B vitamins might just be the unsung heroes of health — they’re known for their role in cell growth, the production of neurotransmitters, the creation of critical hormones, and more. But are we getting enough of our recommended intake? Chances are if you’re feeling run down on energy or your mind isn’t as sharp as usual, you could need a bit more than what you’re getting. We’ve got the 4-1-1 on your B vitamins (and where you can get them).
Get to know the basics
The first thing to know here is that there isn’t just one B vitamin. There are 8 total B vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12. Why are there missing vitamins (certain B vitamins are missing, and vitamins E-K are skipped)? Certain substances were thought to be vitamins, but were later reclassified. For example, vitamin G was reclassified as vitamin B2, and vitamin H is now known as vitamin B7. There are so many B vitamins included in the vitamin B complex (rather than one single vitamin B) because at one time, they had been believed to be considered just one substance, but differentiations in their functions later classified them into individual vitamins in the B complex.
B vitamins are water soluble vitamins, which means that our body can’t store them. They need to be replenished each day because our bodies flush out what doesn’t get used in our urine. This is why we need to get a regular intake of our B vitamins through a healthy diet and supplementation.
B vitamins are essential to critical functions of our body. They are most known for their vital role in the Kreb’s Cycle — which transforms the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins we consume into energy, which is why getting an adequate intake of B vitamins is crucial to staying energized.
What happens when you’re deficient in your B vitamins?
Vitamin B deficiencies can take their toll on the body, so ensuring we get our daily value is key to a healthy lifestyle. One of the first signs of a vitamin B deficiency is noticeable fatigue. If we are feeling a lack of energy, or just an overall feeling of “blah,” we could be lacking our vitamin B intake — particularly B12. Because vitamin B complex is essential to the Kreb’s Cycle, it is one of the key producers of energy in the body. Other symptoms of vitamin B deficiency include muscle weakness, anemia, skin rashes, and mental fog.
Meet your B’s: VITAMIN B1: THIAMIN
Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamin, is critical to the conversion of carbs into energy through the Kreb’s Cycle. It’s found in fortified cereals and whole grains, black beans, and pork.
VITAMIN B2: RIBOFLAVIN
Key to cognitive health and believed to be effective in reducing memory loss and Alzheimer’s Disease, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) is an essential part of the vitamin B complex. It also plays a key role in the Kreb’s Cycle and is therefore essential to energy production. We can find B2 in almonds, milk and dairy products, many fortified cereals, and chicken.
VITAMIN B3: NIACIN
Niacin, like many of the B complex vitamins, is essential for energy production; however, it is also critical for DNA repair, hormone production, and helps remove toxins and chemicals from the body. We can find Niacin in avocados, turkey, peanuts, mushrooms, and chicken.
VITAMIN B5: PANTOTHENIC ACID
Vitamin B5 is an excellent source of cholesterol regulation and is helpful towards controlling blood pressure, making it key to heart health. It helps regulate stress and anxiety levels, boosts immunity, and aids in the production of neurotransmitters in our brain. We can get our daily dose of Pantothenic Acid through shiitake mushrooms, beef and poultry, potatoes, and whole grains.
VITAMIN B6: PYRIDOXINE
Pyridoxine, more often referred to as vitamin B6, is an essential neurotransmitter producer. It is crucial to brain development and function, and encourages the development of the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine (which you can learn more about here). We can get our B6 intake through salmon and other fish, potatoes, and grains.
VITAMIN B7: BIOTIN
Many people in the wellness world are familiar with Biotin’s impacts on encouraging healthy hair, skin and nails. Biotin is also critical in the Kreb’s Cycle in metabolizing food to energy. We can gain our daily dose of B7 through leafy greens like spinach and broccoli, beef, egg yolks, sunflower seeds, and sweet potatoes.
VITAMIN B9: FOLIC ACID
Vitamin B9 helps the body with the production of red blood cells, neurons, and other genetic material. Folic Acid is essential to brain and nerve function, as well as preventing birth defects. B9 is found in asparagus, brussels sprouts, fruits, nuts, and beans.
VITAMIN B12: COBALAMIN
Vitamin B12 is one of the most well-known and prominent vitamins in the B complex. It is necessary for the synthesis of red blood cells, protects the health of the nervous system, synthesizes DNA, and metabolizes protein into energy. It’s important to maintain healthy B12 levels in the body, however B12 is not found in any plant-based foods. To get our daily intake through food, we need to consume eggs, dairy, and meat.
Not sure if you're getting your recommended Dayli intake of vitamin B? Talk to your doctor and see if you might be deficient in any of the vitamins in B complex.