Did you know riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is an essential nutrient in achieving optimal health? Part of the powerhouse B vitamin family, riboflavin helps prevent aging, plays a crucial role in metabolism, keeps you energized and is even needed for healthy skin. Keep reading to learn the importance of the B vitamin riboflavin, signs of a deficiency, and ways to ensure you get enough.
The important role of riboflavin
Riboflavin is one of several antioxidant B vitamins that your body needs simply for survival. Your liver, kidneys and heart are all responsible for breaking down the nutrient as it’s absorbed from your food. These organs also help circulate riboflavin throughout the body.Riboflavin is required for a wide variety of cellular processes, and like the other B vitamins, it plays a key role in energy metabolism. Your body needs riboflavin to properly metabolize fats, carbohydrates, ketone bodies and proteins.Also, just by getting your daily dose of this important B vitamin, you can stave off dozens of conditions including anemia, carpal tunnel syndrome, cataracts, migraines, rosacea and vaginitis.
Signs and symptoms of a riboflavin deficiency
When you run low on riboflavin, you may experience a number of uncomfortable and irritating symptoms. These include:
- Sensitivity to light
- Tearing, burning, soreness or itching around the eyes, mouth, lips or tongue
- Sore throat
- Cracking of the skin at the corners of the mouth
- Peeling of the skin (even though you don’t have a sunburn)
Are you at risk for a riboflavin deficiency?
Several groups of people are susceptible to a riboflavin deficiency.People who drink alcohol. Studies show by drinking large quantities of alcohol, you’ll cut your riboflavin absorption powers in half. Alcoholics may need five to 10 times the normal amount of the vitamin needed by nondrinkers.Endurance athletes. Because heavy exercisers sweat more and work their body harder than those who are moderately active, athletes may need 15 times the ordinary amount of riboflavin. That’s especially true for women.People on medications. Certain drugs like oral contraceptives, antidepressants and anti-malarial pills inhibit the body’s ability to absorb riboflavin.If you fall into one of these groups, talk to your doctor about proper supplementation.
Recommended daily dose for riboflavin
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for riboflavin varies by age and gender.Children
0-6 months: 300 micrograms (mcg) per day
6-12 months: 400 mcg per day
1-3 years: 500 mcg per day
4-8 years: 600 mcg per dayMen
Males (ages 9-13): 900 mcg per day
Males (ages 14 and older): 1.3 milligrams (mg) per dayWomen
Females (ages 9-13): 900 mcg per day
Females (ages 14-18): 1.0 mg per day
Females (ages 19 and older): 1.1 mg per day
Pregnant females (ages 19 and older): 1.4 mg per day
Lactating females (ages 19 and older): 1.6 mg per day
Food sources of riboflavin
It’s easier than you think to get your daily dose of riboflavin. Here are some of the richest riboflavin food sources.Calf’s liver, braised, 4 oz = 2.20 mg
Crimini mushrooms, raw, 5 oz = 0.69 mg
Yogurt, low-fat, 1 cup = 0.52 mg
Spinach, boiled, 1 cup = 0.42 mg
Asparagus, boiled, 1 cup = 0.23 mg
Raspberries, 1 cup = 0.12 mg
Tips to get more riboflavin in your diet
1. Cover your food. Riboflavin is highly sensitive to light. In some studies, storing riboflavin-rich foods or cooking them in direct sunlight resulted in a 25 percent loss of the nutrient. Store your fresh veggies in cool, dark places.2. Go unprocessed. Almost 70 percent of riboflavin is removed from food when it’s processed. Stick with breads and pastas that are made with 100 percent whole wheat or multigrain flour.3. Avoid alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the more you’ll have to urinate and the more riboflavin your body will lose.
More on riboflavin and other B vitamins
Healthy beef recipes high in riboflavin
Importance of folate and folic acid
Why you need vitamin B6