Vitamin B complex is composed of eight vitamins that are essential for many bodily functions, including growth and development. Folic acid, or folate, is also known as vitamin B-9. The B vitamins can be found in animal and plant sources or taken as a combined daily supplement.
Vitamin B-1, or thiamine, is a water-soluble vitamin found in legumes, brewer’s yeast, whole-grain cereals, rice, pork, oranges and nuts. It helps with the heart, muscles and the functioning of the nervous system. Your body reserves very little thiamine, so it is possible to have a deficiency, which results in problems with your heart, brain and gastrointestinal system.
Vitamin B-2, or riboflavin, is found in rice, mushrooms, brewer’s yeast, grains, eggs, broccoli, yogurt, Brussels sprouts and spinach. This vitamin is destroyed by light, so food should be kept away from light to preserve it. Vitamin B-2 is responsible for the production of energy, protection of the cells from free radicals, healthy liver function and a healthy nervous system.
Vitamin B-3, or niacin, is a water-soluble vitamin found in green vegetables, grains, fish, milk, meat and yeast. It is involved with the production of sex hormones, reducing cholesterol in the blood and improving circulation. Vitamin B-3 deficiency is rare, although it may be caused by alcoholism.
Vitamin B-5, or pantothenic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin found in meat, vegetables, brewer’s yeast, cauliflower, tomatoes, avocado, sunflower seeds, turkey, egg yolks and lentils. It is involved with the production of stress hormones, the production of red blood cells and the breakdown of carbohydrates. Deficiency is rare; symptoms include fatigue, depression and nausea.
Vitamin B-6, or pyridoxine, is found in spinach, carrots, legumes, peas, grains, eggs, cheese, fish and liver. It is responsible for serotonin and norepinephrine synthesis in the brain and the formation of myelin. Mild deficiency can cause problems with the skin, mucous membranes and blood cells.
Folic acid, or vitamin B-9, is found in green vegetables, dried beans, fruits, nuts, peas and enriched cereal. It is responsible for the production of new cells and prevents birth defects, which is why it is particularly important during pregnancy. Deficiency can cause anemia.
Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin found in dairy products, meat and shellfish. This vitamin protects red blood cells and nerve cells and is needed to produce DNA. During digestion, hydrochloric acid in the stomach unbinds vitamin B-12 from the protein in food; the vitamin is then combined with intrinsic factor and absorbed into the bloodstream. Vitamin B-12 deficiency in younger people is rare, as the body can reserve several years' worth.