Vitamin B is actually a complex of eight different vitamins. They were once believed to be a single vitamin and are still commonly discussed as a group, but it is more accurate to refer to them collectively as B vitamins or the vitamin B complex. The different nutrients in the vitamin B complex are often found together in foods and offer many of the same benefits, so it can be useful to discuss them as a single entity.
The eight vitamins that make up the vitamin B complex are:
- B-1 or Thiamine
- B-2 or Riboflavin
- B-3 or Niacin
- B-5 or Pantothenic acid
- B-6 or Pyridoxine and Pyridoxamine
- B-7 or Biotin
- B-9 or Folic acid
- B-12 or Cyanocobalamin
The different types of vitamin B all have their own health benefits, but they also work together to help the body function in a number of ways. The vitamin B complex boosts metabolic function; promotes skin and muscle tone; boosts the immune and nervous systems; and promotes cellular metabolism, growth, and division. The vitamin B complex promotes cardiovascular health, improves energy, and helps prevent depression. Deficiencies in certain B vitamins can result in such illnesses as beriberi, anemia, heart disease, and birth defects.
Vitamin B is water-soluble, so it must be replenished every day through the diet or supplements. There are many foods rich in vitamin B. Some natural sources include bananas, potatoes, tempeh, lentils, other whole grains, chili peppers, green vegetables, eggs, dairy products, and meats including turkey, tuna, and liver.
Deactivated forms of yeast are an excellent source of vitamin B. Nutritional yeast can be added to many different foods and beverages, and provides protein and a number of minerals in addition to B vitamins. Brewer’s yeast, the inactive yeast that remains after beer is fermented, is also a good source of vitamin B. It’s important to note that the term “brewer’s yeast” is also frequently used to refer to the yeast used in brewing beer; this is an active yeast that should not be used as a nutritional supplement. Consuming beer in excess will have adverse health results, and alcohol interferes with the body’s absorption of vitamin B-1.
If you are concerned that your diet is not providing you with sufficient amounts of vitamin B, there are many supplements available on the market. The most effective vitamin B supplement is in liquid form, and holding a tablespoon of the liquid under the tongue for a few seconds before swallowing will help your body absorb the nutrients.
A slight deficiency of vitamin B-12 can lead to anemia, fatigue, mania, and depression, while a long term deficiency can potentially cause permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system. Vitamin B-12, or Cobalamin, is naturally found solely in animal foods and thus vegans have to supplement their diets with fortified foods or pills.
A wide array of cereals now exist with the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12 added in. Vegans can eat the cereal with soy, rice, or almond milk.
List of Cereals High in Vitamin B12.
Fortified Soy Products
Most vegans consume soy both as a dairy substitute, and as a source of protein. Many soy products now come fortified with vitamin B12. Check the nutrition facts of the product to be sure.
As more and more people are becoming vegan companies are seeing the benefit of fortifying drinks with vitamin B12. Drinks like Vitamin Water provide a health alternative to soft drinks.
Yeast extract Spreads (Marmite)
Yeast extract spreads are popular in Britain and Europe, and have started to gain popularity in the U.S. A good vegan source of protein, the spread also packs a lot of vitamin B12. One hundred grams provides 0.5μg (8% RDA) of vitamin B12, that is 0.03μg (1% RDA) per teaspoon.