Vitamin B actually refers to more than one vitamin, since there are eight different B vitamins in total. If you take a supplement that contains all eight of the B vitamins, this is referred to as a ”vitamin B complex”.
Found naturally in meat, leafy greens, dairy, beans, peas, and whole or fortified grains, B complex vitamins help your body make energy from the food you eat, form red blood cells, and play an essential role in certain bodily functions. Take a closer look at the benefits, signs of deficiency, and food sources for each of these B complex vitamins.
What is in the vitamin B complex?
- Critical for the growth, development, and function of cells in the body
- Helps the body use carbohydrates from food to produce energy
- Needed for the health of the brain, muscles, and nervous system
Common food sources of vitamin B1 include fortified breakfast cereal, enriched and whole-grain products (bread, breakfast cereals, rice, noodles, and flour), wheat germ, pork, trout, black beans, mussels, and tuna.
- Keeps the eyes, nervous system, and skin healthy
- Helps convert food into energy
- Needed for red blood cell production and growth
Common food sources of vitamin B2 include milk and dairy products, fortified breakfast cereals, beef liver, clams, portobello mushrooms, almonds, and chicken.
- Aids in the conversion of food into energy
- Helps enzymes in the body function properly by helping the body use other B vitamins and make and repair DNA (the genetic material found in all body cells)
- Helps with the function of the digestive and nervous systems and skin
- Needed for the production of hormones, such as sex and stress hormones
Common food sources of vitamin B3 include eggs, fish, fortified bread and cereal, rice, nuts, milk and dairy, chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, organ meats, peanuts.
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
- Breaks down fats and carbohydrates for energy
- Helps the body use other vitamins, such as riboflavin
- Plays a role in the production of sex and stress hormones in the adrenal glands and neurotransmitters
Common food sources of vitamin B5 include meat, avocado, broccoli, kale, eggs, milk, mushrooms, fortified cereals, organ meats, poultry, potatoes, and legumes.
- Involved in immune function and brain development and function
- Needed by the body to use and store protein and carbohydrates from food (in the form of glycogen, stored energy in the muscles and liver)
Common food sources of vitamin B6 include chickpeas, beef liver, tuna, salmon, chicken breast, fortified breakfast cereal, potatoes, turkey, fruits (except citrus), and beef.
- Helps the body convert the fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in the food that you eat into energy
- Needed to make fatty acids
- Promotes growth and bone and hair health
Common food sources of vitamin B7 include beef liver, egg yolk, wheat germ, pork, beef, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, almonds, whole-grain foods, sardines, spinach, and broccoli.
B9 (Folic Acid)
- Helps your body make red blood cells
- Needed to help cells make and maintain DNA
Common food sources of vitamin B9 (folate) include spinach, beef liver, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beans and legumes, asparagus, orange juice, peanuts, avocado, dark leafy greens, fortified cereals, and salmon.
- Helps keep the nervous system and red blood cells healthy
- Important for protein metabolism
- Required for the formation of red blood cells and DNA
Common food sources of vitamin B12 are found primarily in animal foods, such as beef liver (and other organ meats), clams and other shellfish, beef, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, and some fortified cereals.