There are eight B vitamins that make up the vitamin B complex, which together play important roles in our health. These vitamins assist the body’s cells in releasing energy from carbohydrates and fat, breaking down amino acids, and transporting oxygen and energy-containing nutrients around the body.1 Although the B vitamins work together in the body, they also carry out their own unique functions.2 Meats and eggs are good sources for the B vitamins, but consuming a wholesome diet comprising a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts generally provides all you need. Those who struggle to meet their daily intake values or have a B-vitamin deficiency might consider using supplements, but should check with their doctor first. See Table on the following page to learn more about each B vitamin.
|Thiamin (vitamin B-1)||Enables the body to convert carbohydrates to energy; essential for glucose metabolism; plays a key role in nerve, muscle, and heart functions3||Helps prevent complications in the nervous system, brain, muscles, heart, stomach, and intestines; also involved in keeping the body hydrated and regulating the flow of electrolytes in and out of muscle and nerve cells3||Beef, nuts, whole grains, cauliflower, liver, oranges, eggs, potatoes, asparagus2|
|Riboflavin (vitamin B-2)||Breaks down food components and assists in the absorption of nutrients; helps maintain the body’s energy supplies4||Possibly effective for treating and preventing migraines and lowering the risk of developing cataracts6||Fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, artichokes, avocado, cayenne, mushrooms7|
|Niacin (vitamin B-3)||Plays a role in converting proteins and fats into energy5||Potentially lowers cholesterol; has antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties; keeps hair, skin, and nails healthy5||Beef, fish, poultry, cooked brown rice, dry roasted peanuts5|
|Pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5)||Converts food into glucose; helps the body create sex and stress-related hormones and red blood cells7||Promotes healthy hair, skin, eyes, and liver7||Beef, fish, poultry, whole grains, legumes, dairy products, sweet potatoes, corn7|
|Pyridoxine (vitamin B-6)||Plays a role in forming neurotransmitters and myelin and producing serotonin and norepinephrine8||May help boost brain performance; can reduce the severity of nausea during early pregnancy; may help reduce the negative effects of air pollution on the epigenome8||chickpeas, tuna, potatoes, fortified cereals1|
|Biotin (vitamin B-7)||Assists enzymes in breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins; helps regulate cell signaling and genetic activity9||Might assist in strengthening skin, nails, and hair; may help with psoriasis2||Organ meats, eggs, salmon, sunflower seeds2|
|Folate (vitamin B-9)||Helps form DNA and RNA; involved in protein metabolism; critical during periods of rapid growth, such as during fetal development during pregancy10||Can lower risk of certain neurological birth defects2||Dark-green, leafy vegetables; beans; sunflower seeds; eggs|
|Cobalamin (vitamin B-12)||Helps form red blood cells; helps with DNA synthesis; involved in fat and protein metabolism2||Improves brain and neurological functioning; lowers risk for cardiovascular disease11||Clams, beef liver, milk and yogurt, salmon2|
1. B Vitamins. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health website. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamins/vitamin-b/. Accessed May 20, 2020.
2. A complete guide to B vitamins. Medical News Today website. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325292. Accessed May 20, 2020.
3. Brazier Y. What is thiamin, or vitamin B1? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/219545. Updated November 22, 2017. Accessed May 21, 2020.
4. Brazier Y. Benefits and sources of vitamin B2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/219561. Updated March 7, 2017. Accessed May 21, 2020.
5. Brazier Y. Why do we need vitamin B-3, or niacin? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/219593. . Updated February 21, 2019. Accessed May 21, 2020.
6. Riboflavin: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements website. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Riboflavin-HealthProfessional/#h7. Updated March 6, 2020. Accessed May 21, 2020.
7. Felman A. What to know about vitamin B5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/219601. Updated April 24, 2017. Accessed May 21, 2020.
8. Brazier Y. The benefits and food sources of vitamin B-6. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/219662. Updated March 27, 2017. Accessed May 21, 2020.
9. Biotin – Vitamin B7. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health website. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/biotin-vitamin-b7/. Accessed May 21, 2020.
10. Folate (Folic Acid) – Vitamin B9. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health website. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/folic-acid/. Accessed May 21, 2020.
11. Vitamin B12. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health website. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-b12/. Accessed May 21, 2020.
12. Klemm S. What Are B-Vitamins? https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/what-are-b-vitamins-and-folate. Updated January 4, 2019. Accessed May 20, 2020.