All of the B vitamins are important for your body's growth and development. Without the proper amount in your diet, you could have problems with muscle and nerve function, red blood cell development and much more. All B vitamins can be found in animal products, as well as some fortified foods, so vegetarians might not get enough of each vitamin. If you're at risk of a deficiency, pay closer attention to the foods you eat to be sure you're consuming the right amount of all the B vitamins.
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Thiamine, or vitamin B-1, is involved with the metabolism of carbohydrates and the production of energy. Vegetarian sources include whole grains, enriched breads and flours, dried beans, nuts and seeds, peas and eggs.
Vitamin B-2, or riboflavin, works with other B vitamins to produce red blood cells and generate energy by breaking down carbohydrates. You can find riboflavin in green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, eggs and dairy products.
Avocados, eggs, beans, nuts and potatoes all contain vitamin B-3, also known as niacin. Eating enough of these foods will help nerves to function properly.
Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B-5, is necessary for the metabolism of food as well as the production of hormones and cholesterol. It can be found in avocados, broccoli, kale, cabbage, eggs, beans and lentils, mushrooms, whole-grain cereals and milk products.
Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B-6 is involved in blood cell production and brain function. Avocados, bananas, beans, nuts and whole grains are all sources of vitamin B-6.
Found in chocolate, egg yolks, fortified cereals, beans, nuts and milk, biotin is involved in the breakdown of proteins and carbohydrates for energy. And it plays a critical role in the production of cholesterol and hormones.
Folate, also known as vitamin B-9, helps prevent birth defects because of its role in the production and repair of DNA. Vegetarian sources include asparagus, broccoli, beets, beans and lentils, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, oranges and fortified orange juice, peanuts and wheat germ. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and is what is added to fortified foods and juices. The Harvard School of Public Health and the Institute of Medicine recommend against getting too much folic acid from fortified foods and supplements. Instead, focus on natural folate found in foods.
Vitamin B-12 is used in the production of red blood cells and is needed for nerve function. It can be found in eggs and dairy products as well as fortified cereals and soy milk. The main concern is for vegetarians who do not eat eggs and dairy, as they are not able to get enough vitamin B-12 from other sources. Adding other vegetarian options such as nutritional yeast, fortified meat substitutes and supplements may help vegetarians get the recommended amounts.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Vitamins
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Riboflavin
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: B Vitamins
- Harvard School of Public Health: Keep the Multi, Skip the Heavily Fortified Foods
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign McKinely Health Center: Vitamin B12: What Vegans Need to Know