When we say B vitamin, we actually refer to a vitamin family made up of eight B vitamins.
Although they are commonly recognized as a group and often work together in the body, each of the B vitamins performs unique and important functions.
The good news is that it’s relatively easy to get enough B vitamins if you eat a healthy and have balanced diet that includes green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, mushrooms, and other plant foods.
B vitamins – thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid, pyridoxine (B6), B12, biotin, and folate (B9)- are all involved, one way or another, in energy production.
B vitamins help convert dietary energy into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the form of energy that your body uses, in a series of complex chemical reactions carried out by the mitochondria in cells.
B1 – thiamin:
B1 is needed to help produce cellular energy from the foods you eat, and also supports normal nervous system function. Thiamin is found in a wide variety of foods, with some of the best sources coming from lentils, whole grains, and pork. Thiamin can also be found in red meat, yeast, nuts, sunflower seeds, peas, milk, cauliflower, spinach, and legumes.
B2 – Riboflavin:
Supports cellular energy production. Riboflavin is found in a variety of foods such as fortified cereals, milk, eggs, salmon, beef, spinach, and broccoli.
B3 – Niacin:
Supports cellular energy production. Niacin, in the form of nicotinic acid, helps support cardiovascular health. Good sources of niacin include beef, poultry, and fish as well as whole wheat bread, peanuts and lentils.
B5 – Pantothenic Acid:
Widely available in plant and animal food sources, B5 helps support cellular energy production in the body. Rich sources include organ meat (liver, kidney), egg yolk, whole grains, avocados, cashew nuts, peanuts, lentils, soybeans, brown rice, broccoli, and milk.
Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine:
Involved in over 100 cellular reactions throughout the body, vitamin B6 is instrumental in keeping various bodily functions operating at their best. It is needed to metabolize amino acids and glycogen (the body’s storage form of glucose) and is also necessary for normal nervous system function and red blood cell formation. Vitamin B6 is fairly abundant in the diet and can be found in foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, bananas, fish, fortified cereal grains and cooked spinach.
B7 – Biotin:
Biotin, or vitamin, is commonly found in foods such as brewer’s yeast, strawberries, organ meat, cheese, and soybeans. For those who are biotin deficient, studies show that biotin may help support healthy hair, skin, and nails. Biotin also supports carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.
B9 – Folic Acid:
Folic acid is most commonly known for its role in fetal health and development as it plays a critical role in the proper development of the baby’s nervous system. This important developmental process occurs during the initial weeks of pregnancy, and so adequate folic acid intake is especially important for all women of child-bearing age. Fortified foods such as bread and cereals are good dietary sources of folic acid. Other good sources are dark green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and spinach as well as brewer’s yeast, liver, fortified orange juice, beets, dates, and avocados.
Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin:
Plays a critical role in the pathways of the body that produce cellular energy. It is also needed for DNA synthesis, proper red blood cell formation and for normal nervous system function. B12 is predominantly found in foods of animal origin such as chicken, beef, fish, milk, and eggs.