B Vitamins 101

B Vitamins are water soluble and essential for many functions within the body. It is vital that we have a sufficient quantity of each of them. These vitamins are needed for many internal body functions, including the nervous system, immune system, healthy blood cells, and cell division.

Furthermore, B vitamins help to steadily release energy from the food we eat so we do not have to rely on sugary and unhealthy snacks between meals.

B Vitamins can be easily destroyed through alcohol, cooking, and certain food processing techniques. It is partially for this reason that white flour products are less nutritious than whole grain products.

The Different Types of B Vitamins

B vitamins are a group of vitamins that consists of eight different types of vitamins. The most commonly known varieties include folic acid, B12, and thiamine. While they all have slightly different functions, there are physical illnesses that are linked to a deficiency of such vitamins. Some of the key vitamins are discussed below.

Folic Acid

Folic acid is supplement that turns into folate once inside the body. Folate is essential for DNA repair and cell growth. This is particularly important at life stages, such as infancy and pregnancy. It is important for women of childbearing age to ensure they take sufficient folic acid supplements, as there are numerous benefits for both mama and the unborn child.

It is important for pregnant women to not only consume foods high in folic acid but to take folic acid supplements. While the body has some in reserve, if there is a lack of intake over a period of time, a deficiency will likely occur. A deficiency can lead to depression, confusion, anemia, and ultimately, during pregnancy, fetal defects. Folic acid also appears to have benefits in reducing the likelihood and seriousness of other health conditions, including strokes and infertility.

As the name implies, foliage foods are high in folate, so green leafy vegetables, such as turnip greens and spinach, are good sources, along with various fresh fruits.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is important for essential brain and nervous system functioning. A lack of B12 in the body can have serious consequences on both the brain and nervous system. At even minor levels of deficiency, symptoms such as memory loss, fatigue, and depression can occur.

Vitamin B12 can be obtained through animal-based products (such as eggs, milk, and shellfish) or plant-based food sources (such as nutritional yeast fortified with it, Blackstrap molasses, tempeh, and miso). Vitamin B12 is also available as a supplement at many health food stores. For severe deficiencies, it can be administered as an injection.


Niacin is also known as Vitamin B3 and is important for many reactions within the body, including cell synthesis. Niacin has been shown to be beneficial to the cardiovascular system and its associated health conditions.

It is relatively easy to get enough niacin, as it is present in foods such as mushrooms, green peas, lentils, sunflower seeds, and avocados.


Riboflavin, also known as B2, is essential to create and maintain the body’s basic building blocks. It is needed for growth; tissue respiration; and maintaining the integrity of mucous membranes, skin, eyes, and the nervous system. A deficiency can lead to sore throat, birth defects, anemia, and oily skin.

Food sources include: green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, and almonds.

Pantothenic Acid

More commonly known as Vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is vital for metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and alcohol. Additionally, it produces red blood cells and hormones, such as steroids. Vitamin B5 is widely available in many different forms. Deficiency is exceptionally unusual but is characterized by fatigue, vomiting, and constipation.

Several foods that include pantothenic acid are: sunflower seeds, avocados, sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, and mushrooms.


The body uses thiamin (Vitamin B1) for many bodily functions, which include regulating appetite, assisting with electrolyte flow, improving the cardiovascular functioning of the body, and supporting metabolism. Vitamin B1 deficiency can be caused by a number of diseases and factors, like malnutrition, and can lead to metabolic coma and death.

Food sources include: dark green leafy vegetables, green peas, lentils, almonds, oats, oranges, and seeds.

Symptoms of B Vitamin Deficiency

The symptoms of any of B vitamin deficiency are very similar to a large number of other health conditions, so it is important to not self-diagnose any particular vitamin deficiency. It is always a good idea to speak to your health professional if you think you have a vitamin deficiency or before making any substantial changes to your diet.

It is likely that by eating a balanced diet, which includes a wide color of fruits and vegetables, on a daily basis, you will find you are already consuming an adequate amount of B vitamins and should not experience deficiencies.

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