Riboflavin, otherwise known as vitamin B2, is vital for long-term health. B vitamins such as riboflavin help your body metabolize fats and protein, converting food into fuel. Riboflavin also acts as an antioxidant, battling damaging free radicals, and are important for healthy hair, skin and eyes. But because B vitamins are water soluble and not stored by your body, it’s important to get enough of it in your diet. As with all nutrients, it’s best to get them from food sources if possible, and use supplements as a backup.
Foods rich in riboflavin include brewer’s yeast, milk, eggs, cheese, organ meats (such as liver and kidney), lean meats and nuts – particularly almonds. You’ll also find riboflavin in fish, green leafy vegetables (think spinach, kale, chard), legumes, yogurt, wild rice, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and whole grains. Cereals are often fortified with riboflavin.
Here are a few quick ideas to help incorporate food sources of riboflavin into your diet:
Popcorn with Nutritional Yeast: it’s tasty – really. Pop your corn and salt it like you usually would, and add a generous shake of yeast, too. Nutritional yeast is a great source of B-complex vitamins, and is a complete protein.
Toasted Almonds: toast whole, skin-on almonds in a dry skillet until they start to smell like popcorn and turn pale golden. Cool and store in an airtight jar out of the sunlight, to munch on whenever you need to fill the gap. They travel well and don’t take up much space, so I keep containers in the glove compartment of my car, in my gym bag, and on my desk.
Sautéed Greens: instead of a salad, try sautéing kale, spinach or chard in a hot pan with a drizzle of olive oil and dab of butter; rinse the leaves, shake them dry and tear them into the pan. If you like, add a crushed clove of garlic, too. Season with salt, and serve alongside virtually any meal. An entire bunch of your favorite greens wilts down to hardly anything, so it’s easy to get more in.
Poached Eggs: they’re the best, aren’t they? Beyond toast, set them atop salads, pasta, sautéed greens – even pizza.
Eat More Beans: when we were kids, my mom used to serve scrambled eggs and brown beans on many a weeknight; it was quick and cheap, but was also rich in riboflavin. Beyond canned baked beans, chickpeas, black beans and lentils can easily be doctored up and served as a side dish, or added to soups and stews.
Think Beyond Oatmeal: try cooking pearl or pot barley or brown rice along with steel cut oats for a more diverse morning cereal. Bonus: barley contains about 4 times the fiber of oatmeal, and comes in flake form, too. Cook it just like you would old-fashioned oat flakes – mix the two, even.
Photo credit: istockphoto/Debstreasures