Grains, meat, eggs, beans and leafy greens; what do these foods have in common that make them an important part of your weight loss and health plan? If you said B vitamins, you are right. These nutrients help your body metabolize carbs, protein and fat.
Each B vitamin has a unique function, but they also work together to help your body use the food you eat and to manage appetite. A deficiency in some of them has been associated with obesity and type-2 diabetes.
B Vitamins, Metabolism and Energy
There are 8 B vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate, pyridoxine, biotin, and B-12. They are water-soluble so your body can’t store them. You need to get them in your daily diet. The B vitamin complex is also necessary for good vision and healthy skin. Read the list below to learn how much you need these vitamins.
What “B’s” Do for You:
Vitamin B1, Thiamin – promotes energy production and brain function. This vitamin helps your cells get energy from the foods you eat, and supports red blood cell production. B-1 also helps your digestive system, your nervous system, your heart, and brain. It may improve memory. Some studies have found thiamine deficiency to be related to obesity and this may be because thiamine is important in helping to normalize appetite.
Vitamin B2, Riboflavin – supports cellular energy production because it forms part of the molecule NADH, which assists energy transport within cells. It also helps with the production of red blood cells. Riboflavin works like an antioxidant fighting free radicals, and it helps the body change B6 into a form it can use.
Vitamin B3, Niacin – supports cells in producing energy. As Nicotinic acid it helps support cardiovascular health. B3 also supports the digestive and nervous systems, helps to normalize blood lipid (fats) levels, and improves skin health. Niacin helps extract energy from food, and promotes a normal appetite. Being overweight increases the breakdown of niacin so you would need more of it to reap its benefits.
Vitamin B5, Pantothenic acid – like most “B’s” it supports cellular energy production. It also contributes to the structure of several enzymes, including coenzyme A, which helps in the synthesis and breakdown of fatty acids. It also supports the adrenal glands in the production of sex and stress-related hormones, as well as helping the body use other vitamins especially B2.
Vitamin B6, Pyridoxine – is involved in more than 100 cellular reactions in your body. Vitamin B6 keeps many bodily functions operating at their best. It’s needed to metabolize amino acids and glycogen (stored glucose). Like other “B’s” it’s necessary for nervous system function and production of red blood cells.
It is involved in making serotonin and norepinephrine, chemicals that transmit signals in the brain. Vitamin B6 is also involved in the formation of a protein layer that forms around nerve cells called myelin. Mild deficiency in B6 is common.
Vitamin B7, Biotin – helps you have healthy hair, skin and nails. Biotin is also important for carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.
Vitamin B9, Folic Acid – is best known for its role in development of the baby’s nervous system during the initial weeks of pregnancy. However, folate is important for everyone because it synthesize and repairs DNA, as well as produces healthy red blood cells and prevents anemia.
Vitamin B12, Cobalamin – is needed to make DNA, RNA and red blood cells. It helps to convert the food you eat into energy. Some studies have shown an association between being overweight and low vitamin B12 levels.
Vegans and vegetarians can be at risk for deficiency because many of the B vitamins are most common in flesh and organ meats. Although green leafy vegetables and legumes are also a good source, B12 can only be found in animal products.
You may also be deficient if you’ve been living on a fast food or highly processed food diet. Look at the list below to see how many of these foods are included in your normal diet. Supplementing with a B vitamin complex is highly recommended if you feel you are at risk for being deficient.
Best “B” Food Sources:
- B1: lentils, whole grains and pork. Found in red meats, yeast, nuts, sunflower seeds, peas, milk, cauliflower, spinach and legumes
- B2: milk, eggs, salmon, beef, spinach and broccoli
- B3: beef, poultry, fish, peanuts, lentils
- B5: organ meats, egg yolk, whole grains, avocados, cashew nuts, peanuts, lentils, brown rice, broccoli, and milk
- B6: meat, poultry, eggs, bananas, fish, and cooked spinach
- B7: brewer’s yeast, strawberries, organ meat, cheese
- B9: dark green leafy vegetables, brewer’s yeast, liver, beets, dates and avocados
- B12: chicken, beef, fish, milk and eggs
The Value of a Nutrient Rich Diet
If your diet consists mostly of nutritious whole foods such as the list above, you probably don’t have to worry about deficiency. But remember that B vitamins are water soluble which means they are not stored in the body and need to be replaced daily. So if you have a week of poor diet or high stress you may want to supplement or consume more foods in these categories.