B vitamins are collectively known as the powerhouse vitamins because they are involved in many important processes in our bodies that involve the creation of both new cells and energy. All of the B vitamins play a different and important role in the body, and because they may not be found in high amounts in some of the foods you usually eat, it’s key to know the foods you should eat to get enough.
Meet the B vitamins.
All B vitamins play a key role in converting carbohydrates, fat and protein into usable fuel for the body (glucose), and they are also important for healthy hair, skin, and nails and for the nervous system as well.
- Thiamin: Thiamin is known as the “anti-stress” vitamin because it may play a role in boosting the immune system. Thiamine also plays a particularly important role in producing a key compound called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that every cell uses as in key reactions and processes.
- Riboflavin: Riboflavin also acts as an antioxidant in the body helping to prevent and repair cellular damage and also plays a role in the production of red blood cells.
- Niacin: Niacin plays a key role in producing sex and stress-hormones in the body and also helps to improve circulation. Niacin has also traditionally been used to help raise HDL “good” cholesterol in the body.
- Pantothenic Acid (B5): Vitamin B5 plays a key role in breaking down fat and carbohydrates for energy, as well as red blood cell and cholesterol production.
- Pyridoxine (B6): Vitamin B6 plays a key role brain development and function, plays a key role in making key hormones serotonin and norepinephrine and is key for absorbing vitamin B12.
- Biotin (B7): Biotin is a well-known vitamin that plays a role in maintaining healthy hair, nails and skin and is also key in healthy embryonic development (during pregnancy!).
- Folate (B9): Folate plays a key role in preventing neural tube defects in early pregnancy. Folate also plays a key role in cancer prevention, heart heath and in producing DNA and red blood cells (along with B12).
- Cobalamin (B12): B12 plays a key role in red blood cell production and along with B9 plays an important role in producing SAMe, a compound that is key for immune health and mood.
Which foods contain B vitamins?
|B1||Legumes and peas, nuts and seeds, nutritional yeast, animal protein, eggs, enriched or fortified whole grain products (pasta, bread, cereals)|
|B2||Green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, nutritional yeast eggs, dairy products, animal protein, milk, enriched or fortified whole grain products (pasta, bread, cereals)|
|B3||Legumes, nuts, animal protein, eggs, dairy products, enriched or fortified whole grain products (pasta, bread, cereals)|
|B5||Avocado, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts), Legumes and lentils, mushrooms, animal protein, eggs, yeast, chocolate|
|B6||Fruits (excluding citrus), potatoes, starchy vegetables, animal protein, fortified cereals and grains|
|Biotin||Legumes, nuts, white and sweet potatoes, mushrooms, avocado, animal protein, milk, eggs, fortified/enriched flour and grains, chocolate|
|Folate||Green leafy vegetables, asparagus, beans and legumes, banana, papaya, avocado, animal protein, fortified/enriched flour and whole grain products|
|B12||Animal protein, milk, eggs, enriched/fortified grains and cereals|
How to know if you need a B vitamin supplement?
Most of the B vitamins (except for B12) are found in plant-based sources so for most people, it is unlikely that they will be deficient- particularly if you take a multivitamin or eat any food that has enriched flour; however, the one B-vitamin that many people who are primarily plant-based eaters can sometimes have trouble with, is B12 (and sometimes B6).
Vitamin B12 is found mostly in animal- based and processed foods that are fortified with vitamins and minerals. For anyone who is vegan or vegetarian or who eats no processed foods that may be fortified with some of the b-vitamins, it is usually recommended to check blood levels of B12, and in some cases B6 too. Having blood taken can help determine if you need a supplement and how much you need to take.
For some people who are extremely active, they can find that they need supplementation of one or a few B vitamins, but in order to determine this it’s important to get a blood test because over-supplementation is necessarily healthful either.