B-group of vitamins comprises 8 essential vitamins that your body needs for maintaining optimal health and wellbeing. These water soluble vitamins are easily destroyed by food processing; therefore a highly processed food diet increases your risk of suffering from the deficiency symptoms such as digestive disorders; heart problems; depression; and poor skin, hair and nails. As these nutrients can’t be stored in your body, eating a naturally balanced diet is a healthy way to meet your daily requirements.
Vitamin Bs (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) are vital for your survival. These vitamins help in production of energy; formation of red blood cells; and optimal functioning of nervous and cardiovascular systems. Additionally, B vitamins act as “anti-stress” nutrients by helping your brain to produce neurotransmitters (natural mood enhancers) for relieving anxiety and depression. Pyridoxine (B6) and niacin (B3) help in production of serotonin; and B12 and B9 (folic acid) in synthesizing nor-epinephrine and dopamine, neurotransmitters.
Though many of B vitamins work together in the body, each of the B vitamins has its own specific benefits, too. Here is a list of B-vitamins and dietary sources:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): B1 vitamin helps in producing cellular energy (adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from the foods you eat. Thiamine also helps in generating new cells; boosting immunity; and supporting cardiovascular function by co-ordinating activity of nerves and muscles.
Thiamine deficiency occurs, when your diet mainly consists of highly processed carbohydrates (white rice, white flour, and white sugar). 0.8mg -1.0 mg of thiamine is required per day. Foods rich in thiamine are whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, yeast and pork. Vegetables, mushrooms, fresh and dried fruits, eggs, blackstrap molasses, wheat germ and fortified breakfast cereals are other good sources.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): B2 vitamin plays anti-oxidative role to protect your body from free radical damage and prevenst early aging and heart disease. This vitamin is also required for good vision; production of red blood cell and antibodies; cellular energy production; and maintenance of healthy skin, nails and hair. Here are some healthy ways to boost energy levels
Riboflavin deficiency usually occurs in people who consume excessive alcohol. 1.1mg -1.3mg of riboflavin is recommended per day. Foods rich in riboflavin are wholegrain cereals, leafy green vegetables, legumes, tomatoes, yeast, mushrooms and almonds. Fortified cereals, eggs, salmon, beef, milk, yoghurt, and cheese are also good sources.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): B3 vitamin is essential for improving circulation; maintaining healthy nervous and digestive systems; producing steroid hormones; repairing DNA; supporting cellular energy production; and maintaining healthy skin and tongue. Niacin helps in reducing high blood pressure by lowering cholesterol levels.
Vitamin B3 deficiency often occurs in alcoholics and people whose staple diet is maize. 13mg-17mg of niacin is recommended per day, which you can easily get from wholegrain cereals, beans, lentils, leafy and green vegetables, nuts, avocados, dates and mushrooms. Other sources of niacin include yeast, milk, eggs, meats, poultry and fish. As your body can convert tryptophan to niacin, foods rich in tryptophan (dairy products) also helps in meeting niacin requirements.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): B5 vitamin supports adrenal glands in production of steroid hormones. Other functions of pantothenic acid include development of central nervous system; production of antibodies and red blood cells; releasing energy from the food; and maintaining healthy skin. This common fruit can help may your skin more radiant.
Pantothenic acid is found in almost all natural food items, such as whole-grain cereals, legumes, lentils, soybeans, vegetables, avocados, peanuts, milk, yeast, chicken, meats and eggs.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Vitamin B6 is vital for brain function, as it helps in producing certain brain chemicals and steroid hormones, which regulate stress and sleep patterns. Pyridoxine also supports formation of antibodies and red blood cells to strengthen immunity; food metabolism; functioning of nervous system and healthy skin. Pyridoxine is found beneficial in heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Deficiency of pyridoxine is generally seen in people who drink excessive alcohol, women on contraceptive pill, elderly and people suffering from thyroid disease. 1.2mg-1.4mg of vitamin B6 is recommended per day, which you can easily get from a balanced diet comprising whole grain cereals, legumes, soya beans, green and leafy vegetables, banana and nuts. Milk, meat, poultry, fish, eggs are also good sources of pyridoxine.
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin): B7 vitamin plays important role in cell growth and helps in maintaining healthy hair, skin and nails. That’s why it is recommended during pregnancy to support normal growth of the baby. Biotin is also required for metabolic processes i.e. fat and glycogen (storage forms of energy) synthesis and utilization of protein. Some studies suggest that it may help people with diabetes by maintaining normal blood sugar.
Biotin deficiency can occur with excessive consumption of raw egg whites that binds and inhibits biotin absorption. You can get sufficient biotin from foods such as nuts, vegetables, fruits, soybeans, mushrooms and brewer’s yeast. Other sources include egg yolks, organ meat, cheese, chicken and fish.
- Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid or Folate): B9 is essential for development of nervous system; red blood cell formation; DNA and RNA synthesis; and cell growth. That’s why, folic acid is recommended for pregnant women to support growth and prevent neurological defects such as spina bifida in the babies.
You need 0.2mg of folic acid a day that you can get by eating a healthy diet that includes cereals, legumes, beans, dark leafy greens, root vegetables, citrus fruits, dates, avocados and seeds. Other sources of folic acid are milk, liver, poultry, eggs and salmon.
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): B12 vitamin is required for maintaining healthy nerve cells, optimal functioning of nervous system; formation and regeneration of red blood cells; and DNA synthesis. B12 also supports calcium absorption, promotes growth in children, and helps in metabolic process of food to produce cellular energy.
Vitamin B12 is made by anaerobic bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract of animals. You need 0.0015mg of vitamin B12 a day, which you can get from supplement or foods of animal origin such as dairy, eggs, fish, meat and chicken.