Vitamin B refers to not one, but eight different vitamins. The B vitamins are water soluble which means that the body cannot store them. Many people get all the vitamin B they need from a varied, healthful diet, but others benefit from taking a vitamin B-complex supplement.
Vitamin B-complex supplements include all of the essential B vitamins in one pill and they are often used to reduce fatigue and boost mood. Some studies suggest that B-complex vitamins can lift your spirits and improve your cognitive performance.
What is in the vitamin B complex?
Vitamin B-complex supplements include all of the following essential B vitamins. All B vitamins play a role in converting food into energy in the body. Each vitamin also has a unique role in a person’s health:
- Vitamin B1 – thiamin - Vitamin B-1 is vital to the healthy growth and function of organs, including the brain and heart.
- Vitamin B2 – riboflavin - The body needs vitamin B-2 to break down fats and drugs.
- Vitamin B3 – niacin - The body needs niacin to maintain healthy skin, nerves, and digestion. Doctors sometimes prescribe high doses of niacin to help improve cholesterol levels.
- Vitamin B5 – pantothenic acid - Vitamin B-5 is essential for the health of the brain and nervous system.
- Vitamin B6 – pyridoxine - Vitamin B-6 helps the body make new red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. It also helps keep the immune system strong.
- Vitamin B7 – biotin - Biotin is essential for healthy hair, nails, and nerve function.
- Vitamin B9 – folic acid - The body uses folic acid — or folate, its natural form — to make DNA and genetic material. During pregnancy, folic acid may reduce the risk of certain birth defects.
- Vitamin B12 – cobalamin - The body’s nerve and blood cells require vitamin B-12. Adequate levels of B-12 also prevent pernicious anemia, which is a deficiency of this nutrient.
Some foods contain several B vitamins, and a person needs a varied diet to consume all eight.
People can get all the B vitamins that they need from omnivorous, vegetarian, or vegan diets.
However, animal products are a major source of B vitamins, so people following restricted diets should take steps to ensure that they are getting enough of each vitamin from different dietary sources.
Some of the best food sources of B vitamins include:
- beef, pork, fish, organ meats
- avocados, leafy greens
- nuts, legumes, grains
- milk, cheese, yogurt
- enriched and fortified breads and cereals
Learn more about vegetarian and vegan sources of vitamin B-12 here.
Whenever possible, a person should take in B vitamins by eating a variety of healthful foods. However, some people benefit from taking a B-complex supplement.