Health: Vitamin B – Benefits And Sources

Vitamin B - Food sources, benefits and deficiency
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Vitamin B complex is a collection of eight water-soluble vitamins essentials for various metabolic processes. The vitamins include, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate, folic acid) and B12 (cobalamin). These vitamins help a variety of enzymes do their jobs.

General benefits of vitamin B

Vitamin B complex helps prevent infections and supports/promotes:

  • Cell health
  • Growth of red blood cells
  • Energy levels
  • Healthy brain function
  • Good digestion
  • Healthy appetite
  • Proper nerve function
  • Hormones and cholesterol production
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Muscle tone

Vitamin B aids in fetal brain development and reduces the risk of birth defects. It also boosts energy levels and eases nausea in pregnant women. It also lowers the risk of developing preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. Supplementing B-complex vitamins is crucial for breastfeeding women who are vegetarian or vegan.

Benefits of vitamin B-complex supplements

Signs of vitamin B deficiency

  • Skin rashes
  • Cracks around the mouth
  • Scaly skin on the lips
  • Swollen tongue
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Anaemia
  • Confusion
  • Irritability or depression
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Numbness or tingling in the feet and hands

Functions and sources of each specific B-complex vitamin

Vitamin B1 (thiamin)

Act as a supportive system for the normal functioning of the nervous system and are required to derive energy from the food we consume. The body uses thiamin for breaking down sugar molecules from food, creating certain neurotransmitters, producing fatty acids, and synthesizing certain hormones.

Food sources: Include whole grains, fortified bread, cereal, pasta, and rice; legumes such as black beans and soybeans; spinach, cauliflower, and nuts. Animal sources include pork and red meat.

Symptoms of thiamin deficiency

  • Weight loss
  • Little or no appetite
  • Memory problems or confusion
  • Heart problems
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Poor reflexes

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Supports the production of cellular energy. It is essential for energy production and well as helping the body break down fats, drugs, and steroid hormones. Also boosts the immune system.

Food sources include broccoli, spinach, fortified breakfast cereals, oatmeal, mushrooms, and almonds. Animal-based sources include salmon, eggs, yoghurt, and milk.

Symptoms of riboflavin deficiency

  • Skin disorders
  • Sores at the corners of the mouth and throat
  • Swelling of the mouth and throat
  • Swollen, cracked lips
  • Hair loss
  • Red, itchy eyes

Vitamin B3 (niacin)

Supports cardiovascular health and the production of cellular energy. it also supports metabolic processes in the body’s cells.

Food sources include lentils, peanuts. Animal-based sources include meat, poultry, and fish. Lifestyle: 8 Health And Nutritional Benefits Of Fish

Severe niacin deficiency can lead to pellagra which may cause:

  • Brown discolouration on skin exposed to sunlight
  • Patches of skin with a rough appearance
  • A bright red tongue
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea, or constipation
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

They regulate the production of cellular energy. Pantothenic acid is necessary for the body to create new co-enzymes, proteins, and fats.

Food sources include nuts (peanuts, cashew nuts), avocado, brown rice, lentils, broccoli, soya beans, shiitake mushrooms, sunflower seeds, and fortified breakfast cereals. Animal sources include milk, egg yolk, tuna, and beef liver.

Symptoms of pantothenic acid deficiency:

  • Numbness and burning of the hands and feet
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness and poor sleep
  • A lack of appetite

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Is essential for the functioning of the nervous system and the red blood cells. The body needs B-6 for brain development, immune function, and breaking down carbohydrates and fats.

Food sources include avocados, beans, chickpeas, potatoes, fortified cereals, and sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. Animal-based sources include salmon, tuna, and poultry. Lifestyle: 5 Chicken Recipes That You Need To Try Out

Symptoms of pyridoxine deficiency

  • Anaemia
  • Scaling on the lips
  • Cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • Swollen tongue
  • Weakened immune system
  • Confusion
  • Depression

Vitamin B7 (biotin)

The body uses biotin to break down fats, carbohydrates, and protein as well as for communication among cells in the body. It also helps in the growth of nails, hair, and skin.

Food sources include soya beans, oranges, strawberries, and sunflower seeds. Animal sources include eggs, salmon, pork, and beef.

Symptoms of biotin deficiency

  • Thinning of the hair
  • A scaly rash around eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Brittle nails
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

Vitamin B9 (folate, folic acid)

Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 and folic acid is its synthetic form. It plays a vital role in the development of the fetal nervous system. For this reason, women who wish to conceive are given B9 supplements along with a dietary recommendation to increase their folate levels. High levels of folate for pregnant women before and during pregnancy can lower the risk of fetal birth defects affecting the brain and spinal cord.

Food sources include cereals, bread, spinach, dates, beets, avocado, orange juice, dark green leafy vegetables, papaya, beans, and nuts. Animal sources include beef liver and eggs.

Symptoms of folate deficiency

  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irritability
  • Sores on the tongue or in the mouth
  • Skin, hair, or nail changes

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

Is essential for the formation of red blood cells, regular functioning of the brain and nervous system, and the production of cellular energy.

Food sources: eggs, milk and yoghurt, fish, beef, chicken, beef liver, salmon, and clams.

Symptoms of cobalamin deficiency

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
  • Memory problems
  • Depression

This collection of vitamins is so essential. Consult a doctor before taking any supplements though, just to play it safe.

All the vitamins work together to make sure your body is working at its optimum.

Check out the benefits of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K

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