B Vitamins 101: Everything You Need to Know About These Powerful Nutrients

By MegaFood

You’re most likely familiar with vitamin B12 and biotin. But B vitamins do more than just support cellular energy production and promote healthy skin, hair, and nails.* So what exactly are B vitamins? We will dive into everything you need to know about B vitamins and whether or not you need them in your daily supplement routine.

There are eight B vitamins—thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, B6, biotin, and B12—and each plays an important individual and collaborative role in well-being. B vitamins are water-soluble, which means they are carried in tissues, but not stored in the body, and must be taken in on a daily basis. These vital nutrients help convert food into energy and are key players in the formation and health of red blood cells. B vitamins are also essential for proper nervous system function. During periods of stress, B vitamins can be depleted. That’s more relevant than ever as almost half of Americans (48 percent) indicated that their stress has increased over the past five years, according to a new national survey by the American Psychological Association

The best way to ensure you’re getting the recommended amount of B vitamins to support a healthy stress response and your immune system? A combination of a balanced, wholesome diet and supplementation. Food sources of B vitamins include animal products (fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products), leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. However, oftentimes diet isn’t enough to get your daily dose of B vitamins. A deficiency of B vitamins can lead to fatigue, feelings of stress, brain fog, and muscle aches and weakness. That’s why it’s a good idea to add a vitamin B complex, the term for a supplement with all eight B vitamins, to your daily lineup to fill in any nutritional gaps and promote overall health.*

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
  • Vitamin B1 is crucial for converting carbohydrates into energy to fuel your body and glucose metabolism. It also helps support nerve, muscle, and cardiovascular function.* Lean pork, salmon, tuna, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, navy beans, and green peas are among the best natural sources of thiamin. 

  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Riboflavin promotes cellular energy production, a healthy immune system, red blood cells production, and metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein.* While gut bacteria can produce some riboflavin, it’s not enough to meet the recommended daily value. Vitamin B2 is naturally present in beef, salmon, dairy products, tofu, almonds, and spinach. 

  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • A multipurpose powerhouse that’s critical for overall health, niacin helps turn food into energy, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, create and repair DNA, and support cognitive function.* Niacin-rich foods include tuna, chicken breast, ground turkey, lean pork, beef, and mushrooms.

  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
  • Vitamin B5 is necessary to metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Besides its vital role in metabolic enzyme reactions, pantothenic acid supports adrenal function.* Mushrooms, avocado, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, salmon, chicken breast, beef, and milk contain high levels of vitamin B5. 

  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, performs a variety of functions within the body including supporting the immune system and promoting brain health.* Research suggests that adequate levels of vitamin B6 are associated with a reduced instance of morning sickness in pregnant women. Keen to add more vitamin B6 to your diet? Load up on tuna, salmon, ground turkey, tofu, sweet potatoes, bananas, and pistachios.

  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
  • If you’ve ever Googled “healthy skin, hair, and nails,” chances are biotin frequently came up in the search results. That’s because biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is essential for supporting  glowing skin, lustrous locks, and strong nails.* It also assists in the nervous system and metabolism regulation. Biotin is found in foods like eggs, salmon, beef liver, yeast, walnuts, and peanuts. 

  • Vitamin B9 (Folate)
  • Folate supports fetal health in pregnant women. Even if you aren’t expecting, vitamin B9 is an important nutrient as it aids in the formation, growth, and function of red blood cells.* You can get it from food sources, such as soybeans, lentils, asparagus, spinach, and broccoli. 

  • Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
  • Vitamin B12 is crucial for forming red blood cells. It’s also important to support healthy brain and nervous system function.* Because vitamin B12 comes from animal sources like clams, oysters, mussels, mackerel, tuna, and herring, people following a vegan diet often aren’t consuming enough. Getting enough vitamin B12 isn’t just a concern primarily for plant-based eaters. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that vitamin B12 deficiency impacts 6% of adults under the age of 60 and 20% over the age of 60—so supplementation is especially important. Of course!