Smorgasbord Health Column – Nutrients we need – B5 – Pantothenic Acid

health column final

Welcome to the next in the series on nutrients the body needs to be health and today another B Vitamin that works with other B Vitamins but also has its own role to play in the body.

You can find the other posts on the B vitamins in the Health Column directory:

Pantothenic acid gets its name from the Greek word pantos, meaning everywhere; because it is available in such a wide variety of foods. The problem is that much of a foods content of B5 is lost through cooking; which in another reason for eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible in the raw state.

B5 is one of the eight water-soluble B vitamins which cannot be stored by the body and have to be replenished in your daily diet. We have already covered B1, B2, and B3 and  like the others B5 plays an important role in the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose, which is burned to produce energy.

These nutrients are also needed to breakdown fats and proteins as well as promoting the health of the nervous system, skin, hair, eyes and importantly this month, the liver.

Vitamin B5 has a number of roles in the body some more critical than others. One job that is vitally important is assisting in the manufacture of red blood cells as well as sex and stress related hormones.

  • Without B5 our digestive tract would become unhealthy and we would be unable to use other vitamins as effectively. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘anti-stress’ vitamin because it is believed to enhance the activity of the immune system and help the body overcome stressful conditions.
  • Currently research is looking into the benefits of B5 and treatment for elevated LDL (unhealthy) cholesterol but there are other areas where the vitamin may be beneficial.
  • Some studies are indicating that B5 may speed up wound healing especially following surgery and as part of a B-complex supplement it may help recovery from major burns.
  • Arthritis has also come under the microscope as blood tests taken from arthritis sufferers’ show that they were suffering from a deficiency of pantothenic acid, but more study will be needed to confirm this. (I will be covering Arthritis later in the week)
  • There are rumours that taking B5 can help with wrinkles and stop your hair greying but this is not proven. However, this does not stop the cosmetic industry from claiming that shampoo and other products containing synthesised B5 can add lustre to your locks!

What are the symptoms of a deficiency?

If you are following a healthy eating plan with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrains you will be unlikely to be suffering from B5 deficiency.

If you are suffering from a mild to moderate deficiency you might suffer from the following symptoms.

  • tiredness,
  • headaches,
  • nausea,
  • tingling in the hands,
  • depression,
  • abdominal pains,
  • insomnia,
  • burning feet,
  • muscle weakness
  • cramps.

In extreme cases personality changes can take place as well as heart problems.

What are the dietary sources of B5?

all food groups

As I have mentioned, there are a large variety of sources for the vitamin including fresh meats, vegetables and wholegrains.

If you like mushrooms and in particular Shitake mushrooms you will find that by including two or three times a week you will be getting a great B5 hit. Dairy products including cheese contain healthy amounts as do avocados, egg yolks, proteins such as beef, turkey and other poultry, shellfish and oily fish such as salmon and trout, peanuts and lentils and strawberries.

Supplements containing B5.

If you feel that your daily diet contains sufficient B-vitamins including B5 but you are still suffering from arthritis or stress related conditions; seek the advice of a medical expert who can advise you on the dosage of any supplements including B5.

If you take a multi-vitamin and mineral as I do, you will find that all the B vitamins are present and it is also sold separately under the names pantothenic acid and calcium pantothenate. You can also buy B-complex formulations, but do check that they are from a high quality producer. I have recently switched my supplements over to the spray formats which are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. To test this claim I used the spray for three months and then switched back to a multi-vitamin tablet for a month.. Within a couple of weeks, I found that I had not as much energy and switched back again.

As with all supplements you should do your research and buy the best quality product. Cheap alternatives claim to be effective but usually have less of the essential ingredient and the rest made up by fillers.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health – 1999 – 2018

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from

And Amazon UK:

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4:

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally


Smorgasbord Health Column – Turning Back the Clock – Anti-Aging the Hormone Factor

Over the next few weeks I am going to be sharing my book on anti-aging.. Turning Back the Clock. Some of the strategies have been included in other posts on the various areas of health that can accelerate the natural aging process, but in this book I bring them all together. Some of you may have already followed the series that I posts in February 2016, but I hope enough time has passed for you to find it worth another look.

This is a natural anti-aging programme. We all age but many of us are assisting the process with diet and lifestyle choices. This book takes a look at the physical, mental and emotional aspects of aging and how a little attitude adjustment goes a long way!

This week’s chapter is about the role that healthy fats and cholesterol play in the production of our hormones. Cholesterol is essential for the production of hormones as well as our brain health and other important functions. Whilst having too much of one kind of cholesterol is not healthy for our arteries or heart a balance of all kinds is needed B3 and cholesterol

As we age our reproductive hormones naturally decrease but they do not disappear and they still need the ingredients necessary to produce them. This requires that we maintain a diet that provides those nutrients. I know that this chapter is quite lengthy but please feel free to save to read later.


Isn’t it inevitable that all hormone levels are going to drop as we get older, and will we all be affected?

Most of us, when we talk about hormones, are usually referring to the reproductive ones such as testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen.

We all know that as we get older our reproductive hormones decrease and both men and women go through a menopause. Women are more affected by this, obviously, but men too experience a decrease in testosterone levels and the changes that this brings about.

However, our sex hormones are just three of the many hormones that are produced in our bodies and even though our reproductive abilities may decrease as we get older, the hormones involved are still active within our body. If they, and our other hormones, are looked after they will contribute to a healthy, energetic and youthful appearance. Sex does not stop when we get middle aged it just gets more creative and interesting.

I am not going to cover every form of hormone but it is important to remember that all hormones produced by the body are for a specific reason. They ensure that the complex processes within our bodies are working efficiently. When these processes are not working at an optimum level there is a breakdown in function over time, and damage and aging will take place.

What are hormones exactly?

Hormones are some of the most powerful chemicals to be found in the body. They are bio-chemicals produced in special glands and then carried in the bloodstream to other glands, or cells, where they give instructions that activate certain processes.

They are secreted by a number of different glands such as the Pituitary, Adrenal, Thyroid, Pancreas, Ovaries, Testes and Pineal. Each gland may produce one or more different hormone to affect a process in the body. For example; the Pancreas secretes Insulin, Glucagon and Stomostatin. Insulin and glucagon are secreted according to the level of blood sugar and Stomostatin is the referee to ensure that not too much of either is secreted and that blood sugar levels remain balanced as a result.

Hormones are manufactured from components of food, which means that the type of diet you follow has a major impact on keeping hormone levels in balance! Hormones are either protein-like as in insulin, or fat-like as in steroid hormones.

Since our primary focus is on maintaining our health; through eating an optimum diet, we need to concentrate on providing the body with the most perfect environment for hormone balance and therefore lack of stress; which leads to damage and disease.

The hormone functions I am going to cover are Metabolism, Blood Sugar Levels and Stress Response because these, combined with low levels of the sex hormones Testosterone, Progesterone and Oestrogen, are some of the leading causes of aging.

Whatever the level of hormones produced by particular glands, if they are not communicating when they get to their destinations (such as the Thyroid Gland, Kidneys or Ovaries, they will not be effective – and the on-going functions they are supposed to stimulate will be disrupted.

How do we create the perfect environment?

Well, a good start is to be following a diet which is primarily sourced from all natural ingredients, is low in refined sugars and contains healthy fats. Being near a healthy weight will also help. There are certain foods that are very nutrient dense which are very important in creating the right atmosphere for hormones to work efficiently in balance.

One of the most important food sources is Essential Fatty Acids which are Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids (polyunsaturated fatty acids). The body must have these essential fatty acids, yet cannot make them itself.

One of the main functions of essential fatty acids is the production of prostaglandins which are hormone-like substances that regulate many body functions. Basically, they control every cell of the body on a second-by-second basis by acting as interpreters between the hormones and the cells they are being delivered to. As far as aging is concerned they are required for energy production, increasing oxidation and metabolic rates. Energy levels go up with high stamina with decreased recovery time from fatigue.

Prostaglandins are particularly important in the way that they balance all hormones including the reproductive ones. You also need to note that the brain does not function without essential fatty acids.

Monounsaturated fats are also important, as both these types of fats protect brain cells and the membranes and ensure effective passing of nutrients within the brain.

This last point is particularly important, because when we talk about hormones we tend to ignore the power behind the throne, which is the Hypothalamus. The other name of the Hypothalamus is actually the word Homeostasis, which means balance, which is very appropriate. It is located in the middle of the base of the brain and is connected to the Pituitary lobes, which form the most important gland in the body.

The Hypothalamus regulates body temperature, blood sugar, water balance, fat metabolism, appetite, body weight, sensory inputs – such as taste and smell and sight, sleep, sexual behaviour, emotions, hormone productions, menstrual cycle regulation and the automatic nervous system that controls functions such as breathing and the heart muscle.

So, when we talk about hormones we need to talk about brain health as a priority.

Apart from essential fatty acids – what else does the brain need to function?

I am sure that it is no surprise that I am going to say FLUIDS are essential for adequate brain function. Dehydration causes to cells to dry up and die but also prevents the nutrients and oxygen reaching the brain, uphill through the carotid artery.

Headaches, nervousness, dizziness and nausea are all symptoms that the brain is dehydrated. That’s what you get when you drink too much coffee and alcohol and get a hangover. They are mild diuretics that can drain the body including organs such as the brain, of fluid. Additionally, every organ in the body, including the brain, has a pH balance that needs to be maintained. Without fluid the brain can become too acidic and damage occurs as I explained in the previous chapter on acidity and alkalinity.

B vitamins are critical for the brain.

B1 (Thiamine) essential for the nervous system.

B2 (Riboflavin) works with Vitamin C to help the Adrenal glands and therefore energy levels.

B3, (Niacin) assists Tryptophan in making Serotonin and the formation of the steroid hormones and for warding off senility.

B5 (Pantothenic acid) is required for making neurotransmitter chemicals and for steroid hormones Testosterone and Oestrogen, B6 (Pyridoxine) Serotonin manufacture, sleep patterns,

B12 (Cyanocolbalamin) essential for proper functioning of the nervous system.

Vitamin C a powerful antioxidant that protects the brain from free-radical damage but also works with other vitamins and minerals in a number of vital processes.

Vitamin E which helps increase circulation of oxygen and glucose rich blood to the brain. As an antioxidant it also protects brain cells from damage and destruction. It also protects the essential fatty acids and the Prostaglandins from oxidising (more next week)

Tryptophan that works with B3 and B6 particularly to manufacture Serotonin and Melatonin in the brain.

Calcium which calms the brain and assists in sleeping (hot milk at night). Magnesium to help Calcium work and to help calm panic attacks.

Phenylalanine an antidepressant nutrient that also stimulates memory.

Zinc, which has a calming effect on the brain function and with vitamin C, protects the membranes.

What part do amino acids play in hormone production?

Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins, which of course is what we are made of. Vitamins and minerals can’t perform their specific functions effectively if the necessary amino acids are not present. Amino acids are either classified as essential or non-essential. The non-essential ones can be manufactured in our bodies but the essential amino acids have to be obtained from food.

All hormones require amino acids for their production. For example L-Arginine encourages growth hormones and constitutes 80% of semen, which is why a deficiency causes sterility and is also essential for prostate health. L-Tryptophan helps in the production of Serotonin and Melatonin and helps to control emotional behaviour. L-Glutamine is helpful for Thyroid gland function. Taurine is used for hyperactivity and poor brain function.

What about the health of the other hormone producing glands?

Most of the above applies throughout the body. A diet rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin A, C and E and essential fatty acids and amino acids will promote health everywhere. Having created a near perfect working environment for the bosses (the Hypothalamus and the Pituitary), we can turn our attention to the health of the Thyroid (metabolism, energy and growth) Adrenal Gland (sex drive, stress response and metabolism) and Pancreas (Blood sugar levels). If these organs are producing the hormones they are supposed to in the right quantities many of the problems we associate with old age would be much more manageable. Including energy and the ability to process our nutrients efficiently keeping us away from degenerative disease such as arthritis.

How can we take care of the thyroid?

The Thyroid needs Iodine and Selenium to produce an enzyme, which converts the amino acid Tyrosine into Thyroxine. If Thyroxine is at a less than optimum level there will be weight gain, fatigue, intestinal problems and thickening skin. This gland also produces a hormone that is responsible for calcium balance between blood and bones. If this is not working then too much calcium is leached from the bones leaving, them vulnerable to osteoporosis.

What function does the adrenal gland have?

The Adrenal gland is actually in two parts the cortex (male characteristics, sex drive, stress response, metabolism and the excretion of Sodium and Potassium from the kidneys). The Medulla, which produces the Adrenaline for metabolism and the fight or flight stress response.

If your stress levels remain high for long periods of time there will be an effect on the rest of your body. The body slows down digestion, maintenance and repair so that it is ready to run at any moment. It definitely speeds up the aging process because, like anything that is not maintained and is under stress, it slowly deteriorates. It will have a very big impact on all the rest of the hormones in the body including your sex drive – which is why stress plays a very important role in problems such as impotence.

A note here that if you have food intolerances you will be in a constant state of stress as the body deals with the invader. It will put a great deal of strain on the entire body, contributing to aging, which is why following a rotational eating plan (healthy eating programme) will help.

All the B vitamins, as well as Vitamin C, are necessary for the Adrenal glands as these are the nutrients that the body uses up most when in a stress reaction. Therefore they need to be replaced.

The Pancreas – Insulin production and blood sugar levels. What nutrients are needed for that to function healthily?

Like any of the hormonal glands, all of the nutrients that we have already mentioned are going to help the pancreas function better. In addition, it is important to follow some guidelines about eating certain foods that are going to stress the gland and put excess sugar into the bloodstream in addition to that made by the body.

So it is important to avoid too much refined carbohydrates and sugar (follow the healthy eating programme)

You should not eat too much saturated fat. Do not drink too many stimulants such as coffee and alcohol; be at a reasonable weight.

How about the food sources for the essential nutrients that are required to balance the hormones?

Essential Fatty acids

olivesOmega 3. Flaxseed oil, walnuts, pumpkinseeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, avocados, dark green vegetables such as spinach, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, tuna.

Omega 6. Flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, olive oil, evening primrose oil, chicken.

Omega 9. Olive oil, olives, avocado, almonds, sesame oil, pecans, pistachio, cashews.

Heat and oxygen destroy essential fatty acids so keep oils in dark glass containers.

vegetablesAntioxidants are found in all fresh fruit and vegetables and if you are eating 50% to 60% you will be doing great.

salmonB vitamins. Apricots, avocado, brown rice, carrots, chicken, eggs, whole grains, lambs kidney and liver, melon, nuts, oats, oily fish, potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, all salad vegetables and yoghurt.

Amino acids are found in proteins either animal or vegetable. Main sources are Soya beans, peas, beans, whole grains like brown rice, dairy products, poultry, lean meats and eggs.

©Sally Cronin Turning Back the Clock 2013

Next Week

Chapter Four – The Immune System

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from

And Amazon UK:

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4:

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally


Vitamin of the Week – B2 – Riboflavin – with some healthy controvesy!

 smorgasbord health

Welcome to the start of this week’s health posts and whilst I am going to cover one of the essential B vitamins today; B2 – Riboflavin, I am also going to be stirring things up a bit with some controvesy.  I do not care what dietary stance that you have as long as you follow it fully informed. Over the last twenty years I have worked with many people whose health has been compromised, sometimes seriously by following the latest food trend. The worst being the complete withdrawal of one of the main food groups that has sustained and developed the human body over hundreds of thousands of years.

There is a new theory and ‘expert’ opinion every decade and I consider this to be highly dangerous to health. Second guessing nature never ends well and that includes modifying the foods that we eat, removing nutritious natural foods from our diet, and mass farming of animals to produce the cheapest possible foods possible. I would rather do without my flat screen television, smart phone or other ‘must haves’ than compromise on food quality.

Later on in the post you will find some other views on the subject but in the meantime here is one vitamin that plays a vital role in our health.

Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin

Like the other B vitamins, B2 plays an important role in energy production by ensuring the efficient metabolism of the food that we eat in the form of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It plays a key role in our nutritional processes such as its help in processing amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which is the substance that we are made of. Twenty amino acids are needed to build the various different proteins used in the growth, repair and maintenance of our body tissues and whilst eleven of these are made by the body itself, the others must be obtained from our diet and processed by other agents including B2.


Vitamin B2 is a vitamin that is essential for metabolising carbohydrates to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate) without which we would be totally lacking in energy. It also works with enzymes in the liver to eliminate toxins, which helps keep us clear of infection.

Pre-Natal health

B2 is needed to change B6 and Folic Acid into an active and usable form so that our nervous system is protected. Folic acid is essential for healthy cell division and is needed before and during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy to help prevent birth defects. B2 is also part of the process that changes tryptophan, so important to our mental wellbeing, into niacin.

Blood Health

Research into anaemia has highlighted the role of B2 in the body’s inability to manufacture red blood cells. There are two areas that would appear to be particularly critical. One is the vitamin’s role in mobilising iron from storage to the cells and secondly that a deficiency prevents the efficient absorption of iron. (I will be doing a post on Anaemia later in the week)

Antioxidant efficiency

Our bodies have an extremely complex chemical operating system and it is synergistic. It is rare for one of the chemical components to work in isolation and it usually requires a reaction to occur to achieve a function. For example B2 is needed to recycle the vital antioxidant Glutathione in its oxidised state (after it has done its job to detoxify the unstable free radicals) into reduced Glutathione so it can go back and do the job again.

Other areas where B2 is essential.

Without sufficient B2 we would not have healthy skin, nails and hair and our thyroid function can be compromised

B2 works in conjunction with B1, B3 and B6 and as a supplement is more usually taken as part of a B complex. Incidences of deficiency are low but are more prevalent in alcoholics and has been found in people suffering from cataracts or sickle cell anaemia. It is more likely to be a problem in developing countries where there has been some link to preeclampsia in pregnant women.

Sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome, the main symptom being lack of energy, are often deficient in the B vitamins and again B2 would be included as part of a B-complex supplement.

Other areas where eating foods rich in B2 may be helpful are with migraines, headaches, cataracts, rheumatoid arthritis, anaemia and also skin conditions such as acne.

The vitamin is water-soluble and cannot be stored in the body except in very small amounts so needs to be replenished from diet every day.

Dairy products are one of the main sources of Vitamin B2.


You will see a number of articles on the toxic components in milk products in comparison to prepared soy, nut and other milks touted as the healthier option. Man has been drinking the milk of sheep, goats and cows for many thousands of years and you can be sure they got more than milk when they did, including the bacteria from their own unwashed hands as they milked the animal. My stand on dairy products is you get what you pay for and if you insist on buying the cheapest possible milk and other dairy products you are encouraging the practice of mass farming. I like my milk to come from cows that live an outdoor life, eat grass and line-up of their own accord when it is time to hit the milking parlour.

Having said that in most of our countries there are vigorous testing and processing stages in place to minimise the toxic content of what we eat and drink. I am not naive and know that the various sectors of the food industry will spin whatever story is necessary to get us to buy their product in favour of a competitor; but being an informed consumer means doing your own research. Here is an article on milk you might like to read and then one on the promoted health benefits of drinking the alternatives. If I was to use an alternative it would not be soy-milk but rice milk. The only proviso with rice milk is if you are diabetic or at risk of diabetes and you can find out more in the link.

Offal meats.

Over the last twenty years there has been a move away from the offal meats that used to be so popular such as liver and kidney. Again I prefer to buy organic and we certainly eat from time to time. The main issue with liver is that it is both the waste organ of an animal and also the body’s storage facility which makes it a strong tasting meat as well as making it unpopular with many who feel it is gross to eat organ meat. Here is an informative article from Dr. Mercola.

It is a rich source of B Vitamins and if you do eat meat then I recommend that you go to a butcher that sells organic organ meats or a farm shop and buy from that source.



This is another rich B vitamin food source that has suffered in recent years from bad press. At various times eggs have been blamed for increased cholesterol, salmonella and other diseases. The cholesterol theory has been debunked and with the screening now available within the high end of  the egg industry; it is rare to find infected eggs.

It is also to remember that if you have a strong immune system, promoted by a healthy diet your body is designed to deal with a level of toxins in our food very effectively. It is only the very young and elderly, or those who have compromised immune systems that are at risk.

Again I am against factory farming particular of chickens to I am very happy to pay more for this highly nutritious food. It is a powerhouse and contains healthy amounts of not only B vitamins but also protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Selenium and phosphorus. I eat one a day and as an alternative to meat and fish regularly during the week.

Wholegrain Rice.


This is another of my daily foods and whilst it is again a trend to exclude all grains from the diet I strongly disagree. I cannot tolerate white, packaged bread that has been industrially produced. Not because it has the natural wheat included but because it does not. It has a heavily refined white flour that has been added to by various chemically enhanced additives and sugar. If I eat fresh home-baked soda bread made with wholegrain flour or even the supermarket bakery baguettes; I don’t have a problem.

The same with rice. I would not touch refined cheap white rice as it has lost all its nutrients in the processing and some have even been added back artificially to give it a ‘healthy’ appeal. We use Basmati wholegrain rice which is a slow burning fuel, low on the Glycemic Index and full of nutrition including the B vitamins. If you would like to know more about the Glycemic index of foods here is the link from last week.

Vegetarian options.

You can get B vitamins from vegetarian sources and in particular dark green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. You can include Soybeans but again I would pay extra and buy guaranteed non-genetically modified products. Also good amounts in asparagus, mushrooms and almonds.

Chopping and cooking can destroy over 75% of the vitamin content of green vegetables. Step one is not to buy fresh greens that have been pre-cut and packaged. They might be more convenient but by the time it gets to your pot after several days it will have lost at least 50% of its nutritional content. Then if you overcook much of the rest will disappear into the water.

Buy the vegetables whole, eat raw or steam. Buying good quality frozen vegetables is another alternative but again most have been chopped before freezing.

Coming up this week.. Anaemia and how to ensure you are not at risk.

You will find the previous posts on the nutrients we need to be healthy in this directory.

Smorgasbord Health – The circulatory System – Eat your Omegas and Shitakes

Before we move onto the fascinating sequel to the circulatory system, “The Blood”, I just want to finish up with some specific foods and their nutrients which will provide your blood vessels with the essential ingredients to repair themselves, remain flexible and plaque free.

If you are already following my recommended diet of high levels of natural foods, ‘cooked from scratch’, including whole grains, fruit, vegetables and lean protein you will be providing your body with most of the essential elements necessary for a healthy circulatory system. More importantly if only 20% of your diet comprises the processed, high sugar types of food you are on the right track.

However, as we do get a bit older it is quite important to pay particular attention to those nutrients and foods that preserve our body since we get less efficient in extracting what the body needs from our normal diet. Taking extra supplementation is not always successful as our bodies are not designed to process that either. So upping the amounts of specific foods is the right way to go.

The components that are the most essential for blood-vessel health include Vitamin C for collagen production and nutrients that keep the blood-vessels clear of plaque, debris and keep the blood flowing as it should through the body.


Most diseases that are related to the integrity of the blood-vessel walls are partly due to a lack of effective collagen. Collagen is not just responsible for keeping the elastic sheath around blood-vessels healthy but also our tendons, cartilage, gums and our immune system.

Collagen is one of thousands of proteins in the human body. Most proteins are only in small amounts but collagen is present in the skin, bones, teeth, blood-vessels, eyes, and heart as well as in our connective tissues such as tendons.

Collagen, as you can imagine, is in constant use and needs a very high maintenance programme to replace and repair itself. To keep up with this rate of repair we need to take in a great deal of Vitamin C on a continuous basis because not only is the Vitamin C essential in the manufacture of collagen but also gets destroyed in the process.


Vitamin C

An interesting fact emerged when long term prisoners of war were examined on their release. A vast majority were discovered to be suffering from severe Vitamin C deficiency but also unexpectedly very high levels of fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) which was unlikely to have come from eating a high fat diet. It is therefore very likely that the two are connected, giving a further reason for including Vitamin C in generous amounts in your diet.

Vitamin C is also needed to protect us from cardiovascular disease, cancers, joint disease and cataracts. It is a fantastic antioxidant that is specific to the health of our blood-vessels because of its prevention of oxidation of LDL (lousy cholesterol) leading to plaque and narrowed and hardened arteries.

Vitamin C is found in most fruit and vegetables and one of the best reasons for including more than the recommended ration of five portions per day.

I would suggest three to four portions of vegetables per day and three to four portions of fruit. Vitamin C is very sensitive to air, water and temperature and about a quarter of the Vitamin C in fruit or vegetables is lost in steaming or boiling them for just a few minutes. If you over cook vegetables, or cook them for longer than 15 minutes, you will lose over half the Vitamin C content. Canned fruit and vegetables that are then reheated end up with only a third of their original nutrient value which is why eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible – in their raw state – is the only really effective way to get the amount of this vital vitamin that you need.

The side effect of improving your collagen production is that your face will benefit as you get older by being smoother and more elastic. Less Botox expense!

What other nutrients should we include to help maintain our blood-vessel health?

A balanced diet will help your body protect itself but there are certain nutrients that have a particular responsibility for keeping our blood flowing as it should through healthy arteries and veins.


Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are necessary fats that humans cannot synthesise and must be obtained through diet. There are two families of EFAs Omega-3 and Omega-6. Another variety, Omega-9, is also necessary but is classified as “non- essential” as the body can make it if the other two fatty acids are present.

EFAs are essential because they support our cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous systems. We need these fats to manufacture and repair cells, maintain hormone levels and expel waste from the body. Although they are important for other functions in the body, such as fertility, they play a major role in the process that regulates blood pressure and blood clotting, making them an important addition to our diet if we are at risk from circulatory conditions.

Omega-3 (Linolenic Acid) is the principal Omega-3 fatty acid and is used in the formation of cell walls, improving circulation and oxygen absorption. A deficiency can lead to decreased immune system function, elevated levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.

nuts and seeds

Omega-6 (Linoleic Acid) is the primary Omega-6 fatty acid. Omega-6 can improve rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, and skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis.

There is growing evidence that the non-essential Oleic acid, Omega‑9, may help to lower cholesterol by decreasing the unhealthy cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein), while at the same time raising the level of healthy cholesterol, HDL (high density lipoprotein).

Oleic acid is also emerging as a regulator of blood-sugar levels and as a possible protection against breast and prostate cancer. So, including half an avocado in your diet every day may well protect you from the harmful long-term effects of a number of diseases.

The B-vitamins


B-Vitamins play a role in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system in general but Vitamin B3 (niacin) B6, B12 and folic acid are of particular interest.

Vitamin B3 plays a critical role in the chemical processing of fats in the body and although B3 is required for production of cholesterol by the liver, the vitamin has repeatedly been used to successfully lower total blood cholesterol. It has yet to be proved whether including B3 rich foods in your diet will also reduce cholesterol levels, but it would appear that the vitamin has a component that may help balance the amount that is produced and present in the blood at any given time. As I mentioned in my post yesterday on safe sun absorption, Vitamin B3 could be effective in the prevention and treatment of certain skin cancers.

Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood. Too much of it is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in the arteries) leading to damage of the inner linings of the arteries and promoting blood clots.

There is increasing evidence that lowered levels of Folic acid, B6 and B12 are linked to higher levels of homocysteine and therefore the risk of strokes and heart attacks. Including them in your diet is easy if you are not vegetarian and may require supplementation if you don’t include animal products in your diet. This is why giving up whole grains completely which is one of the new trends in diet advice can impact your levels of B vitamins.

Fibre, particularly in the form of beta-glucan helps keep your arteries clear of debris and plaque. Including oats, brown rice, as well as your daily rations of fruit and vegetables, will provide you with adequate amounts of this type of carbohydrate.

Best food sources for these nutrients and for fibre

This is not the complete list of foods that contain the appropriate nutrients but they are some of the best sources available.

  • Avocado for essential fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 9.
  • Banana has fibre too, which helps clear the system of debris and keeps the arteries clean. Also contains B6 for lowering homocysteine levels.
  • Beef (lean) for its protein and B6 and B12.
  • Broccoli for high levels of Vitamin C and folate.
  • Brown rice helps keep your cholesterol down and your arteries healthy with its fibre.
  • Calf’s liver for B3, B6 and B12 and folate.
  • Cauliflower and red bell peppers for high levels of Vitamin C
  • Chicken and Turkey for B3 and B6 and Omega 6.
  • Cow’s milk and yoghurt for B12
  • Fruits in general for their Vitamin C and fibre.
  • Green tea with its antioxidant, which inhibits the enzymes that produce free radicals in the lining of the arteries. This not only prevents plaque from forming but also improves the ratio of LDL (lousy cholesterol) to HDL (healthy cholesterol)
  • Halibut for B3, B6 and B12
  • Kiwi fruit, papaya and strawberries for high levels of Vitamin C
  • Lamb for B3 and B12
  • Lentils and beans for low fat protein and folate.
  • Oats with their fibre called beta-glucan which helps lower cholesterol and prevents plaque from forming in your arteries.
  • Olive oil and olives for Omega 6 and Omega 9.
  • Onions and garlic which contain sulphur compounds that along with B6 and chromium help lower homocysteine levels in the blood
  • Oranges with their Vitamin C and fibre.
  • Pumpkinseeds and other seeds for Omega 3 and Omega 6.
  • Salmon with its Omega 3, B3 and B6 and B12
  • Scallops and shrimp for B12
  • Shitake mushrooms for B3 and B12 and Eritadenine, which lowers cholesterol levels.
  • Spinach and asparagus and very green vegetables for the folate to help reduce homocysteine levels, Vitamin C and Omega 3
  • Tuna for Omega 3, B3 and B6
  • All vegetables are rich in anti-oxidants, which remove free radicals from the system and also promote the growth of healthy cells and tissue.
  • Venison with low fat protein and B3, B6 and B12.
  • Walnuts and other nuts Omega 3, 6 and 9 and B6
  • Whole grains for fibre and B3.

Including the above foods several times a week will help you protect not only your circulatory system but also your heart and the health of all your major organs that rely solely on the nutrient and oxygen packed blood that is brought to them by the system.

If you have any questions that might be useful for other readers of the post then please include in the comments section.. If you would like to ask something more personal then please contact me sally(dot)cronin(at)

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©sallycronin Just Food For Health 2009