To B or Not to B (Vitamin B, that is)

November 8, 2016 in Nutrition

By: Carolyn Eagle , Senior Editor, Health Media Today


You see the bottles of B vitamin supplements on the drug store shelves and can’t help thinking they may be calling out to you. After all, there are so many different kinds: B12, B Complex, B with Vitamin C, B6, B12 and Folic Acid, and B1 all alone (and that’s just from one major supplement maker). ‘This must mean many people are Vitamin B deficient’, you say to yourself. Well, it’s not quite so simple and here are some guidelines to let you decide if taking some form of Vitamin B complex is right for you.
The important thing to know is that there are actually eight B vitamins, known as the B Complex. Here’s what they are, what they do, and which foods contain them:
Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2) and Niacin (B3)
If you’ve ever stared groggily at the ingredients list on your morning cereal, these vitamins will likely sound familiar. They are often added to enrich foods such as cereal and bread and as such, it is rare to experience a deficiency in these three B Complex vitamins.
  • Thiamine helps convert food into energy but it is also necessary for the proper function of your muscles as well as the nervous and cardiovascular systems. You can find it in pork, legumes, nuts and seeds, as well as fortified breads and cereals.
  • Riboflavin helps to give your body energy by metabolizing fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. It will also help to maintain normal digestion, appetite, and proper nerve function. It is found naturally in dairy products, which are excellent sources, but also in lean meats, raw mushrooms, and fortified products.
  • Niacin works along with the other B Complex vitamins to metabolize your food and promote normal growth. It is found in foods that have high protein content such as eggs, meat, and peanuts.
Pantothenic acid (B5) and Pyridoxine (B6), and Biotin
These three vitamins are found in virtually all foods, so it is rare to find a deficiency.
·         Pantothenic acid helps your body extract energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It also helps to produce red blood cells and hormones from the adrenal gland, and to metabolize fat. It helps your body lower bad cholesterol. You get this vitamin naturally from eggs, milk, meat, fish, legumes, leafy greens, bananas, and oranges, to name just a few.
·         Pyridoxine (B6) is important for cell metabolism and function, gives your skin a healthy glow, and helps to regulate mood. It also helps to keep your nervous system functioning regularly. It is found in virtually all foods but good sources include meat, whole grains, and legumes.
·         Biotin helps to metabolize energy and is found in egg yolks, soybeans, cereals, and yeast in good quantities. Most of us get sufficient quantities in our daily diets because it is found in a wide variety of foods.
Folic Acid (B9)
This vitamin helps to form our basic genetic material DNA and RNA, which is the blueprint for our bodies. It is especially important for pregnant woman because it is vital for growth and for preventing neural tube defects which can lead to malfornations of the spine (Spina bifida). The best sources are in liver, yeast, broccoli, legumes, avocados, asparagus, orange juice, and other cruciferous and raw vegetables. It is also used to fortify cereal, breads and other grain products.
Cyanocobalamin (B12)
B 12 is necessary to make DNA, RNA, and red blood cells. It helps to maintain the central nervous system and helps with concentration and memory by strengthening our neurotransmitters. Because this vitamin is found in animal products such as eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk, and milk products, vegans may have more difficulty getting B12 into their diets.
Many variations of the B Complex vitamins are available in pharmacies and health food stores, claiming to aid in everything from stress relief, to increasing memory function, to weight loss. Most experts agree that if you eat a healthy, varied diet, a deficiency in any of the B Complex vitamins is highly unlikely, but it is worth discussing with your doctor if you think you would benefit from further supplementation.

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