You already know the benefits of eating a good diet full of variety and as many fresh foods as you can buy, so I won't bore you with those details. What we will get into, however, are the benefits of a diet rich in the B series of vitamins. Ever heard of Vitamin B? Well, it's very popular and it plays a major role of converting food into energy. Wouldn't that be awesome?
There are eight well known B-vitamins that play a role in the body. They support metabolism and contribute to the body's ability to produce energy. Several of the B-vitamins have additional functions as well:
Alternatively known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 helps to produce insulin, fight infection and create non-essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Beans, chicken, banana, baked potato, pork, fish, nuts and fortified breakfast cereals all contain vitamin B6.
Also known as folic acid, folate is particularly important during pregnancy. Consuming adequate amounts helps to reduce the risk of spine and brain deformities (known as neural tube defects). Sources of folate include many fruits and vegetables — including beans, oranges, avocado and spinach – as well as fortified grains.
Cobalamin, or vitamin B12, plays an important role in creating new red blood cells and a deficiency could result in anemia. It is present in animal products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Many grains and cereals are also fortified with vitamin B12 and are an important source of this vitamin for vegetarians and vegans. Although, a vitamin B12 supplement may also be needed.
These B-vitamins are more commonly known by their names than by their numbers, but all are widely available in a variety of foods and deficiency is relatively uncommon in the United States:
Thiamin: Pork, peas, whole-grain and enriched-grain products including bread, rice, pasta, tortillas and fortified cereals.
Riboflavin: Cheese, yogurt, enriched grains, lean meats, eggs, almonds and leafy green vegetables.
Niacin: High-protein foods such as peanut butter, beef, poultry and fish, as well as enriched and fortified grain products
Pantothenic Acid: Yogurt, sweet potato, milk, avocado, corn, eggs and beans.
Biotin: Eggs, peanuts, fish, sweet potato and almonds.
Typically you will find the proper amounts of B vitamins in your food, as stated above. But, if you're like many Americans, you don't have the time or the budget to create fresh, healthy meals every single day. Vitamin B supplements may play a big role in your life and most health officials agree that they are safe. However, like with every thing else with your body, make sure to check with your own doctor first. You never know what allergy you may have or the levels you're already working with. Get that blood tested!
For the ladies out there, you really want to pay special attention to the levels of B vitamins in your blood to make sure that we are having healthy babies. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend healthy levels of this for pregnant women and those who are nursing. If it is good for the baby, it's good for the mother, too!
As with most vitamins, the most notable effects are when there is a deficiency. Optimal body function requires a complex array of vitamins and minerals, so you'll probably have a feeling of when something is out of whack. If you're not feeling quite right, ALWAYS check with your doctor first and get your blood work done. If you're a big sluggish, however, a Vitamin B supplement might do the trick when combined with a healthy, balanced diet.
On a personal note, you'll see a lot of crazy ads out there for Vitamin B super energy pills and they should probably be ignored. Did you know that 5 Hour Energy shots have 8,333% the recommended daily dose of Vitamin B12 and 2,000% of the recommended Vitamin B6, so that has to be where the energy comes from right? Wrong! It's the 215 milligrams of caffeine that give you the kick.
Like I always recommend, a balanced diet is the best way to get the stuff you need for your body. But if you have some trouble getting the ingredients for a balanced meal, some supplements can be very helpful. Just make sure you read the label and get what you actually need without all the hype.
For further reading on the benefits of the B Vitamins, I highly recommend you read the 2018 article by Jennifer J. Brown, PhD. It's incredibly helpful and goes into greater detail concerning the deficiencies. Enjoy the read!