Foods High in B Vitamins

B vitamins are water-soluble vitamins that are important for various bodily processes. They are found in many unprocessed foods, and can also be taken as a dietary supplement

Every day, your body needs to get the right amount of vitamins and nutrients to keep it healthy and working well. Of the 13 vitamins that your body needs, 8 of them are B vitamins. They are: 

The many benefits of B vitamins come from their ability to help your body turn energy-yielding nutrients — such as carbohydrates — into fuel. Without them your body would not have enough energy.

Why You Need B Vitamins

The B vitamin group plays a special role in your body. First of all, B vitamins help enzymes (which break down what you eat and drink) with several functions, including: 

  • Releasing energy from proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
  • Breaking down amino acids
  • Moving oxygen and energy around your body 

B vitamins also help your cells grow and multiply. Some B vitamins also aid the body’s production of hemoglobin, which is important for red blood cells. Hemoglobin gives blood its red color and also helps transport oxygen throughout your body.

Some other health benefits of B vitamins include: 

Immune Function

Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, supports biochemical reactions in your immune system. Taking this B vitamin as a supplement has been proven to increase immune responses in people who are critically ill.

Brain Health 

Data from studies suggests that the more B vitamins there are in your blood, the better your performance will be with tests involving memory, problem-solving, and word and sentence formation.

Disease Prevention 

Vitamin B6 and B12 appear to play roles in reducing heart disease and some types of cancer. However, there is also research to suggest that long-term use of these two B vitamins might increase lung cancer risk in men.

Foods With B Vitamins

Although B vitamins are naturally found in many foods, they are easily destroyed by alcohol and cooking. Food processing also strips foods of their B vitamin content, especially in white flour, white bread, and white rice. 

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Because your body can’t store all of the B-group vitamins, it’s important that you continuously get them through your diet. Here are five foods that are high in B vitamins:

1. Whole Grains

Because food processing removes nutrients from grains, you want to eat whole grains that have not undergone this process. Grains high in B vitamins include:

  • Brown rice
  • Barley
  • Millet 

2. Eggs

Eggs are a good source of B vitamins, especially pantothenic acid (B5) and Cyanocobalamin (B12).

Two large eggs provide 46% of your daily value of vitamin B12 and 39% of your daily value of vitamin B2.

3. Legumes

Legumes are a food group that includes beans, lentils, and garbanzo beans. In addition to being a rich source of B vitamins, legumes can also help lower your blood sugar and cholesterol.

4. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits — such as oranges, clementines, and lemons — check off at least six of the eight B vitamins. They contain: 

  • Thiamin (B1)
  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Niacin (B3)
  • Pantothenic acid (B5)
  • Pyridoxine (B6)
  • Folate or "folic acid" (B9)

5. Avocados

Avocados contain almost 20 vitamins and minerals. Just 1 cup of avocados (150 grams) contains 30% of your daily folate requirement and 23% of vitamin B6. Other health benefits of avocados include: 

6. Meat, Poultry, Fish

Meat (pork, beef, etc.), poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.), and fish (tuna, salmon, etc.) are excellent sources of vitamin B3, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. They also contain other important minerals such as potassium, chromium, iron, selenium, and zinc.

7. Fortified Breakfast Cereals

Many types of breakfast cereals are fortified with various B vitamins, including thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12.

8. Liver

Animal liver is an excellent source of thiamin (vitamin B1) and folate. Eating liver can also provide vitamin A, riboflavin, copper, iron, and choline.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 13, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

Baj, T. and Sieniawksa, E. Pharmacognosy, 2017.

Bayer Health: “Food for thought: Why B vitamins boost your brain.”

BetterHealth: “Vitamin B.”

Cleveland Clinic: “3 Reasons Why Beans Can Boost Your Brain Power.”

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Vitamin B6 supplementation increases immune responses in critically ill patients.”

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: “Nutritional and health benefits of citrus fruits.”

Harvard Health Publishing: The best foods for vitamins and minerals.”

Ohio State University: “Long-Term, High-Dose Vitamin B6/B12 Use Associated With Increased Lung Cancer Risk Among Men.”

NHS: “B vitamins and folic acid.”

The Nutrition Source: “B Vitamins.”

The Nutrition Source: “Whole Grains.”

World’s Healthiest Foods: “Avocados.”

World’s Healthiest Foods: “Eggs, pasture-raised.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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