What you need to know about B vitamins

The B vitamins are a set of eight water-soluble vitamins that are essential for a number of important bodily functions.

These vitamins help release energy from food and are essential for our immune and nervous systems. They are not stored in the body, so we must regularly consume foods that contain them. Let’s figure out why they are so important for vegans and where to get them from.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

Thiamine helps our bodies use carbohydrates and form adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the “molecular currency” of energy transfer in our cells.

Signs of deficiency B1: headache, nausea, fatigue, irritability, depression, forgetfulness, indigestion, constipation, poor appetite and weight loss. Severe deficiency can lead to beriberi, which affects the heart and circulation. People who rely on ready-made meals, as well as those who avoid cereal products, are at risk.

Best Sources B1: whole grains (oats, wholemeal bread, whole grain pasta and brown rice), nutritional yeast, yeast extract, acorn pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, tahini (sesame seed paste), corn on the cob, pecans, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and legumes (peas, beans and lentils).

Need a supplement?

No, a healthy vegan diet covers the body’s need for B1. If you do take a supplement, don’t overdo it, as it can be harmful. 100 mg or a little less per day will be enough.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Riboflavin is important for growth, healthy vision, and red blood cell production. It helps the body use vitamin B6 and is an antioxidant that protects our cells and DNA from harmful free radicals.

Signs of B2 deficiency: fatigue, stunted growth, digestive problems, cracks and sores at the corners of the mouth, sore throat, tired eyes, and sensitivity to light.

Best B2 Sources: yeast extract, nutritional yeast, quinoa, muesli, fortified vegan breakfast cereal, fortified soy milk, avocado, almonds, wild rice, mushrooms, and mangetou. Low consumption is particularly high among teenagers who skip breakfast (deficit occurs on average in 1 in 5 teenage girls and 1 in 12 boys).

Need a supplement?

No, a healthy vegan diet can meet your vitamin B2 needs.

Vitamin B3 (niacin)

This vitamin is important for many basic reactions in the body and helps maintain the nervous system and keep our skin healthy.

Signs of B3 deficiency: affected areas of the skin exposed to sunlight and / or pressure, diarrhea, in extreme cases – mental impairment.

Best B3 Sources: nutritional yeast, peanuts, fortified vegan breakfast cereal, quinoa, muesli, yeast extract, wild rice, whole grain spaghetti, corn on the cob, brown rice, and acorn porridge.

Need a supplement?

No, a healthy vegan diet can meet your B3 needs. Keep in mind that consuming large amounts of this vitamin (more than 200 mg per day) can cause reddening of the skin, and very high doses (3-6 g per day) can damage the liver.

Vitamin V5 (pantothenic acid)

Pantothenic acid helps produce hormones and is important for a healthy immune system. It is used to make coenzyme A (CoA), a “helper molecule” needed for many important reactions in the body.

Signs of B5 deficiency: feeling tired and dizzy, headaches, mood swings and digestive problems.

Best B5 Sources: nutritional yeast, fortified vegan breakfast cereal, avocado, acorn squash, plantains, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, oranges, mangetou, pecans, oatmeal, and chestnuts.

Need a supplement?

No, a healthy vegan diet will cover your B5 needs. It is sufficient to receive 200 mg or less per day.

V6 vitamin (pyridoxine)

Pyridoxine helps form hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. This keeps our immune and nervous systems healthy.

Signs of B6 deficiency: very rare, but can cause anemia, swollen tongue, depression, confusion, weak immune system, and trouble digesting food.

Best B6 Sources: nutritional yeast, muesli, enriched vegan breakfast cereal, avocado, pistachio, wheat sprouts, pumpkin porridge, banana, quinoa, sunflower seeds, corn on the cob, whole wheat spaghetti, Brussels sprouts, spring greens, chestnuts, hazelnuts, oranges, seeds sesame and tahini, tomatoes and walnuts.

Need a supplement?

No, a healthy vegan diet will cover your B6 needs. Excessive consumption – more than 200 milligrams per day – can lead to loss of sensation in the hands and feet, skin lesions and digestive problems. You should not take more than 10 mg of vitamin B6 per day in supplements unless directed by a doctor.

Виvitamin B7 (biotin)

Biotin (vitamin B7) plays a central role in fat, sugar and protein metabolism and is beneficial for healthy skin and nails.

Signs of B7 deficiency: hair loss, brittle nails, rashes or other skin problems, depression and exhaustion. Deficiency in children can cause muscle weakness, lethargy, and developmental delay.

Best Sources B7: tempeh (fermented soybeans), peanuts and peanut butter, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, muesli, nutritional yeast, oatmeal or oatmeal, mushrooms, avocados, sunflower and sesame seeds, tahini, fortified breakfast cereals and shoots of wheat.

Need a supplement?

No, just eat a variety of plant-based foods and you will get enough vitamin B7. Taking 900 mg or less of biotin per day in supplement form will not cause harm. Medications can affect the levels of this vitamin in the body – for example, anticonvulsants used to treat epilepsy can lower biotin levels.

Vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid)

The word “folate” comes from the Latin word “folium”, which means “leaf”, so you can guess where to look for this vitamin. Folate (or folic acid) is essential for brain and nervous system function, DNA production, cell reproduction, and, like vitamin B12, is essential for building red blood cells. It plays an important role in fertility, and women who are pregnant or trying to conceive are advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily until the twelfth week of pregnancy to prevent non-auricular tube defects.

Studies show that many people are deficient in this vitamin. A low level is observed in almost a third of girls, indicating an increased risk of anemia. More than 90% of women of childbearing age may have folate levels below the threshold, indicating a higher risk of non-aural tube defects. This does not mean that their children will be born with defects, just that they are considered to be at higher risk.

Signs of B9 deficiency: poor growth, loss of appetite, inflammation of the tongue and gums, cognitive problems, fatigue, blood and digestive disorders.

Best B9 Sources: nutritional yeast, edamame, tempeh (fermented soybeans), soy milk, tofu, green vegetables (asparagus, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and peas), yeast extract, red pepper, fortified breakfast cereal, oranges, beets, lentils, acorn squash, wheat shoots, sweet corn, muesli, cherry tomatoes and hazelnuts.

Need a supplement?

No, a healthy vegan diet will cover your B9 needs. Taking high doses (more than one milligram per day) for long periods of time can be dangerous and can mask signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to nervous system damage.

Vitamin V12

Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and produce DNA. It produces red blood cells in conjunction with folic acid and helps iron work better in the body.

B12 is produced by bacteria in soil and water. People (and animals) are used to getting food from the ground. However, modern food production is so disinfected that we need supplements. Animal products contain B12 because it is added to livestock feed, so just cut out the middleman and get this vitamin yourself!

Signs of a B12 deficiency: fatigue, lack of energy, tingling, muscle weakness, depression, memory impairment. Low B12 levels can lead to elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. B12 levels can be easily checked with blood tests, and any deficiency can be treated with supplements or injections.

Best B12 Sources: yeast extract, nutritional yeast flakes with B12, B12-fortified plant-based dairy products, B12-fortified breakfast cereals. Make sure the foods you buy are fortified with B12, as organic foods don’t have it.

Need a supplement?

Yes! Especially if you are over 50, as this vitamin is absorbed worse with age.

Whether you choose fortified foods or supplements, you need to consume them regularly. It is recommended to take up to 2000 micrograms of vitamin B12 (a microgram is a millionth of a gram, so we only need a small amount of B12, but getting it is vital).

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