Vitamin B complex is a compound made up of eight different water-soluble B vitamins that together work as an energy booster as they help convert food into energy. They are also needed for proper growth and development, and are essential for your blood cells, hormones and nervous system.
Each of the B vitamins is either a cofactor (generally a coenzyme) for key metabolic processes or is a precursor needed to make one. Plus, each plays important roles in the body’s function, and a deficiency of any of them can hugely impact your health.
The eight vitamins in the B complex compound are:
Thiamine (B1): This antistress vitamin helps protect the immune system by assisting in formation of new cells in the body. Though its deficiency is rare, an inadequate amount of thiamine can cause Wernicke’s encephalopathy, a neurological disorder.
Riboflavin (B2): This works as an antioxidant by fighting free radicals in the body. Also, it prevents heart disease and restricts premature aging. It is also essential for red blood cell production. Its deficiency can lead to skin disorders, hair loss, liver issues and anemia.
Niacin (B3): This helps improve blood circulation as well as the ‘good’ high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level in the body. It also aids the body’s production of several hormones. Its deficiency can result in pellagra, which can cause dermatitis, insomnia, weakness and diarrhea.
Pantothenic acid (B5): This helps generate energy by breaking down fats and carbohydrates. Also, it helps the body produce hormones like testosterone. Although vitamin B5 deficiency is uncommon, it can result in acne.
Pyridoxine (B6): This helps regulate homocysteine levels, an amino acid associated with heart disease. It also helps the body produce hormones, which promote an elevated mood. Its deficiency is linked to inflammation in the body as well as neurological problems.
Biotin (B7): This is the beauty vitamin responsible for healthy hair, skin and nails. It also helps control high blood glucose levels. During pregnancy, it is important for normal fetal development. Its deficiency in infants may cause impaired growth and neurological disorders.
Folate (B9): Also known as folic acid, this is crucial for good memory and healthy brain development. It also helps keep depression at bay. During pregnancy, it supports fetal development and prevents neurological defects. A deficiency of this vitamin can result in anemia.
Cobalamin (B12): This vitamin assists vitamin B9 in producing red blood cells. It also helps in creating hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in your blood. Its deficiency can cause macrocytic anemia, peripheral neuropathy and memory loss as well as cognitive impairments.
There are several vitamin B complex supplements that can help ensure that you get enough of the eight B vitamins that the body needs to function. At the same time, there are many foods that can provide your body with this cluster of important vitamins.
Here are the 10 best food sources for vitamin B complex.
Despite the fact that fish are not capable of forming vitamin B12 in their bodies, they are one of the richest sources of it. Fish have the capability of concentrating the vitamins in their cells that is formed by the action of bacteria.
Sardines, mackerel, shellfish and salmon are some varieties that are
loaded with heavy concentration of B vitamins and other nutrients.
Three ounces (7.6 mcg) of sardines provides 100 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin B12.
2. Beef Liver
Beef liver is one of richest sources of B vitamins. It is loaded with most of the B vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12.
In fact, an average slice (68 grams) of beef liver serves more than half of the daily requirement of B9, B6 and B12. While folate (B9) helps prevent birth defects, B6 produces serotonin for mood regulation and proper sleep, and B12 helps in the formation of red blood cells.
It also provides 179 percent of the adult male and 212 percent of the adult female’s recommended daily allowance of riboflavin (B2).
Available year-round, chicken is an exceptionally good source of B complex vitamins. Also packed with protein and minerals, chicken is definitely a nutritional punch for your body.
Cooked or roasted chicken breast serves as an excellent source of niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5) and vitamin B6, which are all required for effective metabolism in the body.
Four ounces of chicken breast provides 72 percent of niacin, 10.6 percent of pantothenic acid and 32 percent of vitamin B6, as per the recommended daily values of these nutrients.
4. Eggs and Dairy
Fried, scrambled, poached or boiled eggs are a great source of B vitamins. In fact, every single B vitamin can be found in eggs. Egg yolks are an excellent source of vitamin B12, which helps in the production of red blood cells. Eggs also contain niacin, vitamin B6, biotin. These are responsible for regulating metabolism, boosting immunity, and cell growth .
Additionally, milk and milk products are also a rich source of thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2) and vitamin B12. Other B vitamins like B3, B5, B9 and B6 are also present, but in traces.
One glass of semi-skimmed milk (200 ml) provides 100 percent of vitamin B12, 15 percent of thiamine, 45 percent of riboflavin, 3 percent of niacin, 9.3 percent of folate and small amounts of pyridoxine, as per an adult’s recommended daily intake.
Beans are an excellent source of important B complex vitamins. The many varieties including kidney beans, black beans, red beans, black-eyed peas, cannellini beans, chickpeas, lima beans and pinto beans are all rich in thiamin, niacin, folate, and riboflavin.
These vitamins help in converting food into energy, reducing inflammation and boosting good cholesterol.
Folate and vitamin B6 content in beans helps in lowering the risks of cardiovascular disease.
One cup of cooked beans serves for 90 percent of the RDA of folate and 10 percent of RDA of thiamine (B1), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5) and pyridoxine (B6).
6. Fortified Soy Milk
A good source of vitamin B12, soy milk is a healthy alternative for vegans and people who are allergic to or intolerant of lactose.
Since vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal products, soy milk is particularly helpful for vegans and vegetarians. Also, as it is extracted from plants, it contains absolutely no lactose, is free of cholesterol and low in saturated fats.
The body needs vitamin B12 for healthy nerve functioning and a healthy metabolism. Apart from B12, soy milk also contains small amounts of other B vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B5 and B9.
Just 1 cup of fortified soy milk provides 50 percent of vitamin B12, 30 percent of riboflavin (B2) and 15 percent of folate (B9), as per their recommended daily values.
Along with B vitamins, soy milk is an excellent source of high-quality protein and isoflavones, plant chemicals that help lower the ‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Tempeh, a fermented soy product, is also a good source of B vitamins for your health. If you are vegan, you can also opt for nutritional yeast to help increase your vitamin B, especially vitamin B12 intake.
Whole grains like oatmeal, a staple breakfast item, are another good source of vitamin B complex.
Oatmeal contains a number of B vitamins including B6, which plays a role in nerve communication in your brain. Other B vitamins in it are B1, B2, B3 and B9.
Just 1 cup of oatmeal provides 15 percent of the recommended daily amount of thiamine (B1), 3.2 percent of the recommended daily amount of niacin (B3) and 3.5 percent of the recommended daily amount of folate (B9).
Oatmeal also contains dietary fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and vitamins E and K. Plus, oats contain zero cholesterol.
A regular breakfast of oatmeal helps lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
As eating plain oatmeal daily can get boring, you can add chopped fruits or nuts to improve the flavor and boost your meal’s nutrient content. You can also include other whole grains like whole wheat, quinoa and millets in your daily diet.
8. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a rich source of many important B complex vitamins, such as niacin (B3), thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), pantothenic acid (B5), folate (B9) and vitamin B6.
All these vitamins work as cofactors or coenzymes during metabolic processes in the body.
Eating 1.5 ounces (42 grams) of nuts everyday is very helpful in reducing the risk of various cardiovascular disorders. Chestnuts, pistachios, pecans, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds are good sources of B vitamins.
Exceptionally beneficial for health, spinach is one of the best sources of B vitamins. It contains a few members of the B-vitamin family, with the most prevalent being B9 or folate. In 1 cup of raw spinach, you can get 15 percent of the daily recommended value. Vitamin B9 aids in the formation of tissues and proper functioning of cells, as well as the production of DNA.
Other B vitamins in spinach are B2, B6 and B7. It is also high in protein, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.
This wonderful green leafy vegetable is packed with antioxidants and anticancer properties . It helps in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels as well as improving bone health.
You can add spinach to your salads, soups, omelets or other dishes. This versatile food also goes well in mixed vegetable juice or a green smoothie. It can also be cooked lightly and eaten as a side dish or added to soups and other dishes.
Bananas are another good option to meet your body’s B vitamin requirements, especially vitamin B6.
As per the National Institute of Health, an adult requires 1.5 milligrams of vitamin B6 each day and a banana provides one-third of it in just one swoop. This vitamin aids in the production of neurotransmitters that regulate sleep and mood. For women, B6 may reduce premenstrual syndrome symptoms.
Other B vitamins in bananas are B1, B2, B3, B9 and B7. In addition, bananas also contain a good amount of potassium, manganese, vitamin C, fiber and copper.
Eating bananas regularly helps reduce the risk of different types of cancer, regulates bowl movements, improves muscle health, promotes sleep and improves cognitive ability.
Other than banana, you can also consume papayas, oranges, cantaloupes and avocados, which are also good sources of B complex group of vitamins.