Vitamin B and your diet

Vitamin B is essential to our wellbeing, and as our bodies cannot make it on its own, we must get it from the food we eat.

That’s why having a well balanced, nutritious diet is vital for our bodies to function properly.

‘Vitamin B’ actually refers to more than one vitamin, since there are eight different B vitamins in total that together make up the ‘vitamin B complex’.

These eight B vitamins have similar roles and chemical properties, although each has unique functions, including:

  • releasing energy from food;

  • preventing fatigue;

  • maintaining a healthy metabolism;

  • keeping your heart and nervous system healthy;

  • helping cells to multiply by making new DNA;

  • making red blood cells;

  • keeping our skin and eyes healthy; and

  • foetal growth/development during pregnancy.

You’re more prone to vitamin B deficiency if you’re a vegan/vegetarian; an elderly adult; someone who lacks stomach acid; are pregnant; have dealt with alcoholism; have anaemia; or you struggle with a digestive disorder, like celiac or Crohn’s disease, that impairs nutrient absorption.

If that’s you, you may benefit from taking a B complex supplement, food-based multivitamin, or a high dose of one or more B vitamins. It’s important to talk to a health professional if you’re worried about your vitamin B levels.

Vitamin B-rich foods

Our bodies use vitamin B throughout the day, and we cannot store extra vitamin B that we’ve eaten, so we must replenish our supply often by eating vitamin B-rich foods.

Although B-group vitamins are found in many foods, they are water soluble and delicate. They are easily destroyed, particularly by alcohol and cooking. Food processing can also reduce the amount of B-group vitamins in foods, making white flours, breads and rice less nutritious than their wholegrain counterparts.

Many whole foods are excellent sources of B vitamins — such as vegetables, meat, eggs, fish, beans and 100% whole grain products. Here are some key foods rich in B vitamins that you should add into your diet:

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Organ meats (eg. liver or kidneys)

  • Grass-fed meat

  • Wild-caught fish (eg. salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines)

  • Free-range eggs

  • Pastured chicken and turkey

  • Lamb

  • Wholegrain breads and cereals

  • Raw milk

  • Dairy products (eg. yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese)

  • Nuts and seeds (eg. sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts)

  • Beans, legumes and peas

  • Nutritional yeast

It’s essential to up your vitamin B intake to prevent health problems, such as chronic fatigue, anaemia, mood disorders, weakness, poor memory and more.