Passion for Pork

Power Up with Pork: Thiamin

Admin - Monday, August 18, 2014

In this new series, our resident dietitian Vincci Tsui highlights some of the key nutrients found in pork and their benefits!


Thiamin, or thiamine, does not get a lot of attention when it comes to vitamins and minerals. Also known as vitamin B1, Canadians generally have no trouble getting enough of this nutrient. Did you know that pork is one of the richest food sources of thiamin? One 2.5 oz (75 g) serving of lean pork tenderloin will contain almost all your daily thiamin needs!

What is thiamin and what does it do?

Like other B vitamins, thiamin’s main role is to help our bodies release energy from the carbohydrates, protein and fats that we eat. It also helps to build and repair our nerves and muscles, including the brain and the heart.

How much thiamin do I need?

The Institute of Medicine has set the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of thiamin for adult males at 1.2 mg per day and adult females at 1.1 mg per day. Thiamin deficiency in Canadians is rare – older adults are more at risk due to poorer intakes and factors that may affect absorption. Excessive alcohol consumption and digestive conditions that affect absorption, such as Crohn’s or colitis, can also increase risk of thiamin deficiency. Symptoms of mild thiamin deficiency include malaise, weight loss, irritability and confusion. Severe thiamin deficiency can result in a disease called beriberi, while thiamin deficiency caused by alcoholism can turn into Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Both disorders affect neurological function (i.e. ability to think, feel, move, etc.)

What are some examples of thiamin-rich foods?

Thiamin is generally associated with grains, just because of the abundance of grains in our diet. However, grains are not always particularly rich in thiamin – in fact, by law, white flour must be enriched with thiamin in order to prevent deficiency! Pork is one of the richest sources of thiamin in our diet. Pork tenderloin is the cut that is highest in thiamin, containing about 1 mg per 2.5 oz (75 g) serving. Cuts from the pork loin, leg or shoulder contain about 0.4-0.8 mg of thiamin per serving, while cured pork, such as bacon or ham, and organ meats are the lowest, at about 0.2 mg of thiamin per serving.