B Vitamins: What They Are and Why You Need Them

b vitamins
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The B-complex vitamins all play an important role in energy production and aid enzymatic reactions necessary for the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Without B vitamins, many of our bodily processes would shut down and we wouldn’t be able to function properly.

In total, there are 8 B-Vitamins. Here are the roles of each, and why they are so important:

Vitamin-B Complex Infographic LLF

1. Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

Food Sources: sunflower seeds, navy beans, black beans, barley, dried peas, green peas, lentils, pinto beans, lima beans, oats

Vitamin B1 aids regulation of our appetite and boosts energy. It also plays a key role in maintaining the structure and integrity of nerve cells in the brain.

Deficiency symptoms: dementia, disease of nervous system

2. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Food Sources: tempeh, spinach, beet greens, cremini mushrooms, asparagus, almonds

Promotes healthy vision and skin, and aids in the production of red blood cells to help prevent anemia. Riboflavin also plays a major role in energy production, and assists other B-Vitamins like folate and vitamin B6 in this energy process as well. This B vitamin is also required to recycle the master antioxidant, glutathione, one of the most important antioxidants in the human body.

Deficiency symptoms: infections of the throat and mouth, sensitivity to light and irritable eyes

3. Vitamin B3 (niacin)

Food Sources: chia seeds, brown rice, almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms (particularly portabella)

Found in every cell of the human body, niacin is necessary for healthy skin and muscle tissue. It promotes mental acuteness and assists in digestion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Niacin is also used to synthesize starch to be stored in muscles and liver for later use as an energy source.

Deficiency symptoms: lesions of the skin or mouth, difficulty sleeping or sleep disorders

4. Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

Food Sources: shittake mushrooms, white mushrooms, avocado, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, broccoli, lentils

Helps aid in food metabolism, regulates the nervous system and promotes healthy skin. Pantothenic acid gets incorporated into Coenzyme A (CoA), one of the most important chemicals needed to sustain life.

Deficiency symptoms: skin issues like acne

5. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Food Sources: sweet potato, potatoes, sunflower seeds, bananas, spinach, walnuts, pistachios, prunes

Helps assist in the creation of serotonin, GABA and dopamine. Vitamin B6 is also involved in several of the steps involved in carbohydrate metabolism, and is required by heme (a key section of hemoglobin) for its production. Interestingly, lack of this vitamin is associated with chronic inflammation.

Deficiency symptoms: depression, skin issues (dermatitis), high blood pressure, anemia

6. Vitamin B7 (biotin)

Food Sources: chard, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, carrots, almonds, cauliflower, strawberries, raspberries, onions, cabbage, cucumber, walnuts, oats

Aids in blood sugar balance and skin health. It plays an important role in fat and sugar metabolism, and is necessary to build healthy fats in the skin (one reason why lack of biotin can cause the skin to be flaky and irritated).

Deficiency symptoms: rashes, fine and brittle hair, total hair loss, anemia

7. Vitamin B9 (folate)

Food Sources: spinach, leafy greens (cos or romaine lettuce), asparagus, lentils, avocado, broccoli, mango, oranges

Normalizes gestation during pregnancy and activates the sexual response. You will often hear that pregnant women should eat foods high in folate, or take a folic acid supplement to help prevent miscarriage and neural tube defects such as spin bifida. Folate also promotes heart health, and is important for preventing anemia and allowing the bowel to properly absorb nutrients.

Deficiency symptoms: birth defects, anemia

8. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

Food Sources: mushrooms, spirulina (controversy over whether B12 in these plant forms actually absorbs), nutritional yeast, supplementation (methylcobalamin form)

Helps us become emotionally stable and promotes weight loss. B12 is also required for manufacturing of red blood cells, normal functioning of nerve cells (and the manufacturing of myelin, an insulating material that covers some of our nerve cells), and replication of DNA.

Over 40% of the population is deficient in this vitamin, so it is important you get yourself checked. Not just vegans are deficient in B12 (if that was the case, then 40% of the population would be vegan, which is sadly, not the case). The intrinsic binding factor for B12 is often destroyed if we have a past of heavy alcohol use, antibiotic use, have undergone major surgeries, or consume(d) street drugs. I recommend taking a spray B12 (methylcobalamin – NOT cyanocobalamin which is poorly absorbed) that can rest sublingually under the tongue for 30-60 seconds.

Deficiency symptoms: shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, dementia, dizziness, fainting, trouble balancing, coldness or numbness in hands/feet, slow reflexes, sore mouth/tongue, yellowing of skin (jaundice)


[1] http://www.whfoods.com/
[2] http://www.doctoroz.com/article/vitamin-b12-most-important-nutrient-you-arent-thinking-about?page=1

Carly Fraser has her BSc (Hons.) Degree in Neuroscience, and is the owner and founder at Live Love Fruit. She currently lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with a determined life mission to help inspire and motivate individuals to critically think about what they put in their bodies and to find balance through nutrition and lifestyle. She has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals to re-connect with their bodies and learn self-love through proper eating habits and natural living. She loves to do yoga, dance, and immerse herself in nature.


    • Hi 🙂
      Love all the information your sharing but I'm concerned about you using the folic acid word for folate because to many people are getting them confused & there is a difference in how the body responds to each . Folate is the natural form of b9 & folic acid is synthetic if I'm correct. I have a MTHFR deficiency & folic acid isn't good for me. Why are you using the folic acid word instead of folate when your saying the b9( Folate) vitamin is in certain natural foods ?

      Thank you for your time
      Crystal 🙂

        • Hi Carly ☺ I'm trying to help my parents & family understand the difference but it's hard to find articles that will help them because like you said the term is often interchanged so Thank you bunches ☺ I appreciate your time.


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