These little things are pretty important for our body to do its job properly and can be found in many different foods, so as always, variety is key. Actually, most of the time you are probably getting enough of them without having to really supplement, unless you have been advised by your doctor otherwise of course. There are some diets or health conditions that can put you more at risk of deficiency.
Vitamins are micronutrients. These are required in much smaller amounts in comparison to carbohydrates, proteins and fats (macronutrients). We have water-soluble vitamins (all the B vitamins and Vitamin C) which your body requires every day as they cannot be stored. There are also fat-soluble vitamins, which your body are able to store, and they are Vitamin A, D, E and vitamin K.
Each vitamin has their own unique benefit and purpose, and they are all essential for our body to function properly and at its best.
B is for Boost
Can you believe there are 8 different B vitamins (NHS.uk) -
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Vitamin B7 (biotin)
Folic acid (folate)
These are all essential for the health of our nervous system, either to assist in the breakdown and/or release of energy from food and assist in the production of red blood cells/hemoglobin. Folic acid plays a huge role in risk reduction of neural tube defects in unborn babies.
Vitamin B1 – Helps the process of turning the food we eat into energy, lack of this vitamin can cause tiredness, fatigue and loss of appetite. Foods that provide B1 can be found in oats, beef, liver, nuts, eggs, legumes, and yeast. Most white products such as rice, pasta, cereals or bread are fortified.
Vitamin B2 – Keeps your skin healthy and eyes working at their best. The nervous system requires this vitamin for proper function. Like most B vitamins, B2 is essential for energy release from foods we eat. This B vitamin comes from majority of dairy products, mushrooms and eggs.
Vitamin B3 – Essential for a healthy nervous system, skin health, and energy release from food. Food sources that are great are meat, fish, eggs and wheat flour.
Vitamin B6 – A very important vitamin for hemoglobin production within blood, and to be able to store energy from food. Foods such as poultry, soya beans, wheatgerm, oats, bananas, milk, fortified cereals.
Vitamin B7 – To help create fatty acids within the body for every cell. This vitamin can be created from the bacteria within your own gut. So, a healthy digestive system can be really beneficial.
Vitamin B12 – Red cell production, for a healthy nervous system, energy release from food and for the ability to use folate. Like most B vitamins, a lack can cause energy deficiencies. Good food sources are fish and meat products, dairy, eggs and most fortified breakfast cereals. This vitamin is tough to get if you are vegan, so supplementing maybe beneficial (check with your doctor first).
Folate – also known as Vitamin B9, helps with the production of red blood cells. An essential nutrient for fetal production. Found in small amounts in broccoli, and most green leafy vegetables, legumes, liver and most fortified breakfast cereals.
Pantothenic acid - assists in the release of energy from the food we eat. This vitamin is pretty easy to obtain from foods. Variety is key, so option such as mushrooms, chicken, avocado and eggs will do the job.
It is tough to get too much. If we take in too much of a certain water-soluble vitamin, we will most likely pee it out. Saying this though, it is more likely that we don't get enough. So, supplementation is rare.
However, if you lack intake of animal products, you are a vegetarian who eats a limited diet, or a vegan then supplementation of a B12 supplement won't do any harm.
Symptoms of B12 anemia are tiredness and fatigue, muscle weakness, sore or red tongue, low energy or mood or disturbed vision then it may be worth getting a blood test to test your levels (NHS.uk).
B vitamins are really undervalued and don't tend to get as much limelight as some of the others but play just as much of a role in our health as any of the others.
NHS.uk (2020) Vitamins and minerals. Available at: Vitamins and minerals - B vitamins and folic acid - NHS (www.nhs.uk) Accessed on: 13.09.2022