Made up of eight different vitamins, the vitamin B complex is essential for a number of bodily functions. Almost every process in your body requires one of the vitamins in the complex, often as an aid to enzymes, which control and speed up the process of certain reactions. As essential nutrients, members of the vitamin B complex can be found in a wide array of foods, both plant and animal.
Whole grains, including those found in breads, are a good, natural source of many B vitamins. Unlike processed grains, such as white rice or white bread, whole grains retain their outer shell, so the nutrients are not stripped away. Another good plant source of B vitamins is leafy greens -- the darker the better -- such as spinach, kale and romaine lettuce. Getting the majority of B vitamins in your diet from plant sources is recommended.
B vitamins can also be found in a number of animal sources. In particular, liver contains high concentrations of the vitamin B complex. Pork is an excellent source of vitamins B-1, B-2, B-6 and B-12, while poultry, fish and beef are good sources of vitamin B-3. Whole eggs contain both vitamins B-12 and B-7, while vitamins B-2 and B-12 are found in milk and milk products.
Helping With Growth
Vitamins B-6, B-9 and B-12 all help in creating new red blood cells, making them vital to cell development and production. Vitamin B-9, also known as folate, also helps with making DNA, which is why it is important for pregnant women or women who are in their child-bearing years. Poor levels of vitamin B-9 are often linked with birth defects. In turn, vitamins B-5 and B-6 are essential for hormone production, as they provide the basic building blocks necessary for the process.
Energy Source Through Enzymes
Because of their reputation with producing energy usable for your body, members of the vitamin B complex are sometimes thought of as “energy vitamins.” The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that B vitamins work as enzymes that turn fats, proteins and carbohydrates into adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which is used by your body as fuel. Without any B vitamins, your bodily functions and metabolism would grind to a halt, as you would be unable to process food into energy. As a consequence, the more active you are, the more B vitamins you need to keep up with your body’s energy requirements.