You’ve probably heard about the many benefits of B vitamins by now, but did you know that there are actually eight different B vitamins that your body needs to thrive?
All eight of these vitamins are lumped together into the same vitamin family because they work together and compliment each other to keep the body working properly. However, each of these vitamins are unique and have their own very specific roles.
Here is a description of each of the B vitamins and what they do in the body. We’ll also highlight some healthy foods that contain each one so that you can get all the nutrients your body needs.
Vitamin B1 – Thiamin
Vitamin B1 is known as thiamin and supports the nervous system. It also uses the food you eat to produce cellular energy and helps the body create new cells. Good sources of vitamin B1 are lentils, pork, and whole grains.
Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin
Riboflavin is vitamin B2, and this is a key vitamin for cellular energy production. It also helps produce red blood cells and fight free radicals. Milks, eggs, broccoli, spinach, and fish contain riboflavin.
Vitamin B3 – Niacin
The name of vitamin B3 is niacin, and this is another one that supports the production of cellular energy. It is also linked to good cardiovascular health and converting foods you eat into energy. Fish, poultry, beef, whole wheat, and lentils are all good sources of niacin.
Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid
This B vitamin also plays a role in cellular energy production and is available in both plant and animal sources. Pantothenic acid also helps produce hormones and breaks down carbs and fats to make energy. Meat sources include liver meats, like kidney and liver. Meanwhile, avocados, soybeans, broccoli, brown rice, and cashews are plant-based sources of it.
Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine
A lesser familiar B vitamin is pyridoxine, and this one helps metabolize glycogen and amino acids in the body. It also aids the formation of red blood cells and healthy functioning of the nervous system. You can get vitamin B6 from bananas, fish, poultry, eggs, and spinach.
Vitamin B7 – Biotin
Biotin is the B vitamin most closely associated with healthy hair, skin, and nails. It also helps metabolize proteins, carbs, and fats in the body. This vitamin is contained in strawberries, soybeans, organ meat, mushrooms, nuts, and cheese.
Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid
Folic acid is commonly recommended to pregnant women because it plays an important role in the development of unborn babies. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should get adequate supplies of vitamin B9 to reduce the risk of birth defects. Dark green leafy vegetables, beets, and dates are all great sources of this vitamin.
Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin
Vitamin B12 deficiencies often come up in conversations about vegan and vegetarian diets because it is mostly contained in animal products. Also known as cobalamin, this vitamin is important for the nervous system, red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis, and cellular energy. Chicken, fish, beef, and eggs are animal sources of vitamin B12. Non-meat-eaters can obtain vitamin B12 from fortified foods and supplementation.
Although it is very possible to get the B vitamins your body needs from healthy foods, some people take B-complex vitamins that contain all eight vitamins in one tiny capsule. Alternatively, if you are deficient in just one B vitamin, you can take a singular supplement for just that one. People who don’t eat a varied diet, who are over the age of 50, or who are vegetarian or vegan may benefit from B vitamin supplements. Physicians may also recommend B vitamins to individuals who have stomach or intestinal disorders, who have had weight loss surgery, and to pregnant and breastfeeding women.