The B vitamins that make up a vitamin B complex play important roles in the proper functioning of our bodies. These essential nutrients are important for normal energy production, for converting food into fuel and keeping stress levels in check by supporting a healthy nervous system.
See also B Educated.
While these vitamins work together, they each have specific benefits like supporting cell development and promoting healthy skin and hair. Read on to learn more about B vitamins you should be getting through diet or supplementation.
B1 or thiamine is necessary for healthy cell function. Per the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of thiamine for adult men is 1.2 milligrams and for adult women is 1.1 milligrams.
Certain medical conditions such as diabetes can put you at risk for developing thiamine deficiency, making it necessary to supplement.
The B-Group Vitamins and their roles
B2 or riboflavin is also essential for normal cell function and growth. The RDA of B2 for adult men is 1.3 milligrams and for adult women is 1.1 milligrams.
Foods high in B2 include beef liver, fortified breakfast cereals and oats.
Vegans may have an increased risk for riboflavin deficiency and may wish to supplement.
Some studies, including this one published in the journal Neurology, have found riboflavin to be successful at reducing the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers.
B3 or niacin is essential for nervous system functioning and also supports healthy digestion.
The RDA of niacin for adult men is 16 mg/day and for adult women is 14 mg/day. Niacin-rich foods include milk, eggs, rice and fish.
Some doctors recommend niacin to help control high cholesterol in patients who can’t tolerate prescription medications used to treat this condition.
B9 or folate is important for cell development. If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, this nutrient is essential for your baby’s development.
The RDA for both women and men is the same – 400 mcg per day. Pregnant women need slightly more. Folate-containing foods include spinach, black-eyed peas and asparagus.
A review article written by researchers in the UK found evidence that study subjects on antidepressants who added a folate supplement had fewer symptoms of depression than subjects who took only antidepressants.
B12 or cobalamin supports healthy blood cells and helps the body make DNA.
Most men and women get the recommended 2.4 micrograms per day from foods such as beef, fish, poultry and eggs.
Vegans may need to include a B12 supplement to avoid a deficiency. Older adults may have a more difficult time absorbing B12 from food sources and may also consider supplementing.
Other essential B vitamins include B5 (panthothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine) and B7 (biotin).
To ensure you’re getting enough of these essential B vitamins, consider taking a B-complex vitamin.
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Karen Morse, MPH, is a freelance health and nutrition writer. In her free time, she enjoys Pilates, exploring nearby hiking trails and cooking up fresh, seasonal eats in the kitchen. Her work has appeared in Clean Eating, Weight Watchers, YouBeauty.com and others.