B complex

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Key Findings

  • The vitamin B complex is comprised of eight B vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12.  

  • Each of these vitamins performs vital tasks that impact physical and mental well-being.

  • While most people should be able to get their recommended daily intake through a nutritionally balanced diet, vitamin B supplements are also available.


Eight is Enough

Like the phases of the moon and crayons in a standard box, good things come in eights.

And nowhere is that adage more true, at least from a nutritional standpoint, than in the case of B vitamins.

Referred to as vitamin B complex, this collection of eight individual – and often, synergistic – B vitamins maximizes your body’s health from head to toe.  On their own, each vitamin reaps powerful benefits; when working in tandem, several of them have greater purposes as well.

The vitamin B complex is comprised of B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12.  Let’s take a closer look at what each has to offer – and more importantly, where to find them in the foods we eat.  While many of these essential vitamins can be found in fortified breakfast cereals, others tend to be more food source-specific.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

The first in the vitamin B complex pantheon, vitamin B1 is charged (pun intended) with energy production. By helping the body metabolize carbohydrates from food, it provides the energy needed for overall functionality.  Vitamin B1 also facilitates new cell development and production; maintains a healthy brain, muscles and nervous system; and, as an anti-stress vitamin, supports a strong immune system.

Food sources:

  • Enriched and whole grain products

  • Peanuts

  • Spinach and kale

  • Wheat germ

  • Trout

  • Beans

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Another immune system supporter, vitamin B12 works as an anti-oxidant to help fight the free radicals that can negatively impact cells in the body – helping stave off premature aging and the development of heart disease.  Vitamin B12 also helps convert food into energy; produce new red blood cells; maintain healthy skin, eyes, nervous system and gut lining; and minimize acne and muscle cramps.

Food sources:

  • Almonds

  • Milk and dairy products

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Eggs

  • Wild rice

  • Soybeans

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3’s biggest claim to fame is its role in boosting HDL (good) cholesterol, ultimately serving to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.  Not only that, it helps break down food into energy, assists enzymes in utilizing other B vitamins to make and repair DNA, produces hormones (including stress and sex hormones), and supports strong digestive and nervous systems.

Food sources:

  • Eggs

  • Fish

  • Red and organ meats

  • Yeast

  • Milk

  • Green vegetables

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Derived from the Greek word “panthothen” which means “everywhere,” this ubiquitous vitamin is found in almost every food group.  Like its fellow B vitamins, water-soluble vitamin B5 is charged with converting fats and carbohydrates into energy, but it also plays a pivotal role in producing sex and stress hormones in neurotransmitters and the adrenal glands.

Food sources:

  • Avocados

  • Yogurt

  • Legumes

  • Broccoli

  • Chicken

  • Mushrooms

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

An extremely busy vitamin, Vitamin B6 is involved in more than 100 enzyme reactions throughout the body’s cells.  Tasked with metabolizing amino acids from the foods we eat, it also helps regulate moods and sleep patterns, form new red blood cells and hemoglobin, and store protein and carbs as glycogen in the muscles and liver.

Food sources:

  • Turkey

  • Salmon

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Cheese

  • Potatoes

  • Non-citrus fruits

Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Needed to make fatty acids and also charged with converting carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy, vitamin B7 – known as “the beauty vitamin” – is probably best known for its role in creating strong bones, hair and nails.  During pregnancy, it supports normal fetal development, and may also help those with diabetes manage their glucose levels.

Food sources:

  • Barley

  • Cauliflower

  • Liver

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Egg yolks

  • Nuts

Vitamin B9 (Folate)

Also referred to as folic acid, vitamin B9 is a must-have nutrient for pregnant women.  It is not only critical to the baby’s healthy growth and development, but it also might reduce the risk of neurological birth defects in the brain and spine. Vitamin B9 may also help prevent memory loss and mitigate the brunt of depression.

Food sources:

  • Dark leafy greens, including spinach

  • Asparagus

  • Beets

  • Root vegetables

  • Salmon

  • Orange juice

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

By tag-teaming with vitamin B9, vitamin B12 produces red blood cells and maximizes the efficacy of iron in creating the hemoglobin necessary to carry oxygen through the blood.  On its own, vitamin B12 helps the body metabolize proteins, build DNA, and supports healthy nerve cells and nervous system.

Food sources:

  • Shellfish, including clams

  • Fish

  • Chicken

  • Dairy products

  • Eggs

  • Beef liver and organ meats

What’s the bottom line?

A nutritional powerhouse, the vitamin B complex is comprised of eight essential nutrients that perform well on their own – as well as in concert with their peers.  Found in many foods that are part of a well-balanced diet, B vitamins can also be taken in supplement form as prescribed by a physician or holistic practitioner.





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