamin B1 when compared to the rest.
Thiamine is an “anti-stress” vitamin and can help improve your mood.
There are lots of studies that examine the relationship between thiamine and stress. They all come to the same basic conclusion: thiamine can counteract the negative effects of stress.
Here are a few of the studies that I looked at:
- The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress
- Thiamine and benfotiamine counteract ultrasound-induced aggression, normalize AMPA receptor expression and plasticity markers, and reduce oxidative stress in mice
- Thiamine and benfotiamine improve cognition and ameliorate GSK-3β-associated stress-induced behaviours in mice
- Impact of exercise and vitamin B1 intake on hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor and spatial memory performance in a rat model of stress
Physically, thiamine can reduce inflammation in the brain. It can lessen cellular damage and improve brain plasticity (the ability for the connections in our brain to change through growth and reorganization). These physical changes result in emotional changes that you can feel:
- Improve your mood and help you better handle emotions
- Improve your memory and ability to learn
- Help you avoid “moments of confusion”
- Reduce symptoms of depression or anxiety
- Reduce symptoms of work-related stress (ahem parenthood)
How much thiamine do I need? What foods can I get it from?
It’s recommended that adults consume about 1.1-1.2 mg of thiamine per day. Most adults can meet the daily thiamine requirement by eating a variety of whole foods.
However, if you’re looking for an “anti-stress” boost from thiamine, you should consume more than the daily recommendation (since it’s a water soluble vitamin and passes quickly, there’s no way to OD).
Pork offers more thiamine than any other type of meat and most other foods, too. Ground pork is the most affordable source of the most thiamine. Here’s a list of the top 20 natural (not fortified) foods containing the most thiamine per serving:
- Pork Tenderloin (3.5oz serving): 1mg (82% DV)
- Pork Sausage (3.5oz serving): 0.74mg (64% DV)
- Pork Chop (85g serving): 0.77mg (64% DV)
- Ground Pork (85g serving): 0.6mg (50% DV)
- Wheat Germ (28g serving): 0.47mg (39% DV)
- Flax Seeds (28g serving): 0.47mg (39% DV)
- Sunflower Seeds (28g serving): 0.47mg (39% DV)
- Mussels (150g serving): 0.46mg (38% DV)
- Black or Navy Beans (172g serving): 0.4mg (35% DV)
- Ham (63g serving): 0.4mg (33% DV)
- Green Peas (160g serving): 0.4mg (33% DV)
- Hemp Seeds (28g serving): 0.36mg (30% DV)
- Pine Nuts (28g serving): 0.35mg (30% DV)
- Long-Grain Brown Rice (195g serving): 0.35mg (29% DV)
- Acorn Squash (205g serving): 0.34mg (29% DV)
- Lentils (198g serving): 0.34mg (29% DV)
- Pork Liver (3.5oz serving): 0.32mg (28% DV)
- Chicken Liver (3oz serving): 0.25mg (21% DV)
- Pine Nuts (28g serving): 0.19mg (16% DV)
- Beef Liver (3.5oz serving): 0.2mg (15% DV)
Side Note: One group of foods that I do NOT recommend for thiamine intake are fortified foods like cereals and breads. You may see the words “enriched” or “fortified” on the package. They are typically highly processed and contain synthetic vitamins and minerals, which can be difficult for your body to digest. In my opinion, it’s always better to get your vitamins and minerals from 100% natural sources.
Ways to incorporate thiamine-rich pork into your diet.
The most affordable source of thiamine is ground pork, which has so many uses. Basically, you can replace ground beef with ground pork in any recipe. Or, go half ground beef and half ground pork. Think about:
- Breakfast sausage
- Sausage and peppers
There are so many cuts of pork that you can cook to increase your thiamine intake. Here are some yummy suggestions:
- Pork Chops (with applesauce or another kind of stone fruit)
- Pork Tenderloin (glazed with honey or rubbed with coffee or garlic)
- Pulled Pork (sandwiches, carnitas, on top of salad, etc)
- Pork Stir Fry
- Crispy Pork Belly
- Pork Stew
- Ribs (slathered in BBQ sauce)
Thiamine deficiency is rare but does exist.
If someone gets enough calories per day, thiamine deficiency is pretty rare. However, it does exist. A lack of thiamine can result in:
- Chronic fatigue
- Gut issues, such as colitis or diarrhea
- Muscle wasting and weakness
- Neurological degeneration, including decreases in memory or confusion
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Nerve damage and inflammation (neuritis)
- Mood changes, such as irritability, apathy or depression
- Cardiovascular effects, such as an enlargement of the heart
There are also some conditions that could cause thiamine deficiency:
- Alcoholism. Alcohol inhibits your body from absorbing thiamine. The same is true for most drugs, including tobacco, alcohol, caffeinated, and carbonated drinks.
- Calorie restriction. Due to an eating disorder, illness, or even dieting.
- Intense mental stress.
- Intense exercise or active physical work.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding. When the need for B vitamins increases.
- Older adults. Elderly individuals cannot assimilate all the vitamins they consume and usually require more thiamine.
- People with HIV/AIDS.
- People with diabetes, anemia, or liver disease.
- People who have had bariatric surgery. This reduces appetite and calorie intake.
- People taking medicines that can lower thiamine levels.
Severe thiamine deficiency can result in a disease called beriberi, while thiamine deficiency caused by alcoholism can turn into Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Both disorders affect neurological function (the ability to think, feel, move, etc.).
Do you see a correlation between what you eat and how you feel? What do you eat to reduce stress and feel better?