The Difference Between B Vitamins

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When it comes to staying energised and reducing stress, there’s no denying B vitamins play a vital role. A deficiency in B vitamins can adversely effect your overall health and wellbeing, as well as your exercise performance and post-exercise recovery rates, because the B-group are needed to convert protein and carbohydrates into energy and also to support healthy energy production in the cellular mitochondria (the cells’ energy powerhouse).

A well-balanced and nutritious diet is your first, and most important, building block to supporting good health and preventing disease. So to help you on your way, check out the table below to see how each of the different B vitamins interact with the body and the key foods they can be found in.

Nutrient

 

Main food sources

 

Key effects

 

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

 

Yeast extract, fortified cereals, nuts, soya beans, wholegrains, spinach, peas, egg yolk
  • Supplementation may improve mood and mental alertness, because thiamine produces acetylcholine, which is critical for memory and concentration.
  • Important for carbohydrate metabolism; may decrease sugar cravings.
  • Needed for nervous system maintenance.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

 

Liver, milk, eggs, okra, yeast extract, kidney, cheese, beef, yoghurt, fish, chilli
  • Important for metabolism; improves energy levels.
  • Needed for all cell growth and development, and for the formation of hair, skin and nails.
Vitamin B3 (niacin)

 

Liver, mushrooms, beef, pork, fish, chicken, fortified cereals, yeast extract, wheatgerm, corn, peanuts
  • Used by the body to help energy be released from digested food.
  • The body’s requirements for niacin increase with greater physical activity.
  • Essential for the formation of red blood cells.
  • Important for metabolism and the nervous and digestive systems.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

 

Liver, kidneys, sweet potatoes, lentils, broad beans, peanuts, tahini, nuts, avocado, dried figs
  • Helps to provide the body with a constant supply of energy to every cell; converts fat and sugar in food into a form that cells can use.
  • Assists the body in fighting infection.
  • Involved in the synthesis of anti-stress hormones in the adrenal glands.
  • Supports energy and mood, and may improve insomnia and tiredness.
  • Helps support healthy skin.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

 

Beef, turkey, liver, fish, chicken, eggs, wheatgerm, bananas, Brussels sprouts, pine nuts

 

  • Many women claim vitamin B6 reduces symptoms of premenstrual tension, such as mood swings or depression.
  • Needed for the production of the feel-good nerve transmitter, serotonin.
  • May reduce heart disease risk by lowering homocysteine levels (together with folic acid and B12).
  • Important for the functioning of the immune and nervous systems; may improve tiredness and fatigue.
  • Needed for healthy skin and for forming antibodies, which fight infection.
  • Assists in the production of the red oxygen-carrying blood pigment, haemoglobin.
Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)

 

Dairy products, offal (liver, kidney, heart), eggs, beef, seafood

 

  • Supplements and injections of B12 are used for disorders involving low energy and mood, because it is needed for the production of the feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine.
  • Required for the production of red blood cells and to create the myelin sheath around nerves that allows for the quick transmission of nerve impulses.
  • B12 is involved in regulating the appetite.
Folate

 

Liver, orange juice, wheatgerm, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli, chickpeas, nuts, avocado
  • Proven to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
  • Vital for the proper formation of red blood cells, helping to counter tiredness and the fatigue of anaemia.
  • In some patients may provide cognitive benefits.

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