The B vitamins are often overlooked in favour of vitamin C or D supplements, but they’re essential for many bodily functions. They all have specific roles, but overall, they’re responsible for providing energy from the food we eat.
Along with vitamin C, they’re ‘water soluble’ vitamins. This means that unlike vitamins A, D, E and K, they’re not soluble in fat, and we therefore eliminate excess B vitamins in our urine. This means that we need to consume them, or take a supplement containing them, every day.
Vitamin B1 – Thiamine
Vitamin B1 is found in peas, eggs, wholegrain bread, brown rice, nuts, seeds and fresh and dried fruits. It helps release energy from the food we eat. It’s also important for the health of nerves and muscles. If we don’t eat enough vitamin B1, we can feel fatigued and suffer ‘brain fog’.
Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin
Like vitamin B1, vitamin B2 helps to release energy from our food, fuelling us throughout the day. The body also uses vitamin B2 to help keep the eyes, skin, hair and nails healthy. It’s found in cow’s milk, eggs and green leafy vegetables. A deficiency can cause dry, cracked skin around the mouth, mouth ulcers, tiredness and lethargy.
Vitamin B3 – Niacin
Vitamin B3 is also responsible for energy release, and for keeping the skin and nervous system healthy. If we lack in vitamin B3, our metabolism may slow down, and we may feel extra sensitive to the cold. It’s found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and potatoes.
Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid
This little heard of vitamin is also responsible for our energy levels. If we don’t have enough, we could feel very fatigued. Meat, potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, beans, wholegrain bread, brown rice and broccoli all contain vitamin B5.
Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine
Whilst the other B vitamins help release energy from food, vitamin B6 helps the body store this energy. It also has a role in producing haemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that is crucial for carrying oxygen around the blood. It’s abundant in meat, fish, eggs, soya, brown rice, peanuts, vegetables and potatoes. If we don’t have enough, we’ll feel tired and lethargic.
Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid
Most associated with preventing spina bifida in unborn babies, folic acid is also essential for the health of the red blood cells. Green leafy vegetables, nuts, brown rice and chickpeas are all good sources. A deficiency can cause anaemia, a condition that results in extreme tiredness, weakness, pins and needles, confusion and poor memory.
A deficiency in vitamin B12 can also lead to anaemia as it’s involved in the manufacture of red blood cells. It’s also important for releasing energy from food and keeping the nervous system healthy. It works hand in hand with folic acid. Animal-based foods such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs contain vitamin B12, so it’s very difficult to get enough B12 on a vegan diet, therefore a B12 supplement is recommended.
If you’re feeling tired a lot of the time, you don’t eat many B vitamin-rich foods (or fortified foods such as some breakfast cereals) or you’re a vegan, you could find a daily vitamin B complex supplement beneficial.