Nutrient Highlight: Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Have you heard about the B-complex vitamins? They are a set of 8 water-soluble vitamins that are found in similar food sources. They also work together to support different yet overlapping processes in the body — from building up cells and converting energy, to breaking down and disposing of waste products.
One of the B-complex vitamins is pyridoxine, more commonly known as the Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is usually up there with Vitamin B9 (Folate) and Vitamin B12 when it comes to prenatal nutrition recommendations — it helps with morning sickness. But it is widely studied for its role in disease prevention, so it’s good to know what Vitamin B6 can do for your body.
What can Vitamin B6 do for your body?
“Prevention is always better than cure.” We hear this all the time, but I prefer to say, “All health outcomes are cumulative.” The latter provides a sense of personal accountability, that your current state of health is the sum of everything that has happened since you were a baby.
This means that any health outcomes that you want to have will not come instantaneously. You have to commit to really changing your lifestyle. For example, if your goal is to live a life free from maintenance drugs at least before 80, then you will need to start thinking of the steps today.
This is where Vitamin B6 shines. It helps maintain cellular function, with great impact to three major concerns during aging: cardiovascular health, cognitive function, and cancer prevention.
For cardiovascular health
Homocysteine is a type of protein that we need to keep in check. When homocysteine levels in the blood are too high, it can damage the lining of the arteries and increase the risk of blood clot formation. This is something we want to avoid because blood clots can block our blood vessels and trigger stroke or heart failure. The B vitamins B6, B12 and folate are needed to maintain safe levels of homocysteine in the bloodstream.
For cognitive function
High levels of homocysteine are also observed in patients suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive decline. This means that a good diet high in Vitamin B6 may have protective effects against the development of these degenerative diseases.
For cancer prevention
Vitamin B6 facilitates enzyme activity that helps in reducing oxidative stress and managing inflammation in the body. With these two functions being so vital for cancer prevention, there is no wonder why a high intake of Vitamin B6 foods is associated with a lower risk of all cancers, especially gastrointestinal cancers.
Which foods are the best sources of Vitamin B6?
When we eat a variety of whole foods and fresh produce, we tend to get the essential vitamins and minerals that we need everyday. Vitamin B6 is found in a variety of animal and plant foods such as beef liver, tuna, salmon, chickpeas, and poultry. It can also be found in dark leafy greens, bananas, papayas, oranges, and potatoes.
Potatoes are a good source of Vitamin B6! A medium 5.3 oz skin-on potato provides 10% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin B6. So try to include potatoes in your main meals and even snacks. Check out this site for many exciting potato recipes.
Vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient that we need to introduce into our body through the diet. It is best known for helping pregnant women overcome morning sickness. But it is being studied for its protective effects for degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and cancer development. We can get Vitamin B6 through a wide variety of whole foods, with some foods such as potatoes being a good source for the nutrient.