Vitamin B, often referred to as the B-complex, is the biggest and most varied family of vitamins. It also comes off sometimes as—dare we say it?—a little dull. It has an unheralded-workhorse reputation attached to it, without the research sizzle that surrounds nutrients such as, say, vitamin D.
But just because vitamin B isn’t constantly under the media spotlight doesn’t make it insignificant. In fact, life as we know it would come to a screeching halt without this big family of interrelated compounds that play roles in everything from energy production to brain health.
The most notable sign of overall B depletion is fatigue. But low levels of specific Bs can produce all sorts of symptoms, including mood problems.
|Name||Good Sources||What It Does|
|Biotin (B7)||Almonds, carrots, eggs, oats, onions, peanuts, salmon, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, walnuts||Promotes the activity of enzymes, substances that help speed up biochemical reactions; plays a role in maintaining healthy blood sugar balance; often taken to strengthen nails and hair|
|Choline*||Beef, chicken, cod, collard greens, eggs, salmon, scallops, shrimp, tuna, turkey||Needed for healthy cell membranes; linked to better memory and focus; has been identified as a nutrient many Americans have suboptimal levels of|
|Cobalamin (B12)||Beef, cod, cow’s milk, lamb, salmon, sardines, scallops, shrimp, tuna, yogurt||Works with folic acid and pyridoxine to reduce levels of a harmful substance called homocystine; crucial for brain health; age can lower absorption; vegan diets often provide inadequate amounts|
|Folic Acid (B9)||Asparagus, beans (dried), broccoli, lentils, spinach, turnip greens||Long recommended during pregnancy to reduce birth defect risk; supports red blood cell creation and cardiovascular health; smoking and excessive alcohol intake linked to low levels|
|Inositol*||Beans (dried), blackberries, bran flakes, cherries (dark), kiwis, limes, oranges, prunes, rutabagas, stone-ground wheat||Deficiencies have been linked to depression; plays a role in glucose metabolism; may help women with polycystic ovary syndrome|
|Niacin (B3)||Beef, brown rice, chicken, lamb, peanuts, salmon, sardines, shrimp, tuna, turkey||Promotes energy production by converting carbs, fats and proteins into usable forms; can reduce cholesterol when used in practitioner-supervised dosages|
|PABA*||Brewer’s yeast, molasses, organ meats, wheat germ; smaller amounts in bran, mushrooms, spinach||Aids in red blood cell formation; helps the body utilize amino acids; crucial for healthy skin and hair pigmentation; supports intestinal health|
|Pantothenic Acid (B5)||Avocados, broccoli, chicken, lentils, mushrooms (crimini and shiitake), peas (dried), sweet potatoes, turkey, yogurt||Required to create coenzyme A, which is essential for energy production; plays a vital role in the body’s usage of fats|
|Pyridoxine (B6)||Bananas, beef, chicken, potatoes, salmon, spinach, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, tuna, turkey||Supports brain and liver health; needed for red blood cell production; promotes proper carb metabolism; deficiency has been linked to cognitive difficulties|
|Riboflavin (B2 )||Almonds, asparagus, beet greens, soybeans, spinach, turkey, yogurt||Acts as an antioxidant by fighting cell-damaging molecules called free radicals; required for proper iron metabolism; promotes energy production|
|Thiamine (B1)||Barley, beans and peas (dried), lentils, lima beans, oats, sunflower seeds||Supports nervous system health; plays a role in energy generation; levels tend to be low in people with diabetes; can be destroyed by food processing; excessive alcohol intake linked to deficiency|
*A vitamin-like compound related to the B-complex.
NOTE: Always consult with your healthcare practitioner for help in designing a
supplementation program, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.