Healthy Snacks

Top 7 sources of PYRIDOXINE (VITAMIN B6)

Best food groups: Fish, beef liver and other organ meats, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, noncitrus fruit

Also consider: Fortified cereal, swordfish, turkey giblets, chicken breast, plantains

What is vitamin B6 and why is it so important? Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is a water-soluble nutrient that is a member of the B-complex family. B6 is most known for helping to convert stored energy, known as glycogen, and amino acids into glucose. B6 also assists in making the brain chemicals that govern mood: the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (commonly known as GABA).
Deficiencies in B6 often first manifest as confusion or depression. Other deficiency signs include mouth sores; tongue inflammation; and ulcers of the skin surrounding the mouth.

Did you know? Studies show high-dose vitamin B6 supplementation may benefit some children and adults with autism.

How much is enough?
The DV for B6 is 2 mg, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
The UL for adults is 100 mg. Ironically, neuropathies (damaged nervous tissue) are a sign of a B6 deficiency, but excessive amounts of this vitamin have been associated with neuropathy as well. Sensory neuropathy can occur at doses lower than 500 mg per day; however, some studies found that those who were taking up to 200 mg per day for a period up to five years did not suffer from neuropathy.

Supplements: You can find vitamin B6 in liquid, capsule, tablet, and chewable form, in a variety of formulas, including multivitamins, B-complex vitamins, and as a single agent. The most common form is pyridoxine hydrochloride, although a more expensive pyridoxal phosphate (PLP) form is available. Most B6 deficiency scenarios are well addressed with vastly less expensive pyridoxine hydrochloride.

1. Chickpeas
For most of the B vitamins, animal proteins generally reign supreme in being the richest source. Surprisingly, chickpeas, otherwise known as garbanzos, top any other food (excepted fortified foods) in supplying the most vitamin B6 per serving. Chickpeas are legumes that were first cultivated in the Mediterranean region back in 3000 BC. Chickpeas are also an excellent source of copper, fiber, folate, manganese, molybdenum, and protein, and a good source of magnesium. Two small, randomized and separate studies found that diets that included chickpeas helped lower total cholesterol and harmful LDL cholesterol better than the control diet.

2. Yellowfin Tuna
For the full scoop on the benefits of yellowfin tuna, see page 292. Vitamin B6 is instrumental in the production of brain neurotransmitters that help boost mood and keep depression in check. In a study of 618 elderly subjects who were tested for depressive symptoms, there was a significant correlation with low B6 levels in their diet. Tuna has the benefit of high B6 levels, plus omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to combat depression.

3. Beef Liver
For the full story on beef liver's healthy properties, see page 286. A 2004 NHANES study of over six thousand people found that many adult males who did not take B6 supplements had compromised B6 levels. However, research suggests that women of childbearing years, especially those who were taking oral contraceptives, had considerably lower levels of vitamin B6 than did men. Beef liver provides much-needed B6, iron, and folate, which are important nutrients for women who are not in menopause.

4. Pork Loin
For the full scoop on boneless pork loin, see page 290. In a study of women over the age of fifty-five, those women who did not consume a diet rich in vitamin B6 foods, such as pork, or take B6 supplements were often deficient and also had elevated levels of homocysteine, an inflammatory marker associated with increased risk for heart disease.

5. Sockeye Salmon
For more detail on sockeye salmon, see page 291. As mentioned earlier with tuna, omega-3 fatty acids, combined with vitamin B6, can be quite helpful in fighting depression. Salmon is rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a form of omega-3s that has been well studied in its ability to protect and stimulate cognition and learning centers in the brain.

6. Prune Juice
Besides being an excellent source of vitamin B6, prunes are also a good source of vitamin A and fiber, and are loaded with polyphenols that help fight heart disease and cancer. Vitamin B6 has mild diuretic qualities and may help in controlling hypertension. Prune juice also contains additional plant nutrients known to exert a positive effect on blood pressure and cholesterol.

7. Bananas
Bananas are a good source of fiber, manganese, potassium, and vitamin C. An animal study showed that the absorption of vitamin B6 was slightly lower from bananas than from animal products. However, bananas are still considered an excellent source of B6.

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24