Smorgasbord Health Column – Are you getting enough Vitamin B6? – Chicken and Prune Tagine, Tofu and Honey Bites, Spicy Sweet Potato Balls – Sally Cronin and Carol Taylor

In this series we look at cooking and your diet from a different perspective. Usually we emphasize the health benefits of food and how they can be incorporated into your diet. But, what happens if you do NOT include them in your diet.

We wanted to share with you what happens if your body is deprived of individual nutrients over an extended period of time.

Thankfully most of us eat reasonably well, with plenty of variety, but if you take a look at a week’s worth of meals, do you find that you are sticking to a handful of foods, all the time.

Variety is key to good health, to provide your body with as broad a spectrum of nutrients as possible that the body needs. Taking a supplement or relying on shakes and bars to provide your daily allowance of vitamins and nutrients is not in your body’s best interest. Giving it foods that the body can process and extract everything it needs is vital.

Over the next few months we are going to be working our way through the most essential of these nutrients and I will share the symptoms that you might experience if you are becoming deficient in the vitamin or mineral and list the foods where you can find the nutrient.

Carol Taylor is then going to provide you with some wonderful recipes that make best use of these foods… Cooked from Scratch.

B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that exists in three major chemical forms: Pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine.

Being water soluble it is necessary to replace this vitamin every day from your diet and B6 plays such a crucial role in so many functions of the body that a deficiency can have a huge impact on your health.

What is B6 necessary for?

It is required for over 100 enzymes that metabolise the protein that you eat. Along with the mineral Iron, it is essential for healthy blood. The nervous and immune systems also require vitamin B6 to function efficiently. It is also necessary for our overall feeling of well-being as it converts the amino acid tryptophan, which is essential for the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin in the brain.

Without B6 you would not be able to manufacture haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. Once the haemoglobin is produced the vitamin also helps increase the amount of oxygen it can carry. A deficiency therefore is one of the leading causes of anaemia.

Without a healthy immune system we are at the mercy of any bacteria or virus that takes a fancy to us. A complicated biochemical interaction is required to ensure we can fight off infections; the food that we eat plays a vital role in producing the white blood cells that form the defence system. B6 ensures that the food that eat is metabolised efficiently thus producing enough of these cells.

Additionally B6 helps keep your lymph system healthy by maintaining the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes. The lymph system runs parallel to your circulatory system and is the battleground for the white blood cells and the viruses.

Blood sugar levels can fluctuate depending on the types of food that we eat particularly carbohydrates. If you are not eating sufficient calories your body uses B6 to convert stored carbohydrate or other nutrients to glucose to maintain normal blood sugar levels. This is one of the reasons that people on crash diets can suffer dizziness and fatigue. Without sufficient intake of food they are not replenishing their B6 on a regular basis. Because they are taking in too little calories for their body to function and they do not have B6 to convert any stored energy, they become weakened.

The balance of chemicals in our brain affects our feeling of well-being. Neurotransmitters like serotonin, melatonin and dopamine are required for normal cell communication. In research lower levels of serotonin have been found in people suffering from varying degrees of depression and also migraine headaches. The research is not conclusive but at B6 is needed for the manufacture of these neurotransmitters it makes sense to ensure that there are adequate amounts being taken in through diet.

What are the signs of B6 deficiency?

With a balanced diet, which includes wholegrains and fruit and vegetables, it is unusual to find a B6 deficiency in a healthy adult.

• The elderly are more at risk due to reduced intakes of food resulting from lack of appetite and a general wearing down of internal systems and functions such as food metabolism.
• People who are perpetual dieters and in particular those who follow restricted food type diets are at risk as well, although unfortunately it is usually only when the deficiency has become critical that the symptoms might appear.
• One of the early signs will be changes to the skin with inflammations such as dermatitis.
• Another affected area is the mouth and Glossitis is a condition where the tongue becomes swollen and sore.
• Because of the role of B6 in our chemical balance within the brain, depression is not unusual.
• A lack of B6 may have an impact on PMS symptoms and also regularity of periods.
• In severe cases a person might suffer convulsions and as you will see from the post later in the week on anaemia, the quality of our lifeblood is compromised.
• Alcoholics tend to eat poorly which will restrict both their intake of B6 and its availability but alcohol also causes the destruction and loss of any B6 that is consumed.
• If you have an asthmatic child and they are on the prescribed medication theophylline they may require supplementation with B6 as the drug destroys B6 in a similar way to alcohol. You must talk to your doctor first however before taking or giving anyone B6 if they are already taking a prescription drug.
• Taking too much vitamin B6 in supplementation form can lead to some nerve damage particularly in the arms and legs. This might result in tingling sensations or numbness. Usually the symptoms disappear when the supplementation is stopped. Do talk to your doctor before stopping the supplement if you are taking it on his advice.

These foods include:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna,
  • lean chicken breast
  • lean pork
  • lamb
  • fortified tofu
  • potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • avocados
  • bananas
  • porridge oats
  • brown rice
  • walnuts
  • sunflower seeds
  • dried prunes and raisins
  • eggs
  • wheatgerm
  • pistachios.

Time to hand you over to Carol Taylor who has been creating dishes that include ingredients that are great sources of this vitamin.

B6 is one of the water soluble vitamins thus they need to be in our everyday meals and of course if we are eating a healthy balanced diet then for most of us a deficiency of B6 is not a problem.

I have also been looking closer at the food I prepare and have noticed and also think that most of us have favourite foods which we love to eat and prepare but my favourite foods may not be yours so I have stepped outside my comfort zone and had a look at some of the foods which are rich in B6 which I haven’t or don’t cook so often…But foods which maybe you cook and prepare more often than I do… I do hope you enjoy the recipes…

I started with Prunes…Prunes are dried Plums and that is it…They can be used in many dishes sweet or savoury such as tagines, stews and compotes although I am not a fan of them in compote I prefer mixed red berries.

Semi-dried prunes are good for fast-cooked savoury dishes, almond tarts, rich fruit cakes, muesli and breads. They can also be stuffed, wrapped in bacon and served as a savoury snack, or stuffed with marzipan or dipped in chocolate and served as a sweetmeat.

Wrapped in bacon sounds good to me…

Now prunes are something that as kids we used to have with custard as a pudding my mum didn’t use the word dessert…I also remember we used to line the pips around the side of our bowl and say Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man , poor man ,beggar man or thief…

I also didn’t exactly tell the whole truth when asked what I was making…I said oh just a different dish using chicken for my blog it has a sauce a bit like a stew and I don’t have a proper Tagine …then I quickly changed the subject…The main reason is hubby as he sees prunes with custard and as a pudding as that is the only way he has eaten them…

Chicken and prune Tagine/Stew…


• 4 large Chicken breasts, skinned and cut into cubes
• 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil I used coconut oil
• 1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
• 1/2 tsp fresh ground Black Pepper
• 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
• 2 tsp Cumin Seeds
• 1/2 sp Ground Nutmeg
• 1 tsp Ground Turmeric
• 200g/7oz pitted Prunes
• 2 large Onions, sliced
• 1 tbsp freshly grated Ginger
• 3 Garlic Cloves, crushed
• Salt to taste
• 14fl.oz fresh Chicken Stock

Let’s Cook!

  • Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pan then add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides.
  • Add the spices, garlic, ginger and onions and cook stirring over a medium heat until the onions have softened.
  • Add the stock and season with salt then bring to a slow rolling boil and reduce the heat to very low, cover and cook for about one hour stirring occasionally.
  • At the end of the cooking remove the lid and increase the heat to reduce the sauce.
  • Serve with rice or couscous… The other concession I made was to use white rice instead of brown less for them to object to…haha..Told you I was sneaky…

The verdict: Everyone including little Lily loved it… After they had expressed their delight and hubby said he thought the black things were mushrooms(shitake) and grandson asked for more I confessed the dish contained prunes… a dish I will definitely make again even I was pleasantly surprised given the lack of chilli and some of the spices used…The biggest plus is now the grandkids will try dishes with prunes…

Changes next time: I would use chicken thighs and legs and maybe add a little chilli but it was very nice but would definitely use prunes in a savoury dish with no hesitation.

Next on the menu is tofu…Tofu is eaten a lot here by Thais in soups, grilled on BBQ’S and in stir fries …I know I should it and I did like this dish when I made it as I used a firm tofu I am still not a fan when it is soft…

Tofu and honey bites.


• 1 block Extra Firm tofu (14 oz)
• 4 tbsp honey
• 2 tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tbsp lemon juice…I used lime Juice
• 1 inch (2.5 cm) ginger, grated
• Sesame seeds to sprinkle

Let’s Cook!

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly mist the pan with oil cube your tofu, press and drain off the liquid…I didn’t realise the first time I did this just how much liquid there was.
  • Bake the tofu, uncovered for 10 minutes then remove from the oven press and drain the liquid again…yes..
  • Bake again Uncovered for a further 10 minutes…If there is no more liquid then pour the sauce over the tofu and bake uncovered for a further 10 minutes…
  • To make the sauce combine the soy, honey, lemon/lime juice and ginger…Then sprinkle over the sesame seeds.
  • Serve hot and enjoy either as a snack or a main course…

Lastly Sweet Potatoes…Something I like very much however no one else does although when I made these delicious little bites and mentioned cream cheeses and bacon…Their little ears pricked up and I was on to a winner…Did I not tell you I was sneaky…

Sweet Potatoes are lovely roasted in their skins and mashed with butter, I also sneak them into a curry but these little balls went down a treat and without a murmur except to ask for another one.

Spicy sweet potato balls with cream cheese and bacon


• 2 sweet potatoes
• 2 spring onions finely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic finely chopped or grated
• 1-2 tsp red curry paste
• 3 rashers of bacon cooked until crispy
• Cream cheese
• Breadcrumbs to coat
• Oil to cook

Let’s Cook!

  • Wash and cook the sweet potatoes in the oven until soft…
  • When cooked allow to call a little and then remove the skins and mash with a little oil or butter then add the garlic, spring onions and red curry paste.
  • Combine well and season to taste.
  • Chop your cooked bacon and add to the cream cheese.
  • Take a good spoonful of the sweet potato mix form into a ball and make an indent then push the cream cheese and bacon into the whole and then make into a ball again. Repeat until all your potato is used.

  • Roll the balls into some breadcrumbs you may need to use some milk or egg to get them to stick.
  • Heat your oil and cook in batches just be careful as sweet potatoes have a tendency to brown quicker than ordinary potatoes.
  • Serve as a starter or snack with a sweet chilli sauce …Enjoy!

These balls were a bit of an experiment with the kids and we all agreed that next time we would either use jalapenos finely chopped or more red curry paste…

I hope you enjoy these recipes they are a bit of a departure from my normal choice of ingredients but were all well received by hubby and the kids…

My thanks to Carol for her creative way to ensure we all get sufficient Vitamin B6 in our diet, and thanks to her family for being the guinea pigs!! 

You can find out more about Carol and catch up with her Food and Cookery Column HERE

Connect to Carol via her blog:

Thank you for dropping in today and if you have any questions for either of us then please do not hesitate to ask in the comments. Your feedback is always welcome.

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