You already know that you need to eat a healthy, balanced diet each and every day in order to get all of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to work properly. But did you know that eight out of the 13 vitamins that your body needs are B vitamins?
B vitamins are water-soluble vitamins, which means that they’re packed into the watery portions of the foods that you eat and are absorbed directly into your bloodstream as food is broken down during digestion (or as a dietary supplement dissolves). These essential vitamins help a variety of enzymes do their jobs and they’re crucial for making sure that your body’s cells are functioning properly. So, let’s take a closer look at the eight different types of vitamin B, as well as what B vitamins have to offer.
The 8 Types of Vitamin B
- Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin)
- Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B-3 (Niacin)
- Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid)
- Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine)
- Vitamin B-7 (Biotin)
- Vitamin B-9 (Folic Acid/Folate)
- Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin)
Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin)
The Role of Thiamin: Thiamin is involved in several basic cell functions and the breakdown of nutrients for energy. The heart, liver, kidney, and brain all contain high amounts of thiamin. The body needs thiamin for breaking down sugar (carbohydrate) molecules from food.
Sources of Thiamin: Found naturally in meats, fish, and whole grains, thiamin is also added to breads, cereals, and baby formulas. Some foods that contain thiamin are pork, fish (trout), mussels, black beans, soy beans, green peas, yogurt, sunflower seeds, and fortified bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, and rice.
Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) of Thiamin For Adults and Children (Ages 4+): The RDIs of thiamin for healthy adults and children four years old and older is 1.2 milligrams.
Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)
The Role of Riboflavin: Riboflavin is a key component of coenzymes involved with the growth of cells, energy production, and the breakdown of fats. Riboflavin is also essential in converting tryptophan into niacin or vitamin B-3.
Sources of Riboflavin: Found mostly in meat and fortified foods, riboflavin is also in some nuts and green vegetables. Some foods that are rich in riboflavin are organ meats (beef liver), dairy milk, fortified breakfast cereals and bread, yogurt, oatmeal, eggs, cheese, mushrooms, lean beef and pork, chicken breast, salmon, spinach, and almonds.
Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) of Riboflavin for Adults and Children (Ages 4+): 1.3 milligrams.
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin)
The Role of Niacin: Niacin works in the body as a coenzyme, with more than 400 enzymes dependent on it for various reactions, which is the highest of all vitamin-derived coenzymes. These enzymes help with changing the energy in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into a form that the body can use.
Sources of Niacin: The two most common forms of niacin in food and dietary supplements are nicotinic acid and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). Animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, and fish are high in NAD, which the body can use easily. Meanwhile, plant-based foods, including nuts, legumes, and grains, contain a natural form of niacin that the body can’t use as easily.
Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) of Niacin for Adults and Children (Ages 4+): 16 milligrams.
Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid)
The Role of Pantothenic Acid: Pantothenic acid is used to make coenzyme A (CoA), a chemical compound that helps enzymes to build and break down fatty acids, as well as perform other metabolic functions. Red blood cells carry pantothenic acid throughout the body so it can use the nutrient in a number of processes for energy and metabolism.
Sources of Pantothenic Acid: Pantothenic acid is found in a wide variety of foods. However, beef liver, shiitake mushrooms, sunflower seeds, chicken, tuna, avocados, and fortified breakfast cereals are some of the foods that contain the highest amounts of pantothenic acid in them. Bacteria in the gut can also produce some pantothenic acid, but not enough to meet dietary needs.
Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) of Pantothenic Acid for Adults and Children (Ages 4+): 5 milligrams.
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine)
The Role of Vitamin B-6: Vitamin B-6, or pyridoxine, plays a role in more than 100 enzyme reactions. Pyridoxine is needed for protein and carbohydrate metabolism, the formation of red blood cells, and certain brain chemicals.
Sources of Vitamin B-6: Found in a variety of animal and plant foods, the richest sources of vitamin B-6 include organ meats, chickpeas, tuna, salmon, poultry, potatoes, and fortified cereals.
Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) of Vitamin B-6 for Adults and Children (Ages 4+): 1.7 milligrams.
Vitamin B-7 (Biotin)
The Role of Biotin: The human body needs biotin for communication among cells in the body, and for breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and protein.
Sources of Biotin: Organ meats, eggs (cooked), salmon, pork, beef, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, and avocados are all great sources of biotin.
Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) of Biotin for Adults and Children (Ages 4+): 30 micrograms.
Vitamin B-9 (Folic Acid/Folate)
The Role of Folate/Folic Acid: The natural form of vitamin B-9 is called folate, while the synthetic form of folate, which is used extensively in dietary supplements and food fortification, is called folic acid.
Sources of Folate/Folic Acid: While a wide variety of foods naturally contain folate, the form that is added to foods and dietary supplements, folic acid, is better absorbed. In fact, manufacturers of standardized enriched grain products are required to add folic acid in order to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects. Natural folate occurs in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, as well as in beans, peanuts, papaya, avocados, beef liver, seafoods, and fresh fruits and fruit juices like orange juice.
Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) of Folate for Adults and Children (Ages 4+): 400 micrograms.
Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin)
The Role of Vitamin B-12: Vitamin B-12 contains the mineral cobalt and is sometimes called a ‘cobalamin.’
Sources of Vitamin B-12: Vitamin B-12 occurs naturally in animal products such as clams, beef liver, salmon, milk, and yogurt. That said, people who do not eat animal products may need to get vitamin B-12 from supplements or fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast.
Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) of Vitamin B-12 for Adults and Children (Ages 4+): 2.4 micrograms.
Health Benefits Of B Vitamins
B vitamins play a vital role in maintaining good health and well-being.