The B-vitamins are the largest group of vitamins. These vitamins are essential for the growth and development of our cells as well as help our bodies produce energy. Some of the best sources of vitamin B’s are dark leafy green vegetables like Mustard greens and Collard greens. Other good sources of B vitamins are fortified cereals, whole grains, liver, nuts and beans. You can also get all of your daily requirements for B vitamins from a Vitamin B-complex supplement.
Alcohol (ethanol) is a compound that destroys B-vitamins, especially Thiamine (vitamin B1). If you drink alcohol regularly, it may cause nerve damage since they need thiamine to function properly. Alcoholics, and those who drink alcohol regularly, may have a greater risk of nerve damage due to a thiamine deficiency compared to those who don’t drink alcohol regularly.
There are a total of eight B-vitamins:
- Vitamin B1 – Thiamine
- Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin
- Vitamin B3 – Niacin, Niacinamide
- Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine, Pyridoxamine
- Vitamin B7 – Biotin
- Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid
- Vitamin B12 – Cyanocolbalamine
Vitamins B1 and B2 – Thiamine and Riboflavin
These B vitamins help our bodies produce energy. Specifically, they help our muscles produce energy.
Riboflavin is a very important B vitamin because it helps all the other B vitamins do their job. Not only does it help our bodies produce energy, it also helps us burn fat.
We can get vitamin B1 from cereal, whole grains, potatoes, pork, seafood, tuna, liver and kidney beans. Vitamin B2 can be found in fortified milk, cereals and whole grains, enriched breads, dairy, liver and green leafy vegetables.
Recommended Daily Intake for Vitamin B1 – Thiamine
|0-6 Months||0.2 mg||0.2 mg|
|7-12 Months||0.3 mg||0.3 mg|
|1-3 Years||0.5 mg||0.5 mg|
|4-8 Years||0.6 mg||0.6 mg|
|9-13 Years||0.9 mg||0.9 mg|
|14 + Years||1.2 mg||1.0 mg|
Recommended Daily Intake for Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin
|0-6 Months||0.3 mg||0.3 mg|
|7-12 Months||0.4 mg||0.4 mg|
|1-3 Years||0.5 mg||0.5 mg|
|4-8 Years||0.6 mg||0.6 mg|
|9-13 Years||0.9 mg||0.9 mg|
|14-18 Years||1.0 mg||1.3 mg|
|18 + Years||1.3 mg||1.0 mg|
Vitamin B3 – Niacin
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), there’s not enough evidence available to determine the safest amount of supplemental niacin for children to take. However, eating foods that are good sources of niacin should give children enough of the vitamin daily.
Recommended Daily Intakes for Vitamin B3 – Niacin
|18 + Years||16 -18 mg, 35 mg maximum||16 -18 mg, 35 mg maximum|
Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic acid
This vitamin helps with our overall growth and development as well as keep our cells healthy. We can get Vitamin B5 from a wide variety of plant and animal sources.
Recommended Daily Intakes for Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid
|0 – 6 Months||1.7 mg||1.7 mg|
|7 – 12 Months||1.8 mg||1.8 mg|
|1 – 3 Years||2.0 mg||2.0 mg|
|4 – 8 Years||3.0 mg||3.0 mg|
|9 – 13 Years||4.0 mg||4.0 mg|
|14 – 18 Years||5.0 mg||5.0 mg||6.0 mg||7.0 mg|
|18 + Years||5.0 mg||6.0 mg||6.0 mg||7.0 mg|
Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine
Recommended Daily Intakes for Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine
|0 – 6 Months||0.1 mg||0.1 mg|
|7 – 12 Months||0.3 mg||0.3 mg|
|1 – 3 Years||0.5 mg||0.5 mg|
|4 – 8 Years||0.6 mg||0.6 mg|
|9 – 13 Years||1.0 mg||1.0 mg|
|14 -18 Years||1.0 mg||1.2 mg||1.9 mg||2.0 mg|
|19 – 50 Years||1.3 mg||1.3 mg||1.9 mg||2.0 mg|
|50 + Years||1.7 mg||1.5 mg|
Vitamin B7 – Biotin
Like vitamin B6, Biotin helps us break down proteins as well as carbohydrates. It also helps us keep our hormones balanced. You can find biotin in peanuts, liver, egg yolks, bananas, mushrooms, watermelon and grapefruits.
Adequate Intakes (AI) for Vitamin B7 – Biotin
|0 -6 Months||5 mcg||5 mcg|
|7 – 12 Months||6 mcg||6 mcg|
|1 – 3 Years||8 mcg||8 mcg|
|4 – 8 Years||12 mcg||12 mcg|
|9 -13 Years||20 mcg||20 mcg|
|14 – 18 Years||25 mcg||25 mcg||30 mcg||35 mcg|
|19 + Years||30 mcg||30 mcg||30 mcg||35 mcg|
Vitamin B9 – Folate/Folic Acid
The difference between folic acid and folate is that folate is naturally found in food while folic acid is synthesized in labs for supplements.
Folate helps us make DNA and helps us produce red blood cells. Folate is very important in the development of a fetus’ brain and spinal cord. Pregnant women who do not get enough folate in their diets have a higher chance of giving birth to a child with spina bifida, a defect where the spinal cord or brain does not completely develop. A lack of folate or folic acid in pregnant women can increase the risk of having a fetus with other neural tube defects.
Folate and folic acid are also important for children and adults because it is involved the functioning of our nerves and brain. It may help reduce the amount of homocysteine in our blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid that’s elevated in people who are at a higher risk of strokes or heart attacks especially those who have peripheral vascular disease (PVD). In addition, it may help guard against certain cancers like colon, cervix and lung cancers.
One of the best sources of folate are Navy beans. One cup of cooked navy beans has almost two-thirds of your recommended daily intake of folate. We can get folate from leafy green vegetables, liver, citrus fruits, mushrooms, nuts, peas, beans and wheat.
Folic acid is safe to take as a supplement. It’s safer not to exceed 100% of your RDA of folate or folic acid when taking a supplement. The absorption rate of folic acid is reduced a bit when you take it with food so it may be best to take a folic acid supplement before eating or on an empty stomach.
Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid
|0-6 Months||65 mcg||65 mcg|
|7-12 Months||80 mcg||80 mcg|
|1 -3 Years||150 mcg||150 mcg|
|4-8 Years||200 mg||200 mcg|
|9-13 Years||300 mcg||300 mcg|
|14-18 Years||400 mcg||400 mcg||600 mcg||500 mcg|
|18+ Years||400 mcg||400 mcg||600 mcg||500 mcg|
Vitamin B12 – Cyanocolbamine
Vitamin B12 works in tandem with Folic Acid. It helps our bodies use folic acid and helps break down carbohydrates. It also helps our body produce red blood cells and it helps keep our cells healthy. B12 is one of the more important B-vitamins because it can impact your memory, mood, appetite and energy levels.
About 9-16 % of people in the U.S are vitamin B12 deficient with higher percentages in people who are 51 years or older. People who are B12 deficient may have poor memory, depression, brain fog, loss of appetite, and feel lethargic or tired throughout the day.
There are at least two reasons why we may not be getting enough vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is found in foods like eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk and milk products like yogurt. When we’re not eating enough of these foods we simply aren’t putting enough of the vitamin into our system for our cells to use. Our bodies store vitamin B12 in the liver but when these levels get low we begin to feel (and show) signs of vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Poor Digestion
The stomach produces a strong acid called hydrochloric acid (HCl) that helps break down the food we eat. The acidic environment also activates enzymes that help break down food. One of these compounds is called Intrinsic factor (IF). This compound latches onto vitamin B12 and travels with it as it moves into the small intestines. Without Intrinsic factor we would not be able to absorb vitamin B12. People with poor digestion have a tough time producing adequate amounts of active Intrinsic factor because they are not producing enough stomach acid to create an environment acidic enough for B12 to latch onto Intrinsic factor. Even if you were getting more than enough B12 in your diet from foods and B12 supplements, without the Intrinsic factor, the vitamin would pass through your system and not get absorbed.
Fortunately, there are ways to help your stomach out. Foods like Cumin, Fenugreek, Banana and Papaya can help boost your digestion. Consider adding some of these to your diet. Try not to eat too much food when you sit down for a meal. Eat until you’re about two-thirds full. When we eat fast, our body and brain have a harder time telling each other when you’ve eaten enough. By slowing down how fast you eat, you allow your body to better let you know when to stop eating. You’re also more likely to drink instead of eat as well, which can help you feel full faster.
- Allen, Lindsay H. “How common is vitamin B-12 deficiency?.” Am J Clin Nutr 89.2 (2009): 693S-696S.
- The Dr. Oz Show