You’ve probably heard and read about B vitamins, and you know they’re important for your health and wellness. In fact, you might be feeling pretty low and lethargic and not realize that it could be because of a Vitamin B deficiency. Here’s what you need to know about these essential nutrients, and how to include them in a balanced diet.
What are B Vitamins?
B Vitamins are water-soluble, and there are eight distinct B Vitamins in total. They are known by both a number and a name, so here’s a quick breakdown for you:
- Vitamin B1: Thiamine
- Vitamin B2: Riboflavin
- Vitamin B3: Niacin
- Vitamin B5: Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin B6: Pyridoxine
- Vitamin B7: Biotin
- Vitamin B9: Folate, or Folic acid
- Vitamin B12: Cobalamins
Up until now, you might have thought that since there’s a “B12” vitamin, there must be 12 B vitamins, but as you can see, there are just eight. Usually, when you consume a food rich in one B vitamin, you’re probably consuming many of the other B vitamins, too.
What Do B Vitamins Do in the Body?
It’s impossible to cover everything these power-packed vitamins do for the body. But one thing we can say is that B Vitamins are very important for the body’s metabolic processes.
Therefore, Vitamin B1 helps your body derive energy from carbohydrates, and it also supports the body in making new cells.
Vitamin B2 helps you obtain energy from fatty acids, and other molecules. It also helps in the production of red blood cells and fights against free radicals. Vitamin B3 helps your body get energy from sugar and fats. Vitamin B12 is necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins on a cellular level.
In short, B vitamins allow your body to metabolize carbohydrates, proteins and fats so that you can obtain energy from them.
This is a very basic way to sum up these essential vitamins, but it’s a good starting point when it comes to understanding why they’re so important in your daily diet.
How to Know If You Have a Vitamin B1 Deficiency
This B vitamin helps your body utilize the nutrients inside the proteins and carbohydrates you consume. It also helps to keep your energy levels up, as well as supporting your digestive, cardiovascular and endocrine systems.
If you’re deficient in these vitamins, you won’t feel very well. Let’s look at three common B vitamins and what life is like without them.
Vitamin B1 Deficiency Symptoms
If you’re running low on Vitamin B1 (or, Thiamine), you can experience any of the following symptoms:
- Weight loss and / or anorexia
- Chronic fatigue
- Muscle weakness
- Heart issues, including heart enlargement
- Nerve damage and inflammation
- Digestive issues, including diarrhea and colitis
Where to Find Vitamin B1- Rich Foods
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms, consider eating more of the following foods, where Thiamine is usually found:
- Whole grains or whole grain products fortified with Vitamin B1
- Peas, tomatoes and spinach contain low levels of Vitamin B1, too
How to Know if You Have a Vitamin B6 Deficiency
Having enough Vitamin B6 is crucial to your physical and psychological health, and that includes things like metabolism, brain and nerve function, energy levels and the health of your skin and eyes, too.
It’s unusual for people consuming the typical Western diet to become deficient in Vitamin B6 (or, pyridoxine), but depending on your own personal dietary choices, it is possible.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, there’s a chance that it’s because you don’t have enough Vitamin B6 in your diet:
- Psychological issues, including depression, anxiety, feeling irritable or experiencing confusion
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Low energy levels
- Difficult PMS symptoms
- Increase in anemic symptoms
Where to Find Vitamin B6-rich Foods
Vitamin B6 can be found in many delicious foods, including all the following:
- Pinto Beans
- Sesame and sunflower seeds
- Pistachio nuts
- Chicken and turkey breast
- Organ meats
- Fish, including tuna
How to Know if You Have a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a world-wide problem and a big problem for North, Central and South America.
This is very worrisome since Vitamin B12 (or, Cobalamin) is involved in supporting healthy brain and cardiovascular functions, digestive and nervous systems and so much more.
The chances of you having a Vitamin B12 deficiency are pretty high. Do you suffer with any of the following symptoms? If so, you might consider increasing the Vitamin B12 in your diet.
- Chronic fatigue and feeling burnt out
- Weakness and aching muscles
- Memory and concentration problems
- Compromised cognitive functions
- Increased chance of heart disease
Where to Find Vitamin B12-rich Foods
As you can see, having a Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to serious health problems. Therefore, it’s important to keep your diet rich in Vitamin B12 sources. A good rule of thumb is to consume animal foods.
If you’re a vegan, it’s recommended that you consume Vitamin B12 fortified foods and / or a reliable supplement to prevent a Vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Dairy products, like yogurt, cheese raw milk
- Grass-fed meats, such as beef, lamb and organ meats
- Poultry meats, including turkey and chicken
- Fish, including tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, shellfish, clams, trout and herring
- Fortified plant sources, including yeast, grain products
- Sea vegetables, such as algae
Can You Consume Too Many B Vitamins
If you’re eating a balanced diet, it’s unlikely that you’ll consume too many B Vitamins. As we’ve learned, it’s more likely for people to not get enough Vitamin B in their diets.
That being said, if you do consume too many B vitamins in your diet, your body will usually eliminate any excess amounts to prevent toxic levels. This is possible since they are all water-soluble.
Now, if you rely on supplements, you can overdo it and over time, this can lead to serious nerve damage or even kidney damage. Supplemental Vitamin B can also lead to skin problems, as well as other physiological issues.
So, always be sure to check with your primary care physician before you begin taking any vitamins and allow them to monitor your vitamin levels to ensure you’re getting the optimal amount.
How Much Vitamin B Should You Consume Every Day?
The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends the following amounts of each of the eight B vitamins for women, ages 19 and above:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): 1.1 mg per day
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 1.1 mg per day
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 14 mg per day
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid): 5 mg per day
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): 1.3 mg per day
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin): 30 mcg per day
- Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid): 400 mcg per day
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): 2.4 mcg per day
B Vitamins should be part of your healthy and balanced diet. That way, you can support your body’s many processes and systems, and you’ll have enough energy to thrive.