Give your body a boost with B vitamins!

By Alisa-Jayne Butler

Often referred to as vitamin B complex, the eight B vitamins – B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12 play an important role in keeping our bodies running like a well-oiled machine.

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Role of B vitamins:

Whilst these vitamins don’t directly supply the body with energy (macronutrients like carbohydrates and proteins do that), they are essential to help convert these foods into fuel, allowing us to stay energized throughout the day. Many of these vitamins can’t be stored by the body and have to be consumed regularly in the diet. Therefore, a person who has a poor diet over a few months may end up with B-group vitamin deficiency. This is a reason why it’s important that people follow a well-balanced, nutritious diet.

While many of these vitamins work together, each has its’ own specific benefits.

Vitamin B1: Helps the body create healthy new cells. Also, it’s often called an anti-stress vitamin because of its ability to protect the immune system.

Where can it be found? Whole grains, peanuts, beans, spinach, kale, wheat germ.

Vitamin B2: This vitamin works as an anti-oxidant to help fight free radicals (particles in the body that damage cells) and may prevent early ageing and development of heart disease. It is also important for red blood cell production, which is necessary for transporting oxygen throughout the body.

Where can it be found? Almonds, wild rice, yoghurt, eggs, Brussels sprouts, spinach and soybeans.

Vitamin B3: One of its primary uses is to boost HDL cholesterol (i.e.: good cholesterol).

Where can it be found? Yeast, red meat, milk, eggs, beans and green vegetables

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): In addition to breaking down fats and carbohydrates for energy, it’s responsible for the production of sex and stress-related hormones including testosterone.

Where can it be found? B5 is found in just about every food group. High amounts are found in avocado, yoghurt, eggs, meat and legumes.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Helps regulate levels of the amino acid homocysteine (associated with heart disease). It helps the body produce serotonin, melatonin and norepinephrine (a stress hormone), making it a major influence in mood and sleep patterns.

Where can it be found? Chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon, lentils, sunflower seeds, cheese, brown rice and carrots.

Vitamin B7 (Biotin): It is associated with healthy hair, skin and nails and it may also help people with diabetes control high blood glucose levels as well. This vitamin is essential during pregnancy as it’s vital for normal growth and development of the baby.

Where can it be found? Barley, liver, yeast, pork, chicken, fish, potato, cauliflower, egg yolks and nuts.

Vitamin B9 (Folate): This is another vitamin essential for women who are pregnant since it supports the growth of the baby and prevents neurological birth defects. Studies also suggest that it may help keep depression at bay and prevent memory loss.

Where can it be found? Dar leafy greens, asparagus, beets, salmon, root vegetables, milk and beans.

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): This vitamin is considered a real team player. It works with vitamin B9 to produce red blood cells and help iron do its job: create the oxygen carrying protein, haemoglobin.

Where can it be found? Fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, beef and pork.

Things to remember:

  • Most of these vitamins cannot be stored by the body and have to be consumed regularly in the diet.

  • Extended cooking, food processing and alcohol can destroy or reduce the availability of many of these vitamins.

  • It’s important not to self-diagnose a vitamin deficiency, because some vitamins can be toxic if taken incorrectly. Consult with your health care provider if you believe you need any assistance or advice

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