No matter how healthy your diet, holiday excesses can take their toll. Stress, sleepless nights, sugary foods, and extra alcohol consumption deplete nutrients, especially B vitamins—crucial for energy, metabolism, and brain function—leaving you feeling drained, moody, foggy, and fatigued.
As a group, the eight B vitamins (see sidebar) are critical for a variety of physiological functions. B vitamins play a role in cell growth and division, metabolism, red blood cell formation, neurotransmitter production, immune function, and DNA repair. And some B vitamins are crucial for nervous system function, brain health, and mood— especially important during the stress-filled holidays. Low levels or deficiencies of certain B vitamins have been linked with an increased risk of depression, irritability, and mood problems, and several studies suggest that optimum levels of B vitamins—especially folate, B12, and B6—enhance mood, lower stress, and improve quality of life.
Most B vitamins are abundant in food, but some groups of people are at higher risk for deficiencies. Because B12 is found only in animal foods, vegans may not get sufficient amounts. Pregnant women need more B vitamins—especially B6, B12, and folate—for proper fetal development and minimized risk of birth defects. Deficiencies in B vitamins, especially B6, B12, and folate, are common in the elderly, and in people with certain health conditions such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease. Common genetic mutations can also impact B vitamin absorption and may lead to deficiencies. And some medications, including birth control pills, may deplete your body of B vitamins, including B6, B12, and folate.
This year, as the festivities reach their often-frantic peak, protect your mood. Fill your plate with these seven foods high in Bs for happier holidays.
1 Spinach is especially rich in folate, as well as vitamin B6. Other leafy greens, such as collards, kale, chard, and turnip greens, have similar levels. Because some folate may be lost during cooking, focus on lightly steamed greens, or eat them raw in salads.
Recipe Tips: Toss baby spinach with chickpeas, red onions, radishes, and a creamy yogurt dressing; stir shredded spinach leaves into kidney bean soup after cooking to preserve nutrients; purée spinach with sunflower seeds, garlic, and olive oil for a twist on pesto.
2 Lentils are loaded with folate, with a good amount of other B vitamins. Edamame, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans are also great sources of folate and B6.
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