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What Is Riboflavin?

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Riboflavin is one of the B vitamins that is very important for your body. It’s classified as vitamin B2, and it’s really easy to tell when you have a large amount of riboflavin in your body: your urine will be bright yellow! However, that’s nothing to be alarmed about. It’s just how the body removes extra riboflavin from the body.

What Does Riboflavin Do?

Of course, you need a good amount of riboflavin. Just like the other B vitamins, it helps your body maintain energy and keeps your metabolism running smoothly. How B2 does this is rather complicated—it helps creat the electron trainsport chain that produces energy, and it helps to metabolize and transform fat molecules into energy. It also helps to work with vitamin B6 and folate to generate chemistry and energy.

It’s also helpful in metabolizing iron. It’s possible that having a B2 deficiency actually leads to having an iron deficiency. That’s because some studies have linked a lack of B2 to anemia, showing that it’s possible that riboflavin is necessary for iron absorption.

Riboflavin is also useful in providing antioxidants and protecting against free radicals. B2 helps the body recycle glutathione, which is a very important antioxidant. There are also a lot of antioxidants in the foods that are high in riboflavin, including beets, broccoli, and spinach.

Foods that Contain B2

A lot of foods do have some vitamin B2 in them, but not everyone gets the recommended daily amount that they need. Fortunately, though, you can take a B supplement, plus many daily multivitamins have B2 in them. Most people in the U.S. get about a quarter to a third of all the B2 they need from dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt. In fact, dairy is probably the best source for B2.

However, there are other sources of B2 available. For example, leafy greens are a good source of B2, as are crimini mushrooms. Other vegetables high in riboflavin include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, petters, cauliflower, squash, asparagus, and some root vegetables. Then there are some poultry sources: eggs and turkey are both good sources of riboflavin. Maple syrup, too, is a good choice for B2.

Loss of B2

One interesting fact about B2 is that sunlight actually damages the vitamin. It can reduce the amount of riboflavin in milk, which is the main reason that milk often comes in cardboard carton. This prevents light from shining on the milk and damaging the B2 content. This damage also actually makes the milk taste different—it loses some of its fresh flavor. It’s more than just milk—light can actually damage the B2 in yogurt, cheese, and any other dairy food. This is why they need to be kept in opaque cartons or coverings. Cheese, unfortunately, is often not, leading to it losing some of its riboflavin.

One interesting note is that B2 is not actually damaged by refrigeration or heat. There is little loss of riboflavin in foods due to either, but, of course, the foods themselves may spoil if not refrigerated. There is some loss during cooking, however.