Need More B Vitamins in Your Diet? Try These Foods

By Cara Henderson, MS, RDN

March 18, 2022

Vitamin B Foods

Are you getting enough B vitamins in your diet? These vitamins (also known as B-complex vitamins) represent a critical part of your diet because they enable your body to make energy from your food. A B vitamin deficiency can cause health problems, but luckily you can find them in a wide variety of foods.

What are B vitamins?

The eight B vitamins fill diverse roles in the body. While you may be familiar with some of these, others might surprise you. For instance, thanks to the beauty industry, many people know that biotin is good for healthy skin, nails, and hair. But did you know it’s also vitamin B7?

Folate is considered a B vitamin too, and it’s vital for brain function and the formation of DNA. That’s why folate is crucial during rapid growth, such as pregnancy and infancy.

Here is the complete list of B vitamins:

  • B1 (thiamin)
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B3 (niacin)
  • B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • B6 (pyridoxine)
  • B7 (biotin)
  • B9 (folate)
  • B12 (cobalamin)

All the B vitamins help your body process the food you eat into energy and are necessary for proper nervous system function. Vitamins B6 and B12 also help in the formation of red blood cells. Your body cannot make B vitamins, so you must get them in your diet.

Why you need them

A deficiency in B vitamins can result in a host of health problems. This class of nutrients is so critical that staple foods such as cereal and flour have been fortified with niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and folate for decades to prevent deficiencies.

A few health issues that can result from B vitamin deficiencies include birth defects, anemia, fatigue, depression, and weight loss. Thankfully, deficiencies in this vitamin are rare due to the fortification of foods and the variety of food sources containing B vitamins. If you’re on a restricted diet or have particular health concerns, you may need to focus more on getting B-rich foods in your diet.

Good sources of B vitamins

As mentioned above, all enriched grain products have the B vitamins niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and folate added. This means that most people don’t need to worry about not eating enough of those four vitamins.

However, with specialized diets becoming more common due to health conditions, food allergies, or personal preferences, more people steer clear of grains and other fortified foods.

In addition to enriched foods, the following are other good sources of B vitamins:

  • B1 (thiamin): pork, fish, and green peas
  • B2 (riboflavin): Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • B3 (niacin): Beef, chicken, fish, and peanut butter
  • B5 (pantothenic acid): Found in many foods, including yogurt, milk, eggs, corn, and avocado
  • B6 (pyridoxine): Chicken, pork, fish, nuts, beans, and potatoes
  • B7 (biotin): Eggs, fish, peanuts, almonds, and sweet potatoes
  • B12 (cobalamin): Meat, fish, chicken, eggs, nutritional yeast, and dairy foods; soy milk and other non-dairy milk often get fortified with B12
  • Folate: A wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including dark leafy greens, citrus, avocado, and beans

You may notice that many of the foods listed above are animal products. Meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs are excellent sources of most B vitamins.

If you follow a vegetarian diet, make sure you include eggs and/or dairy in every meal to meet your B vitamin requirements. If you adhere to a vegan diet with no animal products, you may want to consider taking a B-complex supplement to prevent deficiencies. These will typically contain all eight B vitamins. Be sure to talk to your doctor or dietitian before starting any supplements.

For personalized nutrition guidance and information on a wide variety of foods, be sure to check out the free ScriptSave® WellRx app.

Cara is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist who helps clients reach optimal health, manage chronic conditions, and achieve their health goals by making their diet a priority. She writes for a variety of online publications in the areas of nutrition, parenting, and pediatrics.

Resources:

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamins/vitamin-b/

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/vitamin-b9-folic-acid

https://medlineplus.gov/bvitamins.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6930825/

https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/what-are-b-vitamins-and-folate

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