B is for B Vitamins



B | B Vitamins

by Lindsey Herr

B Vitamins are essential to the proper function of the human body. Among other jobs, this group of vitamins is mainly responsible for metabolism of the food we eat. B vitamins are water-soluble. This means that if the body does not use them, excess will be discarded through the urine. B vitamins should be eaten every day. 

Check out the foods below each vitamin to do a self-check - are you eating enough of the B-rich foods? If not, add some more to your diet today! Still unsure if you are getting enough of these vital nutrients? Talk to your doctor or dietitian about supplements*.

Vegetarian/Vegan Tips

For those who do not eat meat or animal products, it can be hard to get enough vitamin B12 through diet alone. This is because B12 is found mostly in animal-based foods. A B12 supplement will ensure you are getting adequate amounts*. 

*Always consult with your healthcare provider before beginning a supplement regimen.

Abbreviations to Know

National Institute of Health

  • RDA - Recommended Dietary Allowance: average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%-98%) healthy people.

  • AI - Adequate Intake: established when evidence is insufficient to develop an RDA and is set at a level assumed to ensure nutritional adequacy.

  • UL - Tolerable Upper Intake Level: maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects.

Vitamin Overview

B1 (thiamine)

  • RDA (No UL): Females: 1.1 mg | Males: 1.2 mg

  • Function

    • Helps with formation of an enzyme cofactor that is needed for proper carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism

    • Important for growth, development, and function of cells

  • Sources: pork, wheat germ, whole/enriched wheat products

B2 (riboflavin)

  • RDA: Females: 0.9 - 1.1 mg | Males: 0.9 - 1.3 mg

  • Function

    • Coenzyme in numerous reactions 

    • Closely related to niacin (B3) in functions related to energy metabolism

  • Sources: milk, cheese, organ meats, green leafy vegetables

B3 (niacin)

  • RDA (Yes UL): Females: 14 mg | Pregnancy: 18 mg | Lactation: 17 mg | Males: 16 mg

  • Function

    • Involved in metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and fatty acids

    • Plays a role in production of glycogen (how carbohydrates are stored in our muscles) and production and breakdown of fatty acids

  • Sources: lean meats, poultry, peanuts, organ meats, fish, brewer’s yeast

B5 (pantothenic acid)

  • AI (No UL): Females: 5mg | Males 5mg

  • Function

    • Required for making fatty acids for the body to use

    • Plays a role in the production of cholesterol and hormones

  • Sources: animal proteins, avocado, broccoli, kale, and other vegetables in the cabbage family, eggs, legumes and lentils, milk, mushrooms, poultry, white and sweet potatoes

B6 (pyridoxine)

  • RDA: Females: 1.3 mg | Pregnant: 1.9 mg | Lactation: 2.0 mg | Males: 1.3 mg

  • Function

    • Its active form functions as a coenzyme in almost all aspects of amino acid (the building blocks of protein) metabolism

    • Plays a role in hemoglobin synthesis

    • Need varies in direct proportion with the amount of protein in the diet

  • Deficiency is rare but may occur with taking some medications

  • Sources: yeast, wheat germ, pork, legumes, potatoes, bananas, whole grain cereals

B7 (biotin)

  • AI (no UL): Females: 30 mcg | Males: 30 mcg

  • Function

    • Coenzyme in the production of fat, glycogen (storage of carbohydrates), and some amino acids (building blocks of protein)

  • Sources: milk, egg yolk, yeast, mushrooms, bananas, strawberries, grapefruit, watermelon

B12 (cobalamin)

  • RDA (no UL): Females: 2.4 mcg | Males: 2.4 mcg

  • Function

    • Coenzyme in DNA metabolism and is necessary for proper growth and division of cells

    • Needed for normal red blood cell formation; deficiency causes pernicious anemia

  • Deficiency occurs most commonly in older adult and is possible in those following a vegetarian/vegan diet as B12 is found mostly in animal-based products 

  • Sources: meat, eggs, cheese, fish

Folate (folic acid)

  • RDA Females: 400 mcg | Males: 400 mcg

  • Function

    • Necessary for the formation and maturation of both red and white blood cells

    • Essential role in normal cell division, making it critical in development of an embryo

    • Supplementation before conception can reduce the risk of serious birth defects like spina bifida

  • Sources: liver, green leafy vegetables, legumes, asparagus, broccoli, whole grain cereals, nuts

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