Thiamin, aka vitamin B1, is one of the key nutrients required for energy production in the body. In particular, thiamin plays a critical role in pathways that help us extract energy from the foods we eat.
The nutrient is also critical for proper nervous system function and muscle cell contraction, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
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Most of the thiamin that occurs in food is phosphorylated, meaning it is bound to a phosphate molecule. Enzymes in the intestines free the bound thiamin from this molecule so that the vitamin can be absorbed in the body, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
How Much Thiamin Do You Need Per Day?
A Recommended Dietary Allowance, or RDA, tells us how much of a nutrient we should eat every day. RDAs determine the average daily intake level that will meet the nutrient needs of most people.
The RDA for thiamin is different for people assigned male at birth (AMAB) and people assigned female at birth (AFAB). People AMAB ages 19 years and older should aim to eat 1.2 milligrams (mg) of thiamin per day. People AFAB ages 19 years and older should aim for 1.1 mg of thiamin per day. Pregnant and lactating people need slightly more vitamin B1, about 1.4 mg per day.
Certain populations are at greater risk of thiamin deficiency, including people with chronic alcohol use disorders, those with HIV or AIDS, older people, people with diabetes and those who've had bariatric surgery, per the NIH.
Early symptoms of a thiamin deficiency (also called beriberi) can include weakness, weight loss, disorientation and difficulty with memory and peripheral neuropathy. Long-term, it can cause Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which can be life-threatening.
Keep reading for the best vitamin B1 foods to increase your thiamin levels. Note that the Daily Value (DV) percentages featured below are based on an RDA of 1.2 mg of thiamin per day.
1. Pork Chops: 1.1 mg, 96% Daily Value (DV)
A pork chop can provide nearly a day's worth of thiamin, with 96 percent of the DV in one 6-ounce cooked serving. Round out your chop with green peas and acorn squash, two thiamin-rich vegetarian foods, for a hearty dinner that's sure to satisfy.
2. Salmon: 0.6 mg, 48% DV
Salmon is one of the best sources of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Not to mention, a cooked 6-ounce filet of salmon also serves up 48 percent of the DV for thiamin, plus an impressive 38 grams of protein.
Don't miss our complete guide to cooking salmon.
3. Flax Seeds: 0.5 mg, 39% DV
Flax seeds are sky-high in fiber, rich in plant-based omega-3 fats and stocked with thiamin. Just 1 ounce of the super seeds provides 39 percent of the DV for vitamin B1.
Opt for ground flax seeds, which are easier for the body to digest than whole flax seeds. Stir them into your yogurt or oatmeal bowl, or mix them into a muffin recipe for a no-brainer nutritional boost.
One cup of cooked navy beans brings 36 percent of the DV for thiamin to the table, not to mention 19 grams of gut-friendly dietary fiber.
That's pretty darn good considering most Americans get only 15 grams of fiber per day, according to the University of California San Francisco Health.
5. Green Peas: 0.4 mg, 36% DV
Small but mighty, green peas are another food rich in thiamin. A 1-cup serving of cooked green peas delivers 36 percent of the DV for the nutrient, along with iron, potassium and vitamins A and K.
6. Sunflower Seeds: 0.4 mg, 35% DV
One of the richest dietary sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, sunflower seeds don't skimp on niacin either. Just 1 ounce of roasted sunflower seeds supplies 35 percent of the DV for vitamin B1.
Choose unsalted sunflower seeds if you're trying to eat less sodium.
7. Black Beans: 0.4 mg, 35% DV
There are countless reasons why black beans are the perfect pantry staple. They're ready to use, ultra-versatile and rife with nutrients.
Black beans deliver plant-based protein, iron, magnesium and fiber. One cup of cooked black beans also offers up 35 percent of the DV for thiamin. Don't sleep on these surprisingly delicious bean recipes.
8. Firm Tofu: 0.4 mg, 33% DV
Soy is one of the only plants that counts as a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that the body can't produce on its own. A 1-cup serving of raw tofu also provides 33 percent of the DV for thiamin.
Try the protein in these anything-but-boring tofu recipes.
9. Brown Rice: 0.4 mg, 30% DV
A nourishing source of energizing carbohydrates, brown rice is also one of the best vegetarian sources of thiamin. Just 1 cup of cooked brown rice provides 30 percent of the DV for vitamin B1.
10. Acorn Squash: 0.3 mg, 29% DV
One cup of cooked acorn squash contains 29 percent of the DV for thiamin, not to mention 9 grams of fiber and 25 percent of the DV for vitamin C. Try this vegan stuffed acorn squash recipe for your next healthy, meat-free meal.
11. Lentils: 0.3 mg, 28% DV
A nutrient-dense source of plant protein and fiber, the pulses provide essential nutrients like folate, manganese, iron and potassium, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
12. Macadamia Nuts: 0.3 mg, 28% DV
A 1-ounce serving of macadamia nuts — or about 10 to 12 kernels — contains 28 percent of the DV for vitamin B1. Mix the crunchy nuts into a DIY trail mix for a heart-healthy and energizing snack.
13. Asparagus: 0.3 mg, 24% DV
If you're looking to get rid of bloat, opt for asparagus. The green spears contain a compound called asparagine that acts as a natural diuretic, per the NLM. In other words, it may help reduce water retention.
Also nice: A 1-cup serving of cooked asparagus will get you 24 percent of the DV for thiamin.
14. Mussels: 0.3 mg, 21% DV
15. Pistachios: 0.2 mg, 21% DV
Go ahead and throw some pistachios in that homemade trail mix, too. A 1-ounce serving of pistachios, or 49 kernels, can provide about 21 percent of the DV for thiamin.
- National Library of Medicine: “Asparagine”
- Harvard Medical School: “Legume of the Month: Peas”
- University of California San Francisco Health: “Increasing Fiber Intake”
- Environmental Science & Technology: “Declining Mercury Concentrations in Bluefin Tuna Reflect Reduced Emissions to the North Atlantic Ocean”
- World Health Organization: “Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat”
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Thiamin”
- My Food Data: “Pork Chops (Lean)”
- My Food Data: “Cured Ham”
- My Food Data: “Farmed Atlantic Salmon”
- My Food Data: “Bluefin Tuna (Cooked)”
- My Food Data: “Flax Seeds”
- My Food Data: “Dried Sunflower Seeds”
- My Food Data: “Macadamia Nuts”
- My Food Data: “Pistachio Nuts”
- My Food Data: “Navy Beans”
- My Food Data: “Black Beans”
- My Food Data: “Lentils (Cooked)”
- My Food Data: “Cooked Green Peas”
- My Food Data: “Firm Tofu”
- My Food Data: “Brown Rice”
- My Food Data: “Baked Acorn Squash”
- My Food Data: “Asparagus (Cooked)”
- My Food Data: “Cooked Blue Mussels”
- National Institutes of Health: “Thiamin Fact Sheet for Health Professionals”