Everything You Need to Know About B Vitamins and How to Make Sure You’re Getting Enough of Them
Since you were little, you’ve probably been told about the importance of eating enough vitamins and minerals every day. But do you know what all the essential vitamins and minerals are or why they are important?
B vitamins are necessary for several different processes in the body. Read on to learn more about them, why they matter, how much you should be consuming each day, and where you can find them.
What are the B Vitamins?
There are eight water-soluble B vitamins that make up the B vitamin family. Each B vitamin and its functions are described below.
Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
Thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, is necessary for producing cellular energy from food. It also supports proper nervous system functioning.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, also supports cellular energy production.
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Niacin, or vitamin B3, also plays a role in cellular energy production.
Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)
Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, is necessary for cellular energy production.
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
Pyridoxine, also known as vitamin B6, plays a role in several cellular reactions in the body. It also is important for amino acid and glycogen (stored glucose) metabolism. It keeps the nervous system functioning properly and promotes healthy red blood cell formation, too.
Biotin (Vitamin B7)
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is necessary for proper fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism. Many people also take biotin supplements to promote healthy hair, nails, and skin.
Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
Folic acid, or vitamin B9, is most well-known for the role it plays in proper fetal health and development. In addition to preventing birth defects, folic acid is also essential for healthy red blood cell formation and the repair and synthesis of DNA and RNA.
Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)
Cobalamin, also known as vitamin B12, is needed for cellular energy production and DNA synthesis. It also promotes normal nervous system functioning and healthy red blood cell formation.
What is the RDA for B Vitamins?
Your body requires different amounts of each of the B vitamins to function properly. Listed below is the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for each B vitamin:
- Thiamin: 1.5 milligrams per day
- Riboflavin: 1.7 milligrams per day
- Niacin: 20 milligrams per day
- Pantothenic acid: 10 milligrams per day
- Pyridoxine: 2 milligrams per day
- Biotin: 300 micrograms per day
- Folic acid: 400 micrograms per day
- Cobalamin: 6 micrograms per day
Symptoms of a B Vitamin Deficiency
It’s usually fairly easy to meet the RDA for most of the B vitamins from diet alone. However, deficiencies do still happen.
Cobalamin, or vitamin B12, deficiency is the most common, especially among elderly people (who tend to have a harder time absorbing it) and people who eat plant-based diets. Anywhere from 1.5-15 percent of people in the U.S. are deficient in Vitamin B12.
Common symptoms associated with a deficiency in any of the B vitamins include:
- Loss of appetite
- Soreness in the mouth/tongue
- Unexplained weight loss
- Numbness or tingling in the feet and hands
- Muscle weakness
- Poor motor coordination
- Memory loss
Best Food Sources of B Vitamins
The following are good food sources of each of the B vitamins:
- Thiamin: Thiamin is found in pork, lentils, whole grains, red meat, yeast, and nuts
- Riboflavin: Riboflavin is found in milk, eggs, beef, spinach, salmon, and broccoli
- Niacin: Niacin is found in beef, fish, poultry, whole grains, lentils, and peanuts
- Pantothenic acid: Pantothenic acid is found in organ meats, egg yolks, avocados, cashews, and soybeans
- Pyridoxine: Pyridoxine is found in meat, eggs, poultry, fish, and bananas
- Biotin: Biotin is found in strawberries, organ meats, soybeans, cheese, and brewer’s yeast
- Folic acid: Folic acid is found in dark leafy greens, brewer’s yeast, liver, avocados, and dates
- Cobalamin: Cobalamin is found in chicken, beef, fish, eggs, milk, and nori seaweed
Ideally, you should try to meet the RDA for each B vitamin by consuming foods rich in that particular vitamin. But, supplementing with a B vitamin complex can be helpful, especially for people who struggle with proper absorption.