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Everything you need to know about B Vitamins

There are eight B Vitamins to wrap your head around, each fulfilling vital but occasionally distinct health functions in your body. So how do you tell your thiamine from your B12? Let’s run through the numbers, and some names you might be more familiar with already.

B1

More commonly known as thiamine, B1 breaks down and releases the energy in food. It also helps to keep the nervous system healthy. It’s important to keep abreast of your intake because very little thiamine is stored in the body, meaning it can be easy to become deficient. You’ll find the vitamin in eggs and liver, as well as fruit, peas, whole grain bars and fortified cereals.

B2

You’ll know it as riboflavin and, again, this is crucial in releasing the energy in your food. As well as aiding the nervous system, riboflavin keeps your eyes and skin healthy. Milk, eggs, cereals and rice are great sources.

B3

Vitamin B3 comes in two forms – niacin and nicotinamide. Niacin lowers cholesterol while nicotinamide can aid joint disease and diabetes. Both can combat anxiety and depression. You’ll get both from wheat flour, eggs, fish and meat. Your daily intake should be covered by your diet. Taking too much can cause flushed skin and strain the liver. 

Pantothenic acid

Another crucial ingredient for your metabolism, pantothenic acid helps your mental performance and reduces tiredness and fatigue. It’s found in almost all meats and vegetables.

B6

Not only does pyridoxine help store the energy from protein and carbs, it also forms the oxygen-carrying substance in red blood cells known as haemoglobin. Fish, potatoes and non-citrus fruits are the richest sources. And no, we haven’t skipped B4 or B5!

B7

A very small amount of biotin goes a long way to helping the body break down fat. The bacteria in your bowels actually produces biotin, so food sources are unlikely to be required.  

Folic acid

Called folate in its natural form, this vitamin forms healthy red blood cells. It is important during pregnancy, helping to prevent birth defects in the brain and spinal cord. While most people get their daily 200mg from their diet, it is recommended that pregnant women take a 400mg supplement on top of that to prevent the likes of spina bifida. In food, look to greens like broccoli, spinach, asparagus, sprouts and peas.

B12

Playing havoc with the numbering again, B12 regulates the nervous system and makes red blood cells. Working in tandem with folic acid, a deficiency in either puts you at risk of developing anaemia. A lack of B12 can also result in balance and cognition problems, dizziness, numbness and more. Meat, fish and dairy offer an abundance. If you’re a vegan, a supplement might be required. Some plant milks, soy products and cereals may be fortified with it.

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