The B vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate (also called folic acid or folacin), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin and pantothenic acid. The B vitamins work collectively and individually in every cell to perform many different jobs, including helping the body release the energy it gets from carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Some foods are especially good sources of just one B vitamin, while other foods contain several B vitamins. Luckily, B vitamins are widely distributed throughout the food supply, so if you're eating a varied, balanced diet that includes foods from all food groups, you’re most likely getting as many vitamins as you need.
Your body relies on thiamin to regulate your appetite and support your metabolism. Some of the best sources of thiamin are pork, ham, dark green leafy vegetables, fortified whole-grain cereals and baked goods, wheat germ, enriched rice, green pea, lentils and nuts such as almonds and pecans. Women and men need 1.1 and 1.2 milligrams daily, respectively.
Consume riboflavin for healthy skin. Milk and milk products such as yogurt and cheese are rich in riboflavin. Asparagus, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, chicken, fish, eggs and fortified cereals also supply significant amounts of riboflavin to the diet. Aim for an intake of 1.1 milligrams for women and 1.3 milligrams for men.
Chicken, turkey, salmon and other fish including canned tuna packed in water are all excellent natural sources of niacin. Fortified cereals, legumes, peanuts, pasta and whole wheat also supply varying amounts. Niacin promotes healthy nerve function, benefits your cardiovascular system and aids in energy production. Men need 16 milligrams of niacin, while women need 14.
To remember which foods are high in folate, remember that the word folate has the same root as the word foliage. Leafy greens such as spinach and turnip greens and other fresh fruits and vegetables are all excellent sources of folate. All grain products such as breads, pastas and rice are fortified with folate. Consume 400 micrograms of folate daily. It promotes red blood cell health and nervous system function.
Some of the best sources of vitamin B6 are poultry, seafood, bananas, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, potatoes and fortified cereals. Your diet should include 1.3 milligrams of B-6 daily to support new red blood cell growth.
Animal foods are the only natural source of vitamin B12, but many products, including soy products and cereals, are fortified with B12 so it is widely available in the food supply. Other good natural sources include shellfish, such as clams, mussels and crab, fin fish and beef. You need only a small amount of B-12 -- 2.4 micrograms daily. This B-12 will boost red blood cell production and support your nervous system.
Biotin and Pantothenic Acid
Liver and egg yolks are the richest dietary sources of biotin -- a nutrient needed for a healthy metabolism -- but fortunately this B vitamin is well distributed throughout the food supply, so it is unlikely that anyone eating a balanced, varied diet will experience a deficiency. Salmon, pork and avocado are good sources; most fruits and vegetables contain a little biotin, as do cheeses and grain foods.
Yogurt and avocado are both excellent sources of pantothenic acid, a vitamin needed for enzyme function, but it is also available in a wide variety of foods such as legumes including lentils and split peas, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and broccoli. Consume 5 milligrams daily.
- Nutrition Concepts and Controversies, F. Sizer and E. Whitney, 1997
- Colorado State University: Water-Soluble Vitamins: B-Complex and Vitamin C