The B vitamin family is 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. To help you better understand the roles of each of the B vitamins, I have put together a friendly guide to introduce you to each member of this important family of vitamins:Thiamin: Also known as vitamin B1, thiamin is needed to produce cellular energy from the foods you eat, and is also required for the synthesis of DNA and RNA. 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 meats, yeast, nuts, sunflower seeds, peas, milk, cauliflower, spinach and legumes.Riboflavin: Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin is a basic building block for normal growth and development. It is needed for healthy cellular energy production and also supports the antioxidant activity in the body. Riboflavin is found in a variety of foods such as fortified cereals, milk, eggs, salmon, beef, spinach and broccoli.Niacin: Niacin is also known as vitamin B3, and supports over 200 chemical reactions in the body including cellular energy production and fatty acid synthesis. Niacin in the form of nicotinic acid has been studied for its role in cardiovascular health. Good sources of niacin include beef, poultry and fish as well as whole wheat bread, peanuts and lentils.Pantothenic Acid: Also known as vitamin B5, pantothenic acid helps support fatty acid synthesis and cellular energy production in the body. Pantothenic acid is widely available in plant and animal food sources. Rich sources include organ meats (liver, kidney), egg yolk, whole grains, avocados, cashew nuts, peanuts, lentils, soybeans, brown rice, broccoli, and milk.Vitamin B6: Involved in over 100 cellular reactions throughout the body, vitamin B6 is instrumental in keeping various bodily functions operating at their best. Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is needed to metabolize amino acids and glycogen (the body’s storage form of glucose), and is also necessary for normal nervous system, hormone and red blood cell function. 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.Biotin: Biotin, or vitamin B7, 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 in the health of hair, skin & nails. Biotin also supports healthy carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.Folic Acid: Also known as vitamin B9, folic acid is needed for DNA synthesis, the formation of red blood cells and for the metabolism of amino acids. Folic acid is most commonly known for its role in fetal health and development as it is critical for the formation of a baby’s spinal cord and 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 breads 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: Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, plays a critical role in the pathways of the body that produce cellular energy. It is also needed for DNA synthesis, red blood cell formation and for healthy nervous system function. Individuals who follow vegan or vegetarian diets may benefit from a B12 supplement since B12 is predominantly found in foods of animal origin such as chicken, beef, fish, milk and eggs.B6 Spotlight:Vitamin B6, also known as Pyridoxine, is a water-soluble vitamin that is part of the vitamin-B complex group and is also one of the most important and industrious nutrients in the human body. Vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient for a number of reasons. It plays a vital role in many of the chemical reactions that take place in the body, it helps in the formation of heme in red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body and it is essential to metabolize foods into energy.This vitamin also helps to lower stress, decrease symptoms of PMS, treat depression, lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of dental cavities. It also aids in the maintenance of nerve health and brain function. By not consuming a sufficient amount of B6 in your diet, you could be at risk of vitamin B6 deficiency, which manifests in symptoms such as tongue inflammation, irritability, fatigue, weakness and scale-like formations on the skin and mouth. It can also lead to depression and seizures.
To avoid vitamin B6 deficiency, you should attempt to include the following Vitamin B6-rich foods in your diet.
Vitamin B6 can be found in many common and versatile meats. Chicken, turkey, beef, and pork are all excellent sources of the nutrient. One serving of roasted chicken breast contains as much as 0.64mg of B6 and the same amount of turkey contains 0.54mg. Because meats are easy to incorporate into your diet through simple recipes and even snacks such as sandwiches, increasing your B6 intake by the consumption of meats is simple and effective.
As with meats, certain fish are rich in vitamin B6. Cod, salmon, halibut, trout, tuna and snapper are just some examples of fish which contain high levels of B6 and can form part of a healthy, balanced diet. Yellowfin tuna is one of the best dietary sources of vitamin B6 with 1.8mg found in a single serving. In addition to this, it is one of the healthiest sources of the nutrient. A serving of baked snapper or salmon contains 0.52mg and halibut contains 0.45mg.
Most vegetables typically contain reasonable levels of vitamin B6, but there are some vegetable powerhouses that are B6-rich. Bell peppers, spinach, baked potatoes (skin included), green peas, yams, broccoli, asparagus and turnip greens are all excellent sources of vitamin B6. These vegetables are also, for the most part, low in fat and contain other vitamins and nutrients that are essential for good health.
Nuts and Seeds
Peanuts, sunflower seeds, cashews and hazelnuts, which contain 0.6mg of 6 per serving – are all good sources of vitamin B6 and can be eaten as snacks or added to popular recipes.
Whole Grains and Bran
Whole-wheat bread, cereals, bran and other wholegrains are rich in vitamin B6 and are probably already part of your daily diet. Wheat germ contains 3mg of vitamin B6 per 100g, making it one of the most valuable sources of the nutrient.
Beans and Legumes
Chickpeas and lentils are just some examples of vitamin B6-rich beans and legumes. Kidney beans are another good source of the nutrient. By including a single serving of any of these foods with your meals, you can maintain your intake of vitamin B6 and lower the risk of experiencing B6 deficiency