The Complete Guide to B Vitamins

Energy, we all wish we had more of it, especially on busy days. Simply breathing requires energy! We get energy from the foods we eat, BUT did you know that our bodies would not unlock that energy or be able to maintain a healthy body - inside and out - without the help of an important band of vitamins? Introducing The B vitamins!

In our cells we have an energy-producing “factory” with a biological “assembly line” that supplies the body with most of the energy needed to power our movements AND our internal body systems; this is also referred to as our metabolism.1

B vitamins not only help keep this assembly line running smoothly, but they also activate other processes in our body, making them very important coenzymes in various biological reactions.1,2

B vitamins are an important key to our health, as they help keep the lights on and the gears turning in our body's various “factories” to tackle the day! Let's meet these biological heroes:

There are eight B vitamins:1,2


Vitamin B2 AKA Riboflavin:

Riboflavin was first isolated as a yellow pigment found in milk in 1870.3 Riboflavin’s role in our energy “assembly line” is primarily by working in our body’s redox reactions. These chemical reactions create the delicate electrical balance our cells prefer to “run on” for optimal function. It also performs vital functions in the breakdown of fats, amino acids, other vitamins, and ingested drugs. Hence, riboflavin plays a key role in maintaining cell function, growth, and development.1,2,3,4


Where is Riboflavin found in the body?

Riboflavin, like all the other B vitamins, is water-soluble, meaning it dissolves in water when entering the body which means the body has trouble storing excess amounts of it.3 Most mammals are not able to create B vitamins on their own, making it very important to consume all the B vitamins regularly in the diet!1,2


What foods contain Riboflavin?

B vitamins are mainly found in meat and meat by-products like dairy, BUT there are also vegetarian and vegan-friendly plant-based food sources!

High quantities:3,4

  • Eggs
  • Organ meats (liver and kidney)
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese
    • Fun fact: Riboflavin can be destroyed with UV light which is why milk is no longer stored in glass containers but in opaque plastic containers.2,4
  • Poultry
  • Fish

 For vegetarian and vegan diets:3,4

  • Nuts
  • Wild rice
  • Mushrooms
  • Dark leafy vegetables (spinach)
  • Natural grains lack riboflavin therefore cereals, grains, and bread are enriched with B2
  • Green vegetables, such as broccoli, collard greens, and turnips are moderately good sources of B2
  • Dietary supplementation


Vitamin B3 AKA Niacin:

Niacin is converted in the body to a powerful coenzyme, over 400 enzymes require it to activate biological reactions, more than any other vitamin-derived coenzyme!5,6 Niacin allows the body to effectively break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.5,6 It also helps our cells intercommunicate.1


What foods contain Niacin?

High quantities:5,6

  • Liver
  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Pork
  • The body can convert some tryptophan (an amino acid in protein) to niacin in the liver, so tryptophan is considered a dietary source of niacin.
    • Tryptophan-rich foods: Turkey.

For vegetarian and vegan diets:5,6

  • Grains (other than corn), nuts, and legumes
    • provide 2-5 mg per serving, good sources of tryptophan
  • Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)
  • Fortified flour and cereals
  • Dietary supplementation


Vitamin B5 AKA Pantothenic Acid:

B5’s main function is to create two coenzymes which are essential for fatty acid synthesis and breakdown. Fatty acids have many functions in the body, one is being the "building blocks" of our cell walls, when B5 breaks down fatty acids they are able to be used to create cell walls and fuel the body hence B5 is important for energy production (by breaking down fats in the body), optimal cell function, and the formation of hormones.2,7


What foods contain B5?

High quantities:7

  • Organ meats (beef liver)
  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Fish and seafood
  • Eggs

For vegetarian and vegan diets:7

  • whole grains
  • mushrooms (shitake)
  • sunflower seed
  • Nuts and legumes
  • some vegetables have small amounts like broccoli, carrots, and cabbage
  • Cereals are also enriched with B5
  • Dietary supplementation

All B vitamins greatly contribute to energy production and normal regulation of the inner body that fuels our health but there are some that have additional roles in maintaining the health of our nervous system. These are known as the “neurotropic” B vitamins: B1, B6, and B12.3


Vitamin B1 AKA Thiamin:

Thiamin or B1, like the previous B vitamins mentioned, also helps break down nutrients (mainly carbohydrates and amino acids) for energy, contributing to the growth, development, and function of our cells.1,2,8,9 However, B1 is special because the body transports thiamine to areas like the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, muscles, and nerves.1,2,9 So the energy that thiamin helps produce is given to some of the most important “factories” in our bodies.1 Deficiencies in thiamine can affect the metabolic, neurologic, cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and musculoskeletal systems.8


What foods contain Thiamin?

Note: Thiamin is heat sensitive meaning heating your food can limit the amount present.

High quantities:9

  • Pork
  • Liver
  • Fish
  • Egg Noodles

For vegetarian and vegan diets:9

(also high quantity)

  • Whole Grains, Brown Rice
    • B1 is found in the outer layer of rice (polished white rice gets this layer removed in the polishing process)8,9
  • Beans and legumes (black beans and soybeans)
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Fortified cereals, bread pasta, rice
  • Dietary supplementation


Vitamin B6 AKA Pyridoxine:

Pyridoxine, or B6 as it is most commonly referred to, is very versatile and performs a wide range of functions in the body, with more than 100 enzymatic reactions! It’s main functions are brain development during pregnancy and infancy, supporting the immune system, the breaking down of proteins, and the construction of neurotransmitters.1,2,10 It is also critical for red blood cell production.2,11


What foods contain Pyridoxine?

High quantities:10,11

  • Fish
  • Liver (and other organ meats)
  • Poultry


For vegetarian and vegan diets:10,11

  • Chickpeas
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes
  • Fruits (other than citrus)
  • Fortified cereals and bread
  • Dietary supplementation


Vitamin B12 AKA Cobalamin:

B12 contains a mineral called cobalt hence its name cobalamin. B12 supports our central nervous system since it is required for the development of healthy nerve cells. It is also required for healthy red blood cell formation as well as DNA synthesis. B12 is the only B vitamin that is not produced by plants.1,2,12


B12 in the body:

B12 is concentrated in animal tissue and therefore it is only found in animal products12. Our stomach acid helps release B12 from animal tissues, once B12 is free, an intrinsic factor found in the gut will allow its absorption for use in the body.2,12 Human gut bacteria can also create B12 but much further along in the digestive path where intrinsic factor is not found to help absorption therefore a diverse diet that includes B12 is necessary.2,12 Deficiency can manifest in anemia and neurological symptoms.1,2,11,12 It is important to note that methylcobalamin is the natural form of B12 and requires less conversion in the body compared to cyanocobalamin which is the synthetic form of B12.12


What foods contain B12?

High quantities:12

  • Liver
  • Fish and seafood
  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese

For Vegetarian and vegan diets:12

  • Fortified cereals and nutritional yeasts
  • Dietary supplementation


Vitamin B9 AKA Folate:

Folate, like B12 and B6, is necessary for red blood cell formation and cell division. Folate is also important for breaking down proteins that eventually help create DNA, RNA, and neurotransmitters.13 B12 is a much closer biological “coworker” to folate than the other B vitamins, as they both have complementary roles in the body. Folate requires B12’s help to become activated to complete its biological tasks. If B12 is low in the body then folate cannot optimally perform its duties.12,13 Deficiency can manifest in anemia. Folate intake is emphasized in pregnancy due to folic acid’s connection to neural tube defects in infants. It’s important to note that in supplements methylfolate is the natural form of folate, it requires less conversion and processing in the body compared to folic acid, which does need to be converted in the body to the active form of folate.13

What foods contain Folate?

High quantities:13

  • Beef Liver
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Eggs

For vegetarian and vegan diets:13

Also high quantities:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, mustard greens)
  • Asparagus
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Fruits (especially oranges)
  • Nuts, beans and peas (peanuts, black-eyed peas, kidney beans)
  • Fortified cereals
  • Dietary supplementation


Vitamin B7 AKA Biotin:

You might be familiar with biotin since it has made a name for itself in the beauty industry as a hair, nail, and skin fortifier. Biotin plays a vital role in our energy “assembly line” by breaking down protein, fats, and carbohydrates in our foods and assisting the body with immune responses like inflammation.1,14,15 Biotin is also involved in the way our DNA is presented in the body with about 2000 genes being biotin-dependant!15


What foods contain Biotin?

High quantities:15

  • Beef and Beef Liver
  • Egg
  • Fish
  • Pork

For vegetarian and vegan diets:15

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Nuts and Seeds (almonds, sunflower)
  • Spinach
  • Fortified flour and cereals
  • Dietary supplementation


Now that we have been formally introduced to all of the B vitamins and their respective food sources, it’s important to not get too overwhelmed in the details of just how you are going to get all of these vitamins into your diet daily! In a perfect world we’d be able to prepare and enjoy perfectly balanced and nutritious meals and snacks each and everyday, but as we all know, that can be next to impossible most of the time, this is where NatureCity’s TrueB Plant-Based Vitamin B Complex comes into play. TrueB contains all of the B vitamins discussed and all are naturally sourced from USDA organic plants grown in soil, not a lab. TrueB helps promote cellular energy production and red blood cell creation while supporting several aspects of cardiovascular, cognitive and immune system health. Click here to learn more about adding TrueB to your nutritional regimen.





- Maryann Walsh, MFN, RD, LDN
Maryann is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist and a Certified Personal Trainer. Maryann pursued the study of dietetics and nutrition because from a young age she became conscious about making healthy decisions and how they can affect our overall health and happiness. Maryann wanted to become a dietitian in order to share her passion and enthusiasm for all things health and wellness with others and to help guide individuals on a path to a healthier lifestyle. Maryann possesses bachelors degrees in Biological Sciences and Dietetics as well as a masters degree in Food and Nutrition. Read more from Maryann!