Vitamin B Foods – What to Eat?

When you think about adding vitamin B to your diet, you might assume there is only one vitamin B.

No, the reality is that there are a couple of different types of vitamin B. And while some vitamin B foods contain just one type, others contain several of them.

Vitamins B are essential for energy production, as they help your body turn fat, sugar, and protein into energy. They are also crucial for maintenance and repair of our skin, keep our eyes, nails, and hair healthy.

The best way to add foods high in vitamin B is by consuming whole and unrefined foods. When you think of vitamin B foods, think of unrefined foods. The problem is most B vitamins are stripped from foods like grain during the refinement process.

According to statistics, between 1.5% and 15% of the population in America is deficient in vitamin B12, and other B vitamins [1]https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/.

Types of Vitamin B

We mentioned previously that there are a couple of different types of vitamin B [2]https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2922005.

Here is a quick breakdown of those.

Thiamin, Vitamin B1

Our body needs thiamin in order to regulate our appetite. The vitamin is also responsible for regulating and supporting the metabolism.

Thiamin is mostly found in pork, dark leafy green vegetables, and fortified cereals and baked goods.

Riboflavin, Vitamin B2

This vitamin’s role is to keep your skin healthy. Riboflavin is mostly found in milk and milk products like cheese and yogurt. You can also source it from spinach and similar leafy green vegetables.

As a supplement, the vitamin is given to patients to prevent and treat migraines.

Niacin, Vitamin B3

Niacin has a wide range of uses in the body [3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3648704/.

For example, some of the functions of niacin include improving the digestive system, helping your skin stay healthy, and improving the nervous system.

The vitamin comes in several forms. Best sources include chicken meat, turkey meat, salmon, and other fatty fishes. The vitamin is also responsible for improving your cardiovascular system and help you produce energy.

Folate, Vitamin B9

This is one of the many essential vitamins. You might be more familiar with folic acid, which is a form of folate. This is the synthetic version used for food fortification and supplements.

Folate plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair. It is one of the most important vitamins for pregnant women, as it encourages cell and tissue growth. Leafy greens are the best natural sources of folate, and all grain products are fortified with folate.

Vitamin B6

B6 is a water-soluble nutrient part of the B vitamin family. This vitamin helps support adrenal function, keep you calm, and maintain a healthy nervous system.

All of these functions are necessary for key metabolic processes. Some of the best sources of the vitamin are poultry, banana, and seafood.

Vitamin B12

Some would argue it is the most important of the B vitamins [4]https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vitamins/vitamin-b/. This vitamin helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy.

It is also part of the process of making DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 prevents anemia that makes you tired and week, and it can be found in animal foods, as they are the only natural source of vitamin B12.

The good news is many products, including soy and cereals are fortified with vitamin B12.

Biotin, vitamin B7

Another water-soluble vitamin, this one is known also as pantothenic acid. The good news is that even if you do not consume many vitamin B foods, you might be getting this vitamin.

The vitamin is well distributed through the food supply, so anyone following a balanced and healthy diet gets enough of it.

How much vitamin B you need?

There is no simple answer to this question, as it depends on the type of vitamin B you need. Therefore, we will include information for every single vitamin B type.

For vitamin B12, the recommended daily intake is:

  • Men and women aged 19 years and older should consume 2.4mcg per day
  • Pregnant women should consume 2.6mcg per day
  • Breastfeeding women should consume 2.8mcg per day

For vitamin B6, the daily recommended value is the following:

  • Men and women between 19 and 50 years old should consume 1.3mcg per day
  • Women aged 51 and older should consume 1.5mcg per day
  • Men over 51 years old should consume 1.7mcg per day
  • Pregnant women should consume 1.9mcg per day
  • Breastfeeding women should consume 2.0mcg per day

For vitamin B3, known as niacin, the daily recommended intake is:

  • Men above 19 years old should consume an intake of 16 niacin equivalents (NE) per day
  • Women above 19 years old should consume 16 NE per day
  • Pregnant women should consume 18 NE per day
  • Breastfeeding women should consume 17 NE per day
  • The value includes sources of niacin from food and supplements

For vitamin B1, also known as thiamin, the daily dose if the following:

  • Men 19 and older should consume 1.2mg per day
  • Women 19 and older should consume 1.1mg per day
  • Pregnant women should consume 1.4mg per day
  • Breastfeeding women should consume 1.4mg per day

If you want to know the daily recommended intake of riboflavin, or B2, these are the dietary guidelines:

  • Women 19 and older should consume 1.1mg per day
  • Men 19 years old and older should consume 1.3mg per day
  • Pregnant women should consume 1.4mg per day
  • Breastfeeding women should consume 1.6mg per day

Last, but not least, use to following the chart to determine how much folate you need every day. Women who are trying to become pregnant, who are pregnant or breastfeeding, need more folate and usually take a daily folic acid supplement of 400mcg.

  • Men and women aged 19 years old and older need 400mcg of folate per day
  • Pregnant women need 600mcg of folate per day
  • Breastfeeding women need 500mcg of folate per day

Signs of vitamin B Deficiency

The three most common vitamin B deficiencies are vitamin B6, B9 (folate or folic acid), and vitamin B12. Depending on the vitamin B you need, the signs and symptoms are different.

Vitamin B6 deficiency symptoms:

  • Anemia
  • Inflammation of the mouth, better known as oral ulcers
  • Skin disorders such as seborrhea dermatitis
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Soreness and cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • Chapped lips
  • Irritability and confusion
  • Depression

Vitamin B9 Deficiency, folic acid symptoms:

  • Sore mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Anemia
  • Mood changes and irritability
  • Increased risk of birth defect in pregnancy

Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms:

  • Anemia
  • Memory lapses
  • Mood changes
  • Mental confusion and agitation
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Unsteadiness

Best Foods to Get Vitamin B

Eggs

Eggs

One of the best sources of vitamin B, as long as you eat the yolk. Yes, in the past few years, people have started to eat only the egg white and ditch the yolk due to concerns of high cholesterol and fat content in the yolk.

But one or two egg yolks per day is nothing serious. Consuming eggs in the morning is like getting a multivitamin in the morning and getting a protein boost to start of the day.

Liver

Liver

There is hardly any better source than liver for B vitamins. You also get a good amount of vitamin A and iron.

The only problem is, for some people the thought of eating liver is not easy to stomach. If that is the case, try adding ground liver to meatballs and chili sauces.

Lentils

Beans and lentils

High in protein, fiber, and lots of vitamins, lentils are an inexpensive source of vitamin B.

It takes only 20 minutes to cook lentils, which is not something you can say about other legumes. You can even add lentils to soups, chili sauces, or stews.

Brewer’s yeast

Brewer’s yeast

If you are vegan, this is your best source of vitamin B. One tablespoon will give you 100% of the daily recommended value of vitamin B12 and B6, and 50% of other B vitamins.

Vegans and vegetarians have a higher risk of developing vitamin B deficiency. Therefore, try sprinkling a tablespoon of Brewer’s yeast on your cereals and salads. You can even add some on your popcorn for a cheesy flavor.

Split peas

Split peas

While these legumes are very small and little, they are packed with nutritional benefits. And you get three types of vitamin B in these legumes, including folate, B1, and B5.

You can easily add split peas to soups to get some protein and fiber. And the best part is they contain almost no fat, which makes them great dietary choice.

Spinach

Spinach

There is not a list that can gather all the health benefits of spinach. Honestly, this leafy green vegetable is like the king of health benefits. Just add a handful of spinach into your smoothie, and you are good to go.

In fact, adding it to smoothies is definitely the best way to start incorporating greens and spinach into your diet.

Black beans

Black beans

The best part about black beans is that they are so versatile. Try to think of any other food you can put both in burgers and brownies. That is a challenging task, right?

Well, black beans work in everything when blended and rinsed. You can use them as the base of brownie with cocoa, or a binder for burgers.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Another great source of vitamin B for vegetarians. Mushrooms also contain a decent amount of vitamin D, which you can increase by holding them up to UV light. Nevertheless, mushrooms will help you up your vitamin B consumption.

Salmon

Salmon

Similar as spinach, the list of health benefits of salmon is just incredibly long. And the biggest reason for that is the high content of omega-3 fatty acids.

But salmon provides much more, including decent amounts of vitamin B, but also protein. Bake your salmon and then sprinkle some pumpkin seeds on top as a crust, and you have a nutritious dense lunch.

Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds

These seeds are also a great source of protein, in addition to providing a healthy dose of vitamin B1, B5, B6, and folic acid.

For children that need vitamin B, sunflower seed butter is a great way to up their consumption. And the butter is peanut-free, making it great for those allergic to peanuts.

Pine nuts

Pine Nuts

These nuts are very high in vitamin B1. Often used in pesto sauces, pine nuts can be eaten both raw and cooked.

When eaten raw, they have a buttery flavor. Add them to cooked veggies or salads as a topping. That is the easiest way to up your consumption.

Collard greens

Collard greens

Be careful not to overcook collard greens. If you do that, they lose their nutritional value. When they are properly cooked, collard greens are especially high in antioxidants, vitamin K, and B vitamins.

That makes them great addition to help you build stronger bones. Best way to cook collard greens is to steam them for five minutes and then add olive oil or any other of your favorite spices. Use the large leaves for a gluten-free wrap.

Soybeans

SOYBEANS

Vegetarians consume soybeans to up their protein and iron consumption. But they are also high in B vitamins. Soybeans are also one of the few sources of lecithin, a compound that helps to emulsify fat and improve gallbladder function.

Because they contain estrogen-like substances, soybeans can help with menopause or PMS. Always choose organic soy products to avoid the commercially and processed soy products that are dominating the market lately.

Sardines

sardines on a plate

Sardines are especially high in vitamin B12, and also omega-3 fatty acids. Sardines are underrated in a way they are one of the best sources of omega-3, which carry a wide set of benefits for your body.

Feta Cheese

Feta Cheese

Similar as sardines, feta cheese is an excellent source of B vitamins, particularly B12. But as they fall into the category of vitamin B foods, they also contain riboflavin and some calcium. Look for feta ceese made of raw sheep/goat’s milk.

Should you try supplements?

While Vitamin B supplements are generally considered safe, it is always best to consult with a physician before you opt for them. For example, if you have vitamin B12 deficiency, you will probably need to take some supplements.

However, it is important to know that this supplement can interact with certain medications. If you have any chronic health concerns, or are currently taking medication, you should talk with your doctor.

The medications that can lower the levels of vitamin B12 in the body include:

  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Chemotherapy medications
  • H2 blockers
  • Bile acid sequestrants
  • Colchicine
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Antibiotics
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