Riboflavin: Works Hard So You Can Too
Riboflavin - underappreciated but still gets the job done. The antioxidant that doesn’t get much fanfare is in most foods you eat and is probably already part of your supplement routine.
If it's been a while since you were in a high school science class and you don't quite remember all the benefits of riboflavin, don't worry; we've got you covered. We outlined everything you need to know about riboflavin, its role in keeping your body up and running, the best riboflavin-rich foods and riboflavin supplements, and how to prevent a riboflavin deficiency.
What is Riboflavin?
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is a water-soluble antioxidant that turns your food into the energy you need. Of course, all vitamins and minerals play an essential role, but riboflavin is the superstar that takes the cake…and turns it into energy.
The recommended daily allowance of riboflavin for Canadians is 1.3 mg/day for males over 14 and 1.1 mg/day for females aged 19 and older. With such low requirements, avoiding a riboflavin deficiency is pretty simple. Despite that, due to food allergies, preferences, and medical conditions, vitamin and mineral deficiencies can happen to many of us.
Signs and Symptoms of a Riboflavin Deficiency
Being a water-soluble vitamin well regulated by the body means an overdose of riboflavin is incredibly rare. Fortunately, since riboflavin-rich foods are prolific, a riboflavin deficiency is also rare. However, rare doesn't mean non-existent.
The flip side of being a water-soluble vitamin means that your body needs to replenish its supply of riboflavin every day to prevent a riboflavin deficiency. Ariboflavinosis is a deficiency disease caused by too low riboflavin levels. We put together a list of common signs and symptoms of a riboflavin deficiency so you can be aware and up your daily intake, if necessary.
As always, if you notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor ASAP.
7 Symptoms of a Riboflavin Deficiency:
- mouth sores
- swollen throat
- blurred vision
- skin cracking, itching, and dermatitis around the mouth
- hair loss
But wait, there’s good news! The effects of a riboflavin deficiency can be reversed, except in cases regarding changes to the body like cataracts. Taking high-dose riboflavin supplements can counteract the effects of too low riboflavin levels. We love a good comeback story.
In addition to taking riboflavin supplements, eating a diet high in riboflavin-rich foods is the best way to ensure your body gets the necessary riboflavin benefits it needs. Although we already know that the daily requirement to prevent a riboflavin deficiency is pretty low, that news gets even better when you check out this list of riboflavin-rich foods.
11 Riboflavin-Rich Foods:
- meat (beef and pork)
- bonus: most cereals are fortified with riboflavin to provide 100% of your daily requirement
How Does Riboflavin Benefit Your Body?
Riboflavin supplements are often-forgotten antioxidants that help fight off free radicals. A free radical is an atom with an unpaired electron, which means it is constantly searching for other atoms to steal an electron from. As you can imagine, this can cause chaos for other atoms and create a generally toxic work environment for your cells.
Having a diet, supplement routine, and skincare routine high in antioxidants is a necessary step to keeping your body looking and feeling great. We love good news, so we’re happy to share that the effects of free radicals can be reversed by the benefits of riboflavin and other antioxidants. Ensuring your days include riboflavin-rich foods and riboflavin supplements is an easy way to fight the good fight.
9 Benefits of Riboflavin:
- necessary for the growth, development, and function of cells
- helps breakdown carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to produce energy
- allows oxygen to be used by the body
- increases blood circulation
- protects corneas for good vision
- helps in the absorption process of other minerals like iron, folic acid, and B1, B3, and B6
- aides in repairing tissue to help with wound healing
- maintains and protects the digestive tract
- boosts immune system
How Does Riboflavin Benefit Your Fitness Routine?
One of the main benefits of riboflavin is to convert the food you eat into energy. Our body needs the energy to do even the most basic of tasks. As an athlete, you need more energy to accomplish your goals. Since riboflavin is water-soluble, it is not stored in the body, so you need to eat riboflavin-rich foods or take riboflavin supplements daily to avoid a riboflavin deficiency.
Riboflavin, vitamin B2, is seriously important for runners. A study showed that taking riboflavin supplements before and during long periods of running can provide three vital benefits.
3 Ways Riboflavin Benefit Runners:
- reduces muscle pain and soreness during and after the race
- enhances muscle recovery after the race
- increases running speed
Riboflavin benefits athletes by creating energy that translates into increased endurance. These riboflavin benefits also help to delay muscle fatigue and exhaustion. After a workout, your body needs time to rest and repair; it's an integral part of the fitness process. Taking riboflavin supplements or eating riboflavin-rich foods that directly help combat fatigue means you see more results in less time.
Exercise causes stress on our bodies and utilizes the minerals and nutrients more rapidly than when we are at rest. So those of us that hit the gym regularly need to amp up our nutrient intake to account for the excessive nutrients needed to keep us toned and prevent a nutritional deficiency.
Riboflavin - Underappreciated but Still Working Hard
Riboflavin is often considered the most underappreciated antioxidant. This is because it fights off free radicals without getting the credit of more high-profile antioxidants like vitamin C, E, and retinol. The benefit of riboflavin is that riboflavin-rich foods and riboflavin supplements are so common that they can go about their business, keeping you healthy without requiring a whole lot from you.
So, you can keep eating delicious riboflavin-rich foods like salmon, yogurt, avocado, and mushrooms; and riboflavin will keep doing its part to keep your body healthy, active, and performing at its best.