Vitamins naturally occur in food and are needed for the body to function properly. There are 13 vitamins, eight of which belong to a group called B‐vitamins or B complex. They perform hundreds of important tasks throughout the body. In particular, the B vitamins play an essential role in energy production, as well as in the formation of healthy red blood cells and nerves.
The B vitamins include:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): is important for healthy muscles and nerves, as well as for breaking down carbohydrates so they can be used as energy.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): is necessary for red blood cell formation, energy production, growth and digestion, and is needed for vitamins B3 and B6 to function.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin or niacinamide): is needed by the body to convert carbohydrate and fats into energy. It also helps maintain skin and a healthy nervous and digestive systems.
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): is needed to metabolise proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Vitamin B5 is also required for the production of red blood cells and some hormones.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): is facilitates the metabolism of amino acids, fats and carbohydrates releasing energy. This vitamin is essential for a healthy nervous system and brain, and is needed for the production of nerves and certain brain chemicals such as serotonin, which helps maintain a positive mood.
- Vitamin B7 (biotin): is important for energy production and the metabolism of some amino acids, cholesterol and certain fatty acids.
- Vitamin B9 (folate): occurs naturally in foods but in supplements and fortified foods, you’ll find it listed as ‘folic acid’. It’s needed to form red blood cells and is especially important during pregnancy, where it helps to ensure the proper development of the baby’s nervous system, healthy DNA production and cell growth.
- Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin): is necessary for mental function, is involved with the nervous system, red blood cell formation, and energy production. It has a close relationship with folate, as both vitamins depend on each other to work properly.
What foods contain vitamin Bs?
The B vitamins are found in many foods, but they’re quite fragile. This means that they’re easily destroyed, especially during cooking. The processing of foods may also decrease the amount of B vitamins available. B vitamins are also water soluble, which means the body cannot store B vitamins and what your body doesn’t use is excreted via urine. This is why it’s important for you to obtain enough of them in your diet on a regular basis.
Examples of good sources of Vitamin Bs include:
- Pork, dark green leafy veggies, wholegrain cereals and nuts (Vitamin B1)
- Milk, chicken, fish, eggs and dark green leafy veggies (Vitamin B2)
- Chicken, turkey, salmon, legumes, peanuts and pasta (Vitamin B3)
- Leafy greens such as spinach and fortified grain products (Folic acid)
- Poultry, seafood, potatoes, bananas and fortified cereals (Vitamin B6)
- Animal foods, shellfish, fortified cereals and soy products (Vitamin B12)
- Egg yolks, liver, salmon, pork and avocado (Biotin)
- Yoghurt, avocado and legumes (Pantothenic Acid)