Nutrition Expert’s Tip of the Month – February

“B Vitamins…why are they in energy drinks?”

In the recent years, we have seen a surge in energy drink production and sales, especially in the high school, college and young adult markets. It’s really no surprise though, because the more we push ourselves and max out our schedules, the more our need for energy increases. Now although energy drinks’ flavors, brands, and logos differ, they typically always have one thing in common…they contain B vitamins. B-vitamins are water-soluble vitamins and play important roles in nervous and immune system function, support and increase the rate of metabolism, maintain healthy skin and muscle tone, and promote cell growth and division. B-vitamins are easily lost from foods through normal cooking, overcooking, processing, and draining the liquid from canned foods. B-vitamins are depleted in the body when we endure chronic stress, drink alcohol excessively and/or have existing digestive problems. B-vitamin deficiency can result in fatigue, irritability, insomnia, mental confusion, acne, anemia, depression, elevated homocysteine, and water retention.

B-vitamins are known as co-enzymes, or substances required for your body’s enzymes to work efficiently. So what are enzymes? Enzymes are catalysts in your body that speed up processes and reactions. We have actually 3,000 different types of enzymes in your bodies, affecting more than 10,000 processes…ultimately, without enzymes, we die. That’s why high temperature fevers can be deadly. Enzymes can’t survive above a certain temperature threshold.

So why are B vitamins important for energy? In order to convert fuel (what we eat) into energy, specific enzymes and B-vitamins are required. So energy drink companies have figured out that if someone is deficient in B-vitamins and drinks an energy drink containing B-vitamins, chances are they will feel a surge of energy. Now I’m not advocating drinking energy drinks everyday because most are loaded with refined sugar, caffeine, and synthetic vitamins (don’t necessarily function the same way as natural vitamins in our bodies). But there are simple, natural ways you can increase your B-vitamins without shelling out your savings to energy drink companies.

1. eat more whole grains…whole grain (not just whole wheat)
2. eat more lentils and legumes
3. eat more leafy greens like spinach and kale. You can use fresh spinach as lettuce in your salads.
4. eat more whole foods, less processed foods (freezing and canning destroys water soluble vitamins)
5. eat yogurt – contains healthy bacteria and B-vitamins
6. eat more raw fruits and vegetables or at least only lightly cook them to minimize vitamin loss
7. eat more turkey and tuna (not canned)
8. Take a liquid complex B-vitamin supplement

Now if you are still dead-set on drinking energy drinks, here’s some drink brands that contain B-vitamins and are better choices than most mainstream energy drinks:
• Steaz
• Blue Sky
• Vitamin Water
• Synergy (Kombucha) – fermented tea

~Natalie Butler

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