The group of B vitamins includes eight individual essential vitamins. They're important for providing your body with the energy it needs for metabolic processes involved in your skin, brain, muscles and bones. Since the B vitamins are water soluble, it's important to eat foods containing sufficient amounts to maintain the proper recommended daily intake and prevent a vitamin B deficiency.
How Much Do You Need?
Each of the vitamins in the B-vitamin family shares some chemical characteristics and often coexists with other B vitamins. Every individual one has a different role in contributing to vitamin B benefits and each is required in different amounts by your body.
The Institute of Medicine has established how much vitamin B foods you should consume each day. The recommended daily amount depends on the type of B vitamin and your age and gender. As an average, adults should strive for:
- Vitamin B1(thiamine): 1.1 milligrams for women; 1.2 milligrams for men
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 1.1 milligrams for women; 1.3 milligrams for men
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 14 milligrams for women; 16 milligrams for men
- Pantothenic acid: 5 milligrams
- Vitamin B6: 1.3 to 1.7 milligrams, depending on age and gender
- Folic acid: 400 micrograms
- Vitamin B12: 2.4 micrograms
- Biotin: 30 micrograms
Vitamin B Foods
Most foods contain B vitamins in varying amounts. With the exception of B12, you can easily consume many vitamin B fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and grains by eating a balanced diet. Vitamin B12 is found only in animal-based foods, but some foods are fortified with B vitamins to help you achieve your recommended intake.
Meat, poultry, fish, seafood and dairy products, including eggs and cheese, and are B vitamin foods that naturally contain all eight of the B vitamins.
Below is information about all the B vitamin foods, including their role in keeping you healthy and how much is found in the top food sources.
Thiamine is needed for production of the energy your body requires for the growth, development, and cell function. Thiamine deficiency can cause anorexia, mental impairments, and muscle weakness, and may ultimately lead to a degeneration of your cardiovascular system.
There are plenty of foods that contain thiamine and the ones that top the list, sorted by serving size, include:
Pork chops (lean) –
96 percent daily value (DV) per 6-ounce chop
Salmon – 48 percent DV per 6-ounce filet
Flaxseed – 39 percent DV per ounce
Navy beans – 36 percent DV per cup
Green peas (cooked)
– 35 percent DV per cup
Riboflavin is required for your body to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats. It's important to the health of your skin, eyes, blood cells and digestive tract. A riboflavin deficiency can lead to cracked and reddened lips, inflammation of the mouth, mouth ulcers, sore throat and even iron-deficiency anemia.
Beef (skirt steak) – 112 percent DV per 6-ounce steak
Fortified tofu – 76 percent DV per cup
Low fat milk – 69 percent DV per 16-ounce glass
Salmon – 64 percent DV per 6-ounce fillet
– 38 percent DV per cup
Your body uses niacin for many functions, including maintaining your brain and heart. Niacin is used to treat high cholesterol, skin conditions and mood disorders. A severe deficiency of niacin can result in pellagra, with symptoms of rough skin, bright red tongue, behavior abnormalities, gastrointestinal disorders and depression.
Many breads, cereals and infant formulas are enriched with niacin. Many foods are natural sources of niacin and ones that offer the most per serving size are:
Tuna (yellowfin) – 234 percent DV per 6-ounce fillet
Chicken breast – 100 percent DV per 6-ounce breast
Pork chops (lean) – 85 percent DV in a 6-ounce chop
Beef (skirt steak) – 60 percent DV per 6-ounce serving
47 percent DV per cup, sliced
Pantothenic Acid-Rich Foods
Pantothenic acid helps your body synthesize hormones in the adrenal glands, which may make it easier for you to cope with stressful situations. That's why it's known as the "anti-stress" vitamin. Although rare, a deficiency of pantothenic acid can cause of irritability, fatigue, apathy, numbness and muscle cramps. In some cases, it can lead to increased sensitivity to insulin or hypoglycemia.
Almost all plant- and animal-based foods contain various amounts of pantothenic acid. Some breakfast cereals and beverages, such as energy drinks, are enriched with pantothenic acid. Your body can absorb only 40 to 61 percent of pantothenic acid from foods.
Shiitake mushrooms (cooked)
– 104 percent DV per cup
Salmon – 65 percent DV in a 6-ounce filet
Avocados – 56 percent DV per avocado
Chicken breast – 54 percent DV in a 6-ounce breast
Beef (skirt steak) – 45 percent DV per 6-ounce steak
Vitamin B6-Rich Foods
- Salmon – 94 percent DV per 6-ounce cooked fillet
- Chicken breast – 92 percent DV
- Fortified tofu – 66 percent DV per cup
- Pork chops (lean) – 54 percent DV per 6-ounce chop
- Beef (skirt steak) – 48 percent DV per 6-ounce steak
Other good sources of vitamin B6 that occur naturally in foods are vegetables, especially sweet potatoes; fruit, especially bananas and avocados; and nuts, such as pistachios.
Folate is best known for its prevention of neural tube defects in infants, so it's important for pregnant women to get 600 micrograms a day. Your body needs folate to produce genetic material, such as DNA, and to help cells divide. A deficiency of folate can cause low birth weight in babies. It can also cause sores on the tongue and inside your mouth and change the color of your skin, hair or fingernails.
Food and Drug Administration requires the addition of folic acid to enrich breads, cereals, flours, cornmeal, pastas, rice and other grain products to help meet minimum requirements for folate.
The best sources of folate are from vitamin B vegetables. Some of the foods highest in folate, sorted by serving size, include:
Edamame (green soybeans) –
121 percent per cup
67 percent DV per cup
66 percent DV per cup
42 percent DV per cup
41 percent DV per avocado
Vitamin B12-Rich Foods
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is vital for making red blood cells, synthesizing DNA and maintaining proper neurological functioning. A deficiency of vitamin B12 can result in anemia, fatigue and depression. A long-term deficiency, or excessive amounts of folic acid with vitamin B12, can lead to permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system.
Vitamin B12 is not present in plant foods, but nutritional yeast products do contain it. Fortified breakfast cereals are the best source of vitamin B12 if you don't eat meat.
Some of the top foods sources containing the highest amounts of vitamin B12, sorted by serving size. are:
7,829 percent DV per 3-ounce serving
3,035 percent DV per 3-ounce serving
Fish (mackerel) –
1,346 percent DV per 6-ounce fillet
Crab (King) –
642 percent DV in one crab leg
Beef (skirt steak) –
533 percent DV per 6-ounce steak
Other foods rich in vitamin B12 include fortified cereals, fortified tofu, low-fat milk, Swiss cheese, dairy products and eggs.
Biotin helps your body convert carbohydrates, fats and protein into energy. It is also important for the health of your skin, hair and nails. A biotin deficiency may result in thinning hair, skin rashes and infections, brittle nails, neurological abnormalities and a condition that causes unusual distribution of facial fat, known as "biotin deficiency facies."
Raw egg whites contain dietary avidin, a glycoprotein that binds tightly to biotin and prevents the absorption of biotin in your intestines. Cooking neutralizes avidin, so cooking your eggs is the best option.
103 percent per serving
67 percent DV per two-egg serving
34 percent DV per 6-ounce serving
Pork chop –
26 percent DV per 6-ounce chop
17 percent DV per 1/4 cup
Does Heating Affect B Vitamins?
Because B vitamins dissolve in water, a significant amount of the nutrient is lost by boiling the food. The National Institutes of Health says about twice as much riboflavin content is lost in cooking water when foods are boiled as when they are prepared by steaming or microwaving.
- National Institutes of Health: Thiamin
- National Institutes of Health: Riboflavin
- National Institutes of Health: Niacin
- National Institutes of Health: Pantothenic Acid
- National Institutes of Health: Vitamin B6
- National Institutes of Health: Folic Acid
- National Institutes of Health: Vitamin B12
- National Institutes of Health: Biotin
- USDA Food Composition Databases: Nutrient List
- MyFoodData: Top 10 Foods Highest in Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
- MyFoodData: Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- MyFoodData: Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- MyFoodData: Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
- MyFoodData: Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin B6
- MyFoodData: Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin B9 (Folate)
- MyFoodData: Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
- BeyondVegetarianism: Effects of Cooking on Vitamins
- Mercola: Pantothenic Acid: A Crucial Vitamin for Optimal Health
- USDA Food Composition Database: Oranges, Raw, Florida