Behind the 8 B-Vitamins

Most people are familiar with Vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. There is one kind of each vitamin, making it all pretty self-explanatory.

Then there are the B-Vitamins to make it more complex. That’s because there are 8 B-Vitamins in total.

So, why are there so many B Vitamins as compared to every other vitamin out there?

This goes back to when vitamins were first being researched in the early 20th century. An American scientist by the name of Elmer McCollum first isolated Vitamin A from butter fat. He named it “Factor A.”

Elmer McCollum

The scientist furthered the naming system by coining a nutrient isolated from rice by Polish scientist, Casimir Funk, as “Factor B.” This continued with C, D, and so-on as more vitamins were discovered.

However, with time scientists realized that “Factor B” was comprised of even smaller compounds that are found together in a lot of the same foods. Individually, these compounds make up the 8 B-Vitamins.

B-Vitamins are pivotal to a properly functioning body. Here is how each B-Vitamin works in your system:


  • Vitamin B1 – Thiamine

Vitamin B1 is essential for proper neural function and it also aids in carbohydrate metabolism. If you are lacking in Vitamin B1, symptoms may include weakness, extreme weight loss, irregular heartbeats, and battles of extreme fatigue.

The best ways to ensure you are getting enough Vitamin B1 is through a diet of yeast, mushrooms, oatmeal, asparagus, cauliflower, kale, brown rice, and other whole grains.

The recommended daily intake of Vitamin B is 1.2 mg a day.

  • Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin

Vitamin B2 is one of the essential vitamins that our body needs because it is pivotal for many cellular processes. One of its main functions is energy metabolism. It turns ketones, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into energy.

When our bodies lack Vitamin B2, symptoms of such a deficiency include swelling of the mouth and throat mucus membranes, decreased red blood cell count, swollen and red throats, skin lesions, and in extreme cases, Vitamin B2 deficiencies may cause esophageal cancer.

Daily recommended intake of Vitamin B2 is 1.3 mg a day. This can be achieved for ensuring your diet consists of foods such as leafy greens such as kale, mustard greens, and arugula.

Vitamin B2 is also prevalent in soybeans, yeast, and almonds.

  • Vitamin B3 – Niacin

Vitamin B3 is considered another essential vitamin for our bodies to function properly. This vitamin plays an integral role in the repairing DNA. It also has a role in the production of adrenal steroid hormones. These hormones are what produce the cortisol that our body releases when we are feeling stressed. A deficiency in Vitamin B3 may result in anxiety due to the lack of cortisol creation in our bodies.

Other symptoms that point to a lack of Vitamin B3 in our diets include dementia, dermatitis, diarrhea, and in extreme cases may lead to death.

It is recommended that we consume 16 mg a day of Vitamin B3. This can be achieved through a diet that consists of a variety of seeds such as chia and sunflower.

You can also get tons of Vitamin B3 through nuts such as cashews and almonds, and a variety of vegetables including spinach and watercress.

  • Vitamin B5 – Panthothenic Acid

Unlike the vitamins that we have already discussed in the B Vitamin family, Vitamin B5 is not considered an essential vitamin. That does not mean that this vitamin does not serve a role in our bodies. Vitamin B5 works with other nutrients for the metabolism as well as the synthesis of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

It is very rare to suffer from a Vitamin B5 deficiency, however it is not impossible. Those who have suffered from a lack of Vitamin B5 have complained about very sensitive skin, and an overwhelming feeling that their limbs have “fallen asleep.”

The recommended amount of Vitamin B5 that we should consume daily is 5 mg per day. It is present in some form in almost every food you can eat. However, quantities of Vitamin B5 are much more abundant in legumes such as garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and black beans and whole grain cereals.

  • Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine

Vitamin B6 is very important in the battle against depression, because it serves numerous functions within our bodies. This vitamin synthesizes neurotransmitters, which are essential in our body’s fight against depression. It helps your body in the creation of the hormone serotonin. Low levels of serotonin go hand-in-hand with depression, which is why many antidepressant medications typically work by increasing the levels of serotonin within your system.

Vitamin B6 also has an important role in gene expression, which is the building of a protein or RNA from the gene’s information. Deficiencies in Vitamin B6 are not common, but those who do suffer from a lack of this essential vitamin have been reported to have anemia. It is recommended that we consume 1.3 mg a day of Vitamin B6. This essential vitamin can be found in an array of nuts such as pistachios and Brazil nuts.

Whole grains, and leafy vegetables such as Swiss chard and lettuce also contain and abundance of Vitamin B6.

  • Vitamin B7- Biotin

Like Vitamin B5, Vitamin B7 is not considered an essential vitamin. Vitamin B7 is also known as Vitamin H, as sometimes referenced on the side of nutritional labels. Vitamin B7 is necessary for the metabolism of fats and amino acids. It also aids in the production of fatty acids.

The recommended daily intake of Vitamin B7 is very scant, because our intestinal bacteria naturally produce an excess of the daily requirement. Due to our body’s ability to create Vitamin B7, deficiencies are almost unheard of. Foods that are rich in Vitamin B7 include almonds, Swiss chard, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and carrots.

  • Vitamin B9- Folic Acid

Vitamin B9 is also known as Vitamin M, as well as Folacin. This is considered an essential vitamin because it produces and maintains news cells. It is also pivotal in the synthesis of DNA, with some evidence pointing to Vitamin B9 being beneficial in preventing a stroke and maintaining strong vascular health.  It is recommended that we intake 400 ug a day of Vitamin B9.

This essential vitamin can be found in a variety of leafy vegetables including cabbage and kale, beans such as Lima beans and pinto beans, peas, and fortified grain products.

  • Vitamin B12 – Cyanocabalamin

This Vitamin is one of the most essential vitamins that our body needs. One of the reasons why it is so dire for our body to get Vitamin B12 is the fact that our bodies do not create this vitamin naturally. Vitamin B12 has a very significant role when it comes to the functioning of our brain, as well as the central nervous system. Vitamin B12 is also necessary for the metabolism of every single cell within our bodies. This particular vitamin is required for the synthesis of fatty acids, DNA, and for the production of energy. Common symptoms of a Vitamin B12 deficiency include forgetfulness, fogginess of the brain, rapid mood swings, and of course, depression.

Besides this, B12 plays an important role in the production of a compound called succinyl-CoA. This compound is important in building hemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying pigment in the center of red blood cells.

In simpler words, B12 is necessary for the maintenance of hemoglobin which is responsible for carrying oxygen to the brain. If the brain does not get enough oxygen, you will begin to feel low in energy and it will have a negative effect on your mood.

It is recommended that Vitamin B12 intake should be 2.4 ug a day. While most B vitamins do not store well in the body, B12 can be stored for years. This is why a B12 deficiency only shows up when you have neglected your intake of this vitamin for several years.

The even trickier part about this vitamin is that it is only attainable through animal fats, meat, fish, eggs, and poultry.

Woman eating scrambled eggs with a fork

Plants cannot make or store B12, only microorganisms such as fungi can. Plants can only become B12 rich if they are fermented. This is why while soybeans may not be a very rich source of B12, but when it is fermented into tempeh, it becomes an excellent source of this nutrient. Similarly, fungi such as mushrooms, especially cremini mushrooms, are excellent for B12 consumption. One more vegan staple is nutritional yeast grown on a molasses medium. Just a teaspoon of this yeast is more than enough to get your recommended daily intake. Make sure to check the label before buying nutritional yeast because not all of them will provide you with the recommended daily B12 dosage.

The recommended daily intake for B12 is 2.4 micrograms. But even if you are consuming a cup of cremini mushroom every day, you will only be getting about 3% of this amount. This is why you should pick breakfast cereals and soy products fortified with B12.

Vegans and vegetarians must take a supplement in order to get anywhere near their recommended dose of Vitamin B12. Luckily, there are supplements widely available at almost any supermarket or pharmacy. Vegans, however, must read the side of labels to ensure that the vitamin itself is vegan. Majority of vitamins on the market are made with gelatin, as it makes the pill easier to swallow. However, gelatin is created through the grinding of animal bones. If a vegan is purchasing Vitamin B12, or any other vitamins for that matter, be sure that the label reads that the vitamins inside are “Veggie capsules.”

Sources of Vitamin B-12 for Vegans and Vegetarians

  • Fortified almond milk-1 cup contains 3mcg of vitamin B12
  • Fortified coconut milk-1 cup contains 3 mcg of vitamin B12
  • Nutritional yeast -1 tbsp contains 2 mcg of Vitamin B12
  • Fortified soymilk-1 cup contains 1.2 mcg of vitamin B12
  • Vegan mayonnaise-1 tbsp contains 0.24 mcg
  • Tempeh 100 grams-0.12 mcg
  • Ready to eat fortified cereal-1/2 to 3/4th cup -0.6 to 6 mcg

Supplementation with vitamin B-complex is recommended for vegetarians and vegans. Take at least 10 mg of Vitamin B6, 400 mcg of folate and 10mcg of Vitamin B12.

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