To all the vegans and vegetarians out there, be aware that the best food source of B vitamins is meat, so it’s very important for non-carnivores to supplement with them.
B vitamins are important for a wide range of functions within the body, including heart health, metabolism and cognitive function. B vitamins are often called “energy vitamins” as they help release energy from the food we eat and are also known as anti-stress vitamins, because they boost the body's immune system in times of stress.
The B vitamins include:
- Thiamin (vitamin B1)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- Pyridoxine (vitamin B6)
- Biotin (vitamin B7)
- Folate and folic acid (vitamin B9)
- Vitamin B12
What do the B vitamins do?
Vitamin B1, also known as thiamin, is responsible for keeping the nervous system healthy as well as playing a key role in muscle and heart function.
Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, helps keep the skin, eyes and nervous system healthy.
Vitamin B3, or niacin, helps keep the skin and nervous system healthy.
Vitamin B5, pantothenic acid, helps the body to make red blood cells, it is involved in synthesising cholesterol, producing sex and stress hormones, helping the body to utilise other vitamins, particularly vitamin B2 and maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, helps the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food, and also helps form haemoglobin in red blood cells.
Vitamin B7, otherwise known as biotin is often touted for its ability to strengthen hair and nails as well as for supporting the health of your skin. However it is also essential for liver metabolism and for the appropriate function of the nervous system.
Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, it a key ingredient in the making of nucleic acid that forms part of all DNA, it carries out the crucial function of creating more blood cells and is vital to preserving the brain health of infants in the womb.
Vitamin B12, helps keep the body's nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA. It also helps prevent a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak. The metabolism of every cell in the body depends on vitamin B12, as it plays a part in the synthesis of fatty acids and energy production.
Vegan food sources
Thiamin (vitamin B1) can be found in peas, whole-grain and enriched-grain products including bread, rice, pasta, tortillas and fortified cereals.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) can be found in enriched grains, almonds and leafy green vegetables.
Niacin (vitamin B3) can be found in high-protein foods such as peanut butter as well as enriched and fortified grain products.
Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5) can be found in sweet potatos, avocados, corn, and beans.
Pyroxidine (vitamin B6) can be found in bread, wholegrain cereals, such as oatmeal, wheatgerm and brown rice, vegetables soya beans, peanuts, potatoes and some fortified breakfast cereals.
Biotin (vitamin B7) can be found in peanuts, sweet potatos and almonds.
Folate (vitamin B9) can be found in leafy green vegetables, like spinach, broccoli, and lettuce. Beans, peas, and lentils. Fruits like lemons, bananas, and melons. Fortified and enriched products, like some breads, juices, and cereals.
The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals.
If you are struggling to eat a diet rich in the foods listed above, a vitamin B complex provides a easy way to bridge the nutritional gap and keep your health in top top shape.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.