By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
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.
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.
|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|
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.