Why do you need Vitamin B and where do you get it from?

(Photo: Pixabay)

B vitamins, which are a group of 8 water-soluble vitamins, ​play a key role in keeping you healthy. They are associated with a variety of crucial bodily functions such as cell metabolism, energy production, production of red blood cells and genetic material (DNA), and they also help maintain healthy skin, hair, eyes, nerves and muscles.

The best source of B vitamins is the food you eat, with both animal and plant foods being natural sources of these vitamins. You can also get your daily dose of B vitamins from fortified cereals and dietary supplements.

A deficiency of B vitamins can lead to a host of health problems from anaemia to muscle weakness, skin problems and mood disturbances.

The 8 B vitamins are: B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate/folic acid) and B12 (cobalamin). However, of these, vitamins B6, B9 and B12 have greater significance for your health.

(Photo: Pixabay)

Vitamin B6

Why you need it: Helps with the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, fats; nerve and brain functioning; immune function

Symptoms of deficiency:

  • Anaemia

  • Skin disorders, e.g. seborrheic dermatitis

  • Ulcers in the mouth

  • Chapped lips, cracks at the corners of the mouth

  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet

  • Irritability, confusion, depression

Food sources:

  • Seafood (salmon, tuna)

  • Poultry

  • Chickpeas

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Fruits (banana, papaya, orange)

  • Whole grains (oats, brown rice)

(Photo: Pixabay)

Vitamin B9:

Why you need it: Helps with brain function; production of red blood cells; production of DNA; foetal development during pregnancy; protein metabolism

Symptoms of deficiency:

  • Anaemia

  • Irritability, confusion

  • Sore mouth and diarrhoea

  • For pregnant women – increased risk of birth defects, e.g. spina bifida

Food sources:

  • Vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, leafy greens)

  • Legumes (beans, lentils)

  • Peanuts

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Fresh fruits, fruit juices

  • Whole grains

  • Liver

  • Seafood

  • Eggs

(Photo: Pexels)

Vitamin B12:

Why you need it: Helps in the production of red blood cells; cell metabolism; production of DNA; functioning of the nervous system

Symptoms of deficiency:

  • Anaemia

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle weakness and poor muscle coordination

  • Poor cognitive function, confusion, memory loss

  • Nerve damage, numbness, tingling in arms and legs

  • Depression, mood changes

Food sources:

  • Fish, shellfish

  • Red meat, liver

  • Poultry

  • Eggs

  • Dairy products, e.g. milk, cheese, yogurt


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