Enjoy a range of health benefits from these vitamin heroes – and find out where to get them
Essential for a whole range of health elements, B vitamins are a key part of our daily diets. But why are they so important?
Elaine Allerton, a registered dietitian with the British Dietetic Association, explains, “The B vitamins are water soluble and not stored by the body (with the exception of B12) and any excesses are urinated away, therefore we need to include sources of B vitamins in our diet every day. Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) is necessary for the release of energy from food, and for normal function of the nervous system, B2 (Riboflavin) is needed for normal growth and helps maintain the integrity of mucous membranes, skin, eyes and the nervous system, B3 (Niacin) is required for release energy from the food and B6 (Pyridoxine) is essential for protein metabolism, helps form haemoglobin (to carry oxygen around the body in red blood cells).”
Elaine continues, “Folic Acid is needed for synthesis of DNA and RNA, hence very important when planning a pregnancy or during pregnancy, and B12 (Cobalamin) is required for release of energy from food, and using folic acid.”
Do I need supplements?
If you are eating a varied and balanced diet, you shouldn’t have any problems with getting the amount of B vitamins you need each day, so with the exception of vegetarians sometimes needing to take on some additional B12, it is unlikely that you would need to take any vitamin supplements – all of these are freely available from the foods mentioned above. If you are following a vegetarian diet and have any concerns about whether you are getting enough B12, it is worth consulting your GP who will be able to advise. Some of the symptoms
you may experience are extreme tiredness, muscle weakness, mouth ulcers and a general lack of energy. A simple blood test can help identify if B12 deficiency is the cause, and in the vast majority of cases, this is easily treated, either with tablets, injections, or dietary adjustments.
The important question is, how can we get more of these essential vitamins in our diet? And which foods are they most commonly found in? Elaine shares her top food recommendations.
B1 for your nervous system: peas, fresh fruit, eggs, wholegrain breads, fortified breakfast
B2 for growth: dairy milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, rice, green leafy vegetables
B3 for food energy release: meat and meat products, cereals and cereal products, fish, eggs, dairy milk
B6 to metabolise: protein pork, poultry, fish, bread, wholegrain cereals (oatmeal, wheatgerm, brown rice), eggs, vegetables, soya beans, peanuts, dairy milk, potatoes, fortified breakfast cereals
B12 energy releasing foods: meat, oily fish (eg. salmon), fish (e.g. cod), dairy milk, cheese, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, liver, Plants contain no B12 so vegans should consider taking a B12 supplement. Panthothenic acid: chicken, beef, potatoes, porridge, tomatoes, kidney, eggs, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, wholegrains (brown rice, wholemeal bread), fortified breakfast cereals
Folic Acid: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, asparagus, peas, chickpeas and pulses, fortified breakfast cereals, yeast extract, green leafy vegetables
Elaine Allerton is a registered dietitian with the British Dietetic Association.