Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is part of the vitamin B group. As all B vitamins, vitamin B2 helps the body to convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is “burned” to produce energy. In addition to producing energy for the body, vitamin B2 also works as an antioxidant by fighting damaging particles in the body known as free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells and DNA, and may contribute to the aging process, as well as the development of a number of health conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.
Vitamin B2 also promotes:
1. Skin, muscle, nerve, heart and eye health (including preventing the development of cataracts).
2. Production of red blood cells and antibodies.
3. Absorption or activation of iron, folic acid and Vitamins B1, B3 and B6.
4. Conversion of tryptophan (an amino acid) into niacin (vitamin B3).
5. Production of hormones.
6. Maintenance of the mucous membranes in the digestive system with the help of vitamin A.
7. Healthy development of the fetus.
Food Sources of Vitamin B2
Vitamin B2 is found mainly in almonds, organ meats, whole grains, wheat germ, rice, mushrooms, soy-beans, eggs, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, milk, yoghurt and other dairy products.
Types of food containing vitamin B2 include the following:
1. Liver, beef, kidneys, chicken, turkey, fish.
2. Eggs, cheese, milk, yoghurt.
3. Leafy green vegetables, asparagus, artichokes, avocados, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, dandelion greens, watercress, currants, spinach, kelp, peas, navy beans, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cayenne, parsley, sage, rose hips.
4. Whole-grain breads, enriched breads, fortified cereals.
5. Mushrooms, nuts, molasses.
Vitamin B2 is destroyed by light, so food should be stored away from light to protect its riboflavin content. While Vitamin B2 is not destroyed by heat, it can be lost in water when foods are boiled or soaked. During cooking, roasting and steaming preserves more riboflavin than frying or scalding.
Deficiency of Vitamin B2
Vitamin B2 deficiency is quite uncommon. Those most vulnerable to deficiency of vitamin B2 include alcoholics, elderly persons with a poor diet, persons who suffer adverse reactions to dairy products (lactose intolerance).