Many kinds of B vitamins are important to human health: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, biotin, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12. Each of the B vitamins has a unique and essential function:
Vitamins B6, B12, and folate: red blood cell production and nervous system health
Biotin and pantothenic acid: healthy metabolism
Niacin and thiamin: cardiovascular health and energy production
Riboflavin: production of skin cells, nails, and hair
The B vitamins are necessary cofactors in an essential cellular process called the methylation cycle. In this cycle, all three B vitamins are used to convert a potentially damaging molecule called homocysteine into the useful amino acid cysteine. When levels of these B vitamins are low, blood levels of homocysteine rise—a situation that has been shown in numerous studies to significantly increase the risk for heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Luckily, homocysteine levels can be kept in balance by eating a diet high in the following foods.
Whole Grains (high in B6 and B12): brown rice, oats, kasha (toasted buckwheat groats)
Vegetables (high in folate): spinach (also contains B6), parsley, broccoli (also contains niacin & riboflavin), kale (also contains niacin & riboflavin), beets, turnip and mustard greens (also contain B6), asparagus, romaine lettuce, bell peppers (also contain B6)
Fruit (high in B6): banana, mango, avocado (also contains pantothenic acid)
Legumes (high in folate and niacin): all lentils, green peas
Nuts / Seeds (high in B6, B12, folate and niacin): almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds
Animal Protein (high in folate, B6 and B12): beef, chicken / beef liver (also contains biotin), chicken (also contains niacin & riboflavin), pastured eggs (also contain biotin, niacin & riboflavin), wild salmon (also contains riboflavin)
Be sure to include food sources of B vitamins all year round! Some of us may need supplementation of specific B vitamins. If you would like to learn about ways to tailor your dietary needs to your personal constitution, please schedule a nutritional consultation here.