Foods That Contain Thiamine & Why Should You Need Them?

Discover the amazing benefits of eating foods that contain thiamine and why you should include them to your diet for better health.

Rarely many of us keep a check on what we eat, how much we eat and how we eat every day.

Even when we do, we tend to restrict it to the calories intake in a food item that we consume. One of the most important nutrients unavoidable for the proper functioning of the body is Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine.

This post gives you a thorough overview of what Thiamine is, how it is important and what food sources are the best for managing thiamine levels in one’s body.

What Is Thiamine(Vitamine B1)?

Vitamin B1 also known as Thiamin, Thiamine or Aneurine is a water-soluble vitamin and is classified as a B-complex vitamin. It is an essential nutrient that serves several important functions of the body. It is required by the body to maintain the cellular function and thus a wide array of other organ functions.

It is essential in the functioning of the muscular and nervous systems and is essential in muscle contracting. It is necessary for electrolyte balance, digestion, metabolism of carbohydrates and turning carbohydrates into other sources of energy.

The human body does not store thiamine. Consequently, the human body might run out of thiamine in as little as 14 days if it is not replenished. Deficiency of thiamine might lead to the degeneration of the whole body, as it is an essential nutrient for metabolic and other functions.

Deficiency of thiamine can cause deficiency diseases like beriberi and/or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome whose main symptoms are severe fatigue along with degeneration of cardiovascular, nervous, muscular and gastrointestinal systems. Thiamine, when taken in excess of the prescribed daily value (DV) is not harmful and can actually enhance the brain functioning.

Small amounts of Thiamine are found in nearly all food items and in substantial amounts in most of the common eaten food items. It might seem odd that deficiency of thiamine is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the U.S. The current prescribed daily value (DV) for vitamin B1 is 1.4mg.

Health Benefits Of Thiamine:

Vitamin B1 or Thiamine is a vital nutrient to the human body. It is essential for maintaining metabolic functions as well as several other functions in the human body. Some of the most important functions of Thiamine are as follows:

1. Energy Production:

Among all the vitamins, Vitamin B1 plays the most critical role in the production of energy from carbohydrates and fats. It acts as the gate-keeper between early carbohydrate breakdown, the energy-rich Kreb’s cycle and electron transport chain.

It plays a central role in energy metabolism and deficiency of this vitamin will impair every important function of the body.

2. Nervous System Support:

Thiamine plays a very important role in the efficient functioning of the nervous system of the body as the brain is one of the most energy-hungry tissues of the body.

Surprisingly, thiamine has also been linked to many varied conditions, from alcohol-related brain disease to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Thiamine also plays a critical role in the structuring and integration of brain cells such that advanced deficiency of this nutrient during a critical period of brain development may lead to severe brain damage.

Foods That Contain Thiamine:

The sure way to get rid from Vitamin B1 deficiency is to incorporate foods rich in Vitamin B1 in your nutritious diet. It is important to know what food you have to take in order to have the right amount of thiamine in your body. Here is a table that contains all the information you need to know about thiamine content in various food items.

Food Serving size Thiamine (mg) Vegetables and Fruit Vegetables FoodServing sizeThiamine (mg)Vegetables and FruitVegetablesSoybean sprouts, cooked125 mL (1/2 cup)0.28Edamame/baby soybeans, cooked125 mL (1/2 cup)0.25Green peas, cooked125 mL (1/2 cup)0.22–0.24Lima beans, cooked125 mL (1/2 cup)0.22Squash, acorn, cooked125 mL (1/2 cup)0.18Potato, with skin, cooked1 medium0.10–0.15Grain ProductsGrainsWheat germ, raw30 g (¼ cup)0.5Corn flour20 g (2 Tbsp)0.29Pasta, white, enriched, cooked125 mL (1/2 cup)0.21- 0.29Pasta, egg noodles, enriched, cooked12; 5 mL (1/2 cup)0.16–0.21CerealsOatmeal, instant, cooked175 mL (¾ cup)0.72–1.10Cereal, dry, all types30 g (check product label for serving size)0.6Hot oat bran cereal, cooked175 mL (¾ cup)0.4Muesli and granola30 g (check product label for serving size)0.22–0.30Oatmeal (1 minute), cooked175 mL (¾ cup)0.21Other Grain ProductsBreakfast bar, corn flake crust with fruit1 bar (37 g)0.37Bagel, plain½ bagel0.27Breakfast bar, oatmeal1 bar (47 g)0.24Granola bar, oat, fruits and nut1 bar (43 g)0.21Waffle, frozen, cooked1 waffle0.19Bread (white, whole wheat, rye, mixed grain)1 slice (35 g)0.10–0.17Milk and AlternativesSoy beverage,250 mL (1 cup)0.16Meat and AlternativesMeatPork, various cuts, cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)0.36- 1.05Pork, ground, cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)0.75–0.77Pork, ham, cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)0.41Venison/deer, various cuts, cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)0.19–0.38Liver (chicken, pork), cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)0.13–0.22Fish and SeafoodTuna,yellowfin/albacore, cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)0.38Trout, cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)0.11–0.32Salmon, Atlantic, cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)0.21–0.26Pickerel/walleye, cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)0.23Mussels, cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)0.23Tuna, bluefin, cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)0.21Meat AlternativesMeatless, luncheon slices75 g (2 ½ oz)3Soy burger, vegetarian meatloaf or patty, cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)2Meatless (chicken, fish sticks, meatballs), cooked75 g (2 ½ oz)0.70–0.96Legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils)Beans (soybeans, black, pinto, adzuki, kidney, lima, navy, roman), cooked175 mL (¾ cup)0.18–0.32Lentils, cooked175 mL (¾ cup)0.25–0.28Baked beans, canned175 mL (¾ cup)0.18Nuts and SeedsSunflower seeds, without shell60 mL (¼ cup)0.54Chinese/Japanese chestnuts, without shell60 mL (¼ cup)0.16–0.32Nuts (pistachio, macadamia, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts), without shell60 mL (¼ cup)0.12–0.26Tahini/sesame seed butter15mL (1 Tbsp)0.19Soy nuts60 mL (¼ cup)0.12OthersYeast extract spread (marmite/vegemite)30 mL (2 Tbsp)3.56Source —

How Much Thiamine Is Required?

So how much thiamine do you need to keep your body functioning normally? Experts say that this depends on your gender and your age.

A pregnant or lactating woman needs higher levels of thiamine than a normal woman. If you are suffering from an illness or use the multi-processed food you may need to be careful about your thiamine intake.

Based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), the amount of vitamin B1 (thiamine) needed is as follows:

Children ages 1–3 years: 0.5 mg per day

Children ages 4–8 years: 0.6 mg per day

Children ages 9–13 years: 0.9 mg per day

Teens & Adults — Males ages 14 years and up: 1.2 mg per day

Teens & Adults — Females ages 14–18 years: 1.0 mg per day

Teens & Adults — Females ages 19 years and up: 1.1 mg per day

Pregnant & Lactating Females: 1.4 mg per day

Deficiency Of Thiamine:

As we have already discussed thiamine is present in most of the food items that we usually consume and thiamine deficiency is not that common amongst individuals. But due to the advent of food processing and other factors like over cooking thiamine deficiency is on the rise. It is also observed to be high among chronic alcoholics and in some other special circumstances.

Now let us examine a few causes of thiamine deficiency.

Causes Of Thiamine Deficiency:

  • Risk Of Dietary deficiency: The risk of dietary deficiency of Vitamin B1 is quite extensive. For example, in the US, nearly 20% of the residents who are above 2 years of age do not take recommended amounts of Thiamine each day. And this is with the “enrichment” process that the widely used wheat flour undergoes here (enrichment process adds back the nutrients destroyed by processing).

This risk can be substantially lowered if the consumption of processed food items is substituted by minimally processed, fresh whole food diet. At least on the serving of legumes and seeds each will give you at least half of the daily value recommendation of thiamine. If this is supplemented by several servings of vegetables, the required amount of thiamine can easily be accomplished.

  • Some of the other circumstances that lead to thiamine deficiency include old-age, decreased efficiency in absorbing vitamins and chronic alcoholism.
  • It has been observed that people with heart failure, gastrointestinal disease and diabetes etc have increased the risk of thiamine deficiency. Restoring normal thiamine levels may actually prevent further complications of the disease in many of these cases.
  • Even in the absence of such diseases, elderly people have been observed to have an increased risk of being deficient in thiamine. This is speculated to be due to the decreased capability to absorb vitamins due to old age, but no conclusive proof has been attained to prove this true.
  • Thiamine nourishment can also be compromised due to particular substances found in certain food items, but most of these are not food items that we set on our tables everyday (Eg: raw jellyfish, silkworms etc).
  • The best known and important of these factors is alcohol abuse as mentioned earlier. The detoxification of alcohol takes up more thiamine and usually alcoholics eat less thiamine-rich food due to poor dietary habits. They are also observed to have trouble absorbing it in the intestine and urinating out most of the vitamin taken in. This increases the risk for deficiency in alcoholics.

Relationship With Other Vitamins:

The B-Vitamins were historically considered as a complex vitamin as they weren’t originally understood as multiple varied vitamins. The individual B-vitamins interact with each other and overlap and enhance the activity of each other. They work as a team when they are present together.

Vitamin B1 is the best example of how complex vitamins work in that the absorption of Vitamin B1 is compromised when other vitamins are deficient. Vice versa, when Vitamin B1 is severely deficient, it leads to severe diarrhoea which compromises the absorption of the other nutrients.

Risk Of Toxicity:

There hasn’t been any report of toxicity due to excess intake of thiamine as when supply exceeds needs, we just urinate the excess out of the body. Due to this lack of noticeable toxicity, thiamine has no tolerable upper intake level (UL).

Symptoms of Thiamine Deficiency:

Symptoms of thiamine deficiency include severe fatigue, weakness, lack of energy, degeneration of muscular, nervous and gastrointestinal systems. It can lead to severe diseases, especially in the nervous and circulatory systems.

The following are the diseases that can be caused due to or be complicated by the deficiency of thiamine

  • Beri-beri
  • Wernicke’s encephalopathy
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Liver failure
  • Alcoholism

Nutrient Chart:

Nutrient Rating System Chart:

Now, It is not just important to know the foods that contain thiamine, but also to know what is the concentration of nutrients in each food item with respect to the calories that it contains. You want thiamine, but you don’t want to ingest any more calories that you ought to!

Now, we present to you a nutrient rating system chart that will allow you to know which food items are extremely rich in thiamine. The table contains information including the serving size used to calculate, the amount of thiamine contained in a serving.It also represents the percentage daily value (DV) that this amount represents as well as the rating according to WHFoods rating system.

Foods Ranked As Quality Sources Of Vitamin B1 Food Serving
Cals Amount
 Foods Rating
Asparagus 1 cup 39.6 0.29 24 11.0 excellent Sunflower Seeds 0.25 cup 204.4 0.52 43 3.8 very good Green Peas 1 cup 115.7 0.36 30 4.7 very good Flaxseeds 2 TBS 74.8 0.23 19 4.6 very good Brussels Sprouts 1 cup 56.2 0.17 14 4.5 very good Beet Greens 1 cup 38.9 0.17 14 6.6 very good Spinach 1 cup 41.4 0.17 14 6.2 very good Cabbage 1 cup 43.5 0.11 9 3.8 very good Eggplant 1 cup 34.6 0.08 7 3.5 very good Romaine Lettuce 2 cups 16.0 0.07 6 6.6 very good Mushrooms, Crimini 1 cup 15.8 0.07 6 6.6 very good Navy Beans 1 cup 254.8 0.43 36 2.5 good Black Beans 1 cup 227.0 0.42 35 2.8 good Barley 0.33 cup 217.1 0.40 33 2.8 good Dried Peas 1 cup 231.3 0.37 31 2.4 good Lentils 1 cup 229.7 0.33 28 2.2 good Pinto Beans 1 cup 244.5 0.33 28 2.0 good Lima Beans 1 cup 216.2 0.30 25 2.1 good Oats 0.25 cup 151.7 0.30 25 3.0 good Sesame Seeds 0.25 cup 206.3 0.28 23 2.0 good Kidney Beans 1 cup 224.8 0.28 23 1.9 good Peanuts 0.25 cup 206.9 0.23 19 1.7 good Sweet Potato 1 medium 180.0 0.21 18 1.8 good Tofu 4 oz 164.4 0.18 15 1.6 good Tuna 4 oz 147.4 0.15 13 1.5 good Pineapple 1 cup 82.5 0.13 11 2.4 good Oranges 1 medium 61.6 0.11 9 2.7 good Broccoli 1 cup 54.6 0.10 8 2.7 good Green Beans 1 cup 43.8 0.09 8 3.1 good Onions 1 cup 92.4 0.09 8 1.5 good Collard Greens 1 cup 62.7 0.08 7 1.9 good Summer Squash 1 cup 36.0 0.08 7 3.3 good Carrots 1 cup 50.0 0.08 7 2.4 good Tomatoes 1 cup 32.4 0.07 6 3.2 good Cantaloupe 1 cup 54.4 0.07 6 1.9 good Kale 1 cup 36.4 0.07 6 2.9 good Mustard Greens 1 cup 36.4 0.06 5 2.5 good Turnip Greens 1 cup 28.8 0.06 5 3.1 good Swiss Chard 1 cup 35.0 0.06 5 2.6 good Bok Choy 1 cup 20.4 0.05 4 3.7 good Watermelon 1 cup 45.6 0.05 4 1.6 good Bell Peppers 1 cup 28.5 0.05 4 2.6 good Cauliflower 1 cup 28.5 0.05 4 2.6 good Grapefruit 0.50 medium 41.0 0.05 4 1.8 good Garlic 6 cloves 26.8 0.04 3 2.2 good Parsley 0.50 cup 10.9 0.03 3 4.1 good Cucumber 1 cup 15.6 0.03 3 2.9 good Cumin 2 tsp 15.8 0.03 3 2.9 good Mustard Seeds 2 tsp 20.3 0.03 3 2.2 good Sea Vegetables 1 TBS 10.8 0.03 3 4.1 good World’s Healthiest
 Foods Rating
Rule excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
 Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10% very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
 Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5% good DRI/DV>=25% OR
 Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

Impact of Cooking, Storage and Processing:

Thiamine is a nutrient that is present in almost all edible substances. Then why is thiamine deficiency so extensive? The answer to this question is given in this section that elucidates on how high amounts of thiamine is lost from food from the various processes these substances undergo like cooking, heating, processing etc.

Thiamine is highly prone to the risk of damage by heat. Conventional cooking methods, as well as microwaving, reduces the vitamin B1 content of your food by about 20–50%. Roasting may even lead to total removal of thiamine from the grains (prolonged exposure to 300°F for one hour).

It has been observed that multiple levels of processing that includes storage and heating steaming, roasting etc destroys the thiamine content of the food substance. This is evident from the increase in instances of beriberi in countries which rely heavily on rice intake.

When these countries started to polish the outer layers off the rice prior to cooking decreased Thiamine level were noticed.The outer layers of rice contain high levels of Thiamine and polishing it off means polishing thiamine off. Processed food grains are likely to have lost a good amount of B1.

A large amount of thiamine is lost due to over-heating, roasting, cooking, storage and processing. Therefore, it is always better to have fresh, whole foods than processed food items. Make your diet a minimally processed one and be safe from thiamine deficiency.

Hope this article provided you enough idea about why thiamine is needed in your body and what will happen due to its deficiency.So Start checking your food intake and make sure you are taking enough thiamine.

Leave your comments and suggestions below.Stay Healthy


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Originally published at on November 28, 2015.