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B Vitamins ExplainedB Vitamins Explained


B Vitamins Explained

While most vitamins and minerals are identified individually, B-complex vitamins are often referred to as a group of nutrients. These eight distinct water-soluble vitamins assist with converting food to energy, controlling appetite and forming red blood cells.

Each B vitamin has two or more names. These are the most commonly used:

  • B1 - Thiamin
  • B2 - Riboflavin
  • B3 - Niacin
  • B5 - Pantothenic Acid
  • B6 - Pyridoxine
  • B7 - Biotin
  • B12 - Cobalamin
  • Folic Acid - Folate

Because these vitamins are water-soluble, the body does not store large quantities. Foods that contain B vitamins should be a regular part of your eating plan to ensure these nutrients are readily available in the body.

B vitamins are found in cereals and grains, meats, poultry, eggs, fish, dairy, legumes and fresh vegetables. If you eat a balanced diet, it’s likely you get the B vitamins you need. If you avoid any of the major food groups that supply B vitamins, it’s wise to check with your doctor or dietician to ensure you are getting appropriate levels. For example, B12 deficiencies are common in those who eliminate animal products, and the symptoms are often not evident right away.

Food is the best source for vitamins, but if you choose to take a supplement, it is wise to avoid mega-doses. Even though the body does not store water-soluble vitamins, there are still risks of toxicity with high doses.


Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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