Could I have been wrong to hate this classic British food?

The Good Life Letter 

8th October 2017

For years my dear mother tried to get me to like Marmite.

The brown/black residue of yeast that has been used in beer brewing should be well known to most readers and I dare say you will firmly be either in the ‘for’ or ‘against’ camp.

In my case I cannot stand the stuff.

From the moment I could make my own decisions about food I have rejected it.

Little baby Ray would spit out toast smeared with it, refuse soups enriched with it and mangle Twiglets and throw them on the floor – from my early beginnings it was clear that I really didn’t like the stuff.

In my teens our parties used to include silly eating games such as ‘how many cream crackers can you eat in a minute without taking a drink’ or the ‘longest lasting Fruit Pastille in the mouth’. In both cases I was a fairly fearsome competitor but when it came to the ‘fastest to eat twenty Twiglets’ then I was a non-starter.

Why should the world of my childhood and youth be so keen to get me to eat this salty goo?

My nan used to scold my mother because I refused to eat it and she would often try to smuggle it into a gravy or a pie but I always knew and left the offending article uneaten.

Well now I know why this humble, mostly British (begging the pardon of my Australian, Swiss and German friends who all have their own versions!) product has been so keenly forced upon children – the answer begins with a ‘B’.
In fact, the answer includes quite a few Bs.

Clearly I am not talking about some perverse Countdown clue here, the fact is that Marmite is a fabulous source of many of the really important B vitamins that we all need on a daily basis.

Are you getting your fill of the mighty ‘B’?

The Big B Benefits

There are eight B vitamins that are classed as essential to normal body function and chances are that most of us are deficient in at least one of them in our diet, and in the case of diabetics probably more than that.

Below is a list of each of the eight which are numbered from B1 to B12. The fact that four are missing is due to the numbers 3, 8, 10 & 11 being allocated to compounds which later turned out not to be vitamins after all.

I have tried to simplify the detail for each; the reality of their role and place in our diet is much more complex but I think it is important to understand more about these so that you can make your own choice about how you measure up against the perfect diet.

If, like me, you are not a fan of Marmite then you will already be onto a loser!

Let us begin our journey.

•    B1 (thiamine) is important for nerve and muscle function as well as helping us generate energy from carbohydrates, and is deficient in those with severe bowel disorders such as Crohn’s. Symptoms of low levels in diet include fatigue, low mood and difficulty in coordination. Best dietary source: Marmite...drat it!

•    B2 (riboflavin) is not able to be stored in the body and has to be consumed every day as it is needed for producing red blood cells as well as energy production from proteins and fats. In those with digestive issues, chronic diarrhoea and upsets caused by medication such as Metformin (used for diabetes management) this is one of the vitamins which can be deficient. Symptoms of mild deficiency include cracked and dry lips, heightened sensitivity to bright light and sore throats. Best dietary source: Marmite...double drat it!

•    B3 (niacin) is used by the body to metabolise fat, glucose and alcohol, plus it is important in balancing blood cholesterol levels. This makes B3 one of the most important vitamins in modern life, and we just don’t get enough of it in most diets with common symptoms being fatigue, headaches, depression and a red tongue. Best dietary source: Yellowfin Tuna is the best, but perhaps most of us would be more likely to get it from peanuts and mushrooms if we ate enough of them.

•    B5 (pantothenic acid) has been identified as really important for balancing mood and reducing stress because of the effects it has on the adrenal glands. In addition, it helps in food metabolism and is important for red blood cell production and is another of the B vitamins that cannot be stored and has to be consumed daily. Low levels cause insomnia, fatigue and, bizarrely, hot feet. Best dietary source: Sunflower seeds if you are able to eat 200g (7oz) of them a day.

•    B6 (pyridoxine) is another of the B vitamins that is essential for red blood cell production but also has an important part to play in brain and nerve function and liver detoxification plus it is involved in over 100 metabolic enzyme reactions. If you are low in B6 symptoms include fatigue, muscle pains and confusion. Best dietary source: Sunflower seeds (just 100g a day will do it this time!).

•    B7 (biotin) keeps skin and hair healthy as well as a major role in metabolic function. Hair loss and poor skin condition are common symptoms of deficiency which can include reddening of the skin around the eyes, nose and mouth. Best dietary source by far: Fresh eggs.

•    B9 (folic acid) is essential for the development of the brain and nervous system in babies and is given as a supplement to women before they plan to conceive to make sure that their levels are correct. We all need it for red blood cell production and nerve function and it is yet another B vitamin that we have to eat every day. Gum problems along with loss of appetite and shortness of breath can be common symptoms of deficiency. Best dietary source: Spinach.

•    B12 (cobalamin) deficiency is the cause of pernicious anaemia due to the important role it plays in red blood cell production and the absorption of iron. Most diabetic medications can significantly reduce the ability of the body to make and utilise this vitamin and many dieticians believe that any sufferers should be given this as a supplement alongside Metformin and Piaglitazides. Fatigue and insomnia are common side effects of deficiency. Best dietary source: Clams or mackerel.

So, having spelled out the importance of these vitamins I hope you can see why I devoted today’s newsletter to them. Each one is vital to keeping us healthy, and having spent the last few weeks researching this topic I can also see how many of us just aren’t getting enough.

Look back over the best ways to get your daily fix of B vitamins and you will see what I mean – clams and spinach in a Marmite sauce with a side salad of peanuts, sunflower seeds and eggs really doesn’t sound appetising does it?

The conclusion I came to was that I needed to take a daily, natural and palatable supplement that my body is going to be able to use and won’t cost me a lot...

Thankfully I came across just such a product.

Made entirely from natural food extracts, containing the perfect balance of each of the eight B vitamins and suitable for vegans and free from wheat, gluten and GM ingredients yet costing about 20p a day.

What more can I say?

Find your perfect way to balance the B vitamins in your daily diet

Yours, as always


P.S. Don’t forget that boosting your vitamin B levels will also increase your immune response to coughs, colds and the dreaded flu virus as well.

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