What foods have B vitamins?

What foods have B vitamins?

Team ErbologyErbology

B vitamins are a whole family of nutrients that can help look after your health. We delve into each one, what it does for you and where you can find it. 

April 27, 2022 4:54 pm

What do B vitamins do?

Although they may be less well-known than vitamin C or vitamin E, B vitamins are vital for our health.

We use the term ‘B vitamins’ to talk about a number of different substances, but they all perform similar functions. On the one hand, they help the body derive energy (or rather, glucose) from carbohydrates, proteins, fat, and so on.(1) On the other, they support our immune system when it comes under threat from stress. For this reason, they’re sometimes known as ‘anti-stress vitamins’. 

Unlike other types of vitamin, which can be stored in fat, B vitamins are water soluble, This makes it slightly harder for us to store them in our bodies, and quite a bit of the B vitamins we consume is lost. (There are two exceptions to this, B12 and B9, which can be quite effectively stored in the liver.)

Therefore, it’s especially important to keep a good supply of B vitamins coming through your diet. Whole foods and vegetables are good places to start.

So, what are the different types of B vitamins we should be looking out for?

Vitamin B1 – Thiamin

Thiamin is key to maintaining the flow of electrolytes through our muscles and nerves.(2)

While you might be most used to hearing about electrolytes in adverts for sports drinks, they actually perform a very important role in the body. They do this by sending a tiny electrical charge into our nerves and muscles, spurring them into action.(2)

Nutritional yeast is a wonderful source of thiamin, with 63mg per 100g! Handily, it is also a great choice for many other B vitamins. These include B2 (riboflavin); B3 (niacin); B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (folate).

Sprinkle it on the top of vegetables or other savoury dishes. You get a flavour as well as nutrient kick! Although some varieties are fortified, unfortified nutritional yeast still contains a healthy amount of natural B vitamins.

Vitamin B foods: Sources of thiamin

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data. 


Fennel salad recipe

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Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin

Riboflavin is needed for a huge variety of bodily processes including cell respiration, growth, and maintaining the health of your eyes and skin. It also helps your body to produce energy from food.

Interestingly, light can degrade riboflavin. When newborns with jaundice are treated under light, they sometimes develop a riboflavin deficiency.(3)

We need riboflavin because it helps us take in and use other nutrients, such as vitamins B1, B3, B6 and B9 as well as iron. It’s also beneficial for liver and digestive health, among a whole host of other functions.

Try a range of green, leafy vegetables to satisfy your riboflavin needs, or try romantic rose hips – they contain 0.2 mg of riboflavin per 100g.

Vitamin B foods: Sources of riboflavin

  • Almonds (1.1 mg)
  • Cayenne (0.9 mg)
  • Buckwheat, sunflower seeds (0.4 mg)
  • Kelp seaweed, spinach (0.2 mg)

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data


gluten free granola

Vitamin B3 – Niacin

Not sure you need niacin? Well, this may convince you: every single part of your body needs niacin in order to work!

Your body mainly gets niacin through food. However, we can also make some niacin ourselves if we get enough of the amino acid called tryptophan. Sesame, chia and pumpkin seeds are all sources of tryptophan.

Niacin is essential in cell metabolism.(4) It also helps fix our DNA and can act as an antioxidant, helping us fight off harmful oxidative stress. Many nuts and legumes are rich in niacin, including the humble peanut. 100g of raw peanuts contain 12.1 mg of niacin, nearly 75% of the recommended daily amount. → View Related Products

Vitamin B foods: Sources of niacin

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data


risotto with almonds

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'People think vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal-derived products. However, there are some good vegetarian sources of vitamin B12.'

Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic acid

Our red blood cells perform the vital role of transporting oxygen throughout our bodies. Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, helps us make these cells.(5)

Further, along with the other B vitamins, it also assists us in deriving energy from what we eat.

Many varieties of cabbage are rich in pantothenic acid, so if you weren’t already trying out different beautifully coloured cabbages in your salads and cooking, here’s a reason to start. For instance, red cabbage contains 0.1 mg of vitamin B5 per 100g serving.

Vitamin B foods: Pantothenic acid

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data


plum herb crackers

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Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine

Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, helps us make neurotransmitters which help impulses travel between our nerve cells. One such neurotransmitter is serotonin, which you may have heard of. It’s thought to be linked with feelings of happiness, pleasure and a. balanced mood. 

While there is no suggestion that pyridoxine can help treat depression, there have been several studies linking an inadequacy of pyridoxine to depression.(6)(7) In other words, keeping yourself supplied with pyridoxine through diet may be a natural help in maintaining your emotional equilibrium.

Soy products like tofu, tempeh, or soy beans have an abundance of pyridoxine acid. Some varieties of tofu are fortified, but unfortified tofu is still a good source. 100g of tempeh has 0.2 mg of pyridoxine. → View Related Products

Vitamin B foods: pyridoxine acid

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data


chia crackers

Vitamin B7 – Biotin

Just to make things a bit more complicated, vitamin B7 (biotin) is also sometimes called vitamin H! We’ll call it biotin here, to keep things simple, but if you come across vitamin B7 or vitamin H elsewhere, rest assured they mean the same thing.

Biotin is essential for your liver health and nervous system. Many people believe that biotin supplements can correct hair loss. However, buyer beware: a review of several studies did not support the claim.

Most healthy people get enough biotin from their diet. Nuts, in particular, tend to be good stores of biotin. 

Look to these whole foods for your biotin requirements. Note that for a variety of reasons, scientists still have a tough time producing accurate measurements of how much biotin is in specific foods. However, we do know that certain foods provide us with ample biotin. → View Related Products

  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Pecans, walnuts, and other nuts
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Onions

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data.

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Vitamin B9 – Folate

If you have ever been through a pregnancy in the family, you will likely know about folic acid. It’s one of the supplements that many doctors recommend pregnant women take to ensure their health and that of the new baby. 

This is because vitamin B9 is important in forming red blood cells, and for normal spine development in foetuses.(8) But it’s not just good for babies; all of us need vitamin B9.

Folic acid is actually the synthetic version of vitamin B9. It can be found in supplements and fortified foods, and your body converts it into vitamin B9 ready for use. Unfortunately, your body may not be terribly good at converting folic acid into vitamin B9 efficiently.(8) There are two reasons why this is cause for concern: firstly, you might not be getting an adequate amount of vitamin B9 from your supplements. Secondly, unused folic acid can build up in your blood, This can be quite harmful to your health.(10)

The naturally occurring version of vitamin B9 is called folate. Our bodies convert folate into ready-to-use vitamin B9.

Fortunately, many whole foods are rich in folate. This includes everyone’s favourite, the avocado!

An entire avocado contains 162.8μg of folate, or 42% of your daily recommendation of folate.(11) Many other delicious foods are rich in folate, so it is very possible for everyone – even pregnant women – to get adequate vitamin B9 from whole foods. However, pregnant women should be especially vigilant about ensuring that daily targets are met through diet. Popping a pill is easier. However, it’s not always better.

Vitamin B foods: Folate

  • Edamame beans (311μg)
  • Sunflower seeds (227μg)
  • Lentils (181μg) and beans, such as roman beans (207μg), black eyed peas (118μg) and chickpeas (172μg)
  • Walnuts (98μg)
  • Dark leafy greens, such as spinach (194μg) and turnip greens (194μg)
  • Asparagus (52μg)

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data


Sicilian salad recipe

Vitamin B12 – Cyanocobalamin

Vitamin B12 is necessary for our nervous systems. It also helps us to synthesise DNA and form healthy red blood cells.(12)

People who have recently adopted a vegetarian or vegan diet will have heard of vitamin B12. It’s often touted as the only vitamin you need to get from animal-derived products, but that is actually incorrect.

There are some good vegetarian sources out there. Studies have suggested that nori seaweed is the best available plant source for Vitamin B12. Researchers found that nori contains 28.5 ± 3.9 and 12.3 ± 1.9 μg of Vitamin B12 per 100g weight.

As a bonus, nori is also a great source of iron and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.(13) These may also often be lacking in vegetarian or vegan diets.

Need a bit of inspiration for integrating nori into your diet? Try making a brown rice sushi wrap for a quick lunch, or crunch on dried nori instead of crisps. Or, crumble and sprinkle over your salad for a savoury garnish.

What’s more, our gut bacteria can actually make their own Vitamin B12.(14)  So, nourishing the gut may well be another way to make sure that we are supplied with Vitamin B12.

That said, making sure that our diet is filled with whole food sources of B12 is the best course of action to make sure you’re getting enough. 

Vitamin B foods: Vitamin B12

  • Rice milk (0.6μg)
  • Unsweetened soy milk (1.2μg)
  • Tempeh (0.1μg)

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data

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  • References

    (1) Kennedy, David O. “B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review”, Nutrients, 2016.

    (2) Maiorana et al, “Acute thiamine deficiency and refeeding syndrome: Similar findings but different pathogenesis”, Nutrition, 2014.

    (3) Gaylord et al, “Influence of milk fat, milk solids, and light intensity on the light stability of vitamin A and riboflavin in lowfat milk.” Journal of Dairy Science, 1986, 

    (4) Meyer-Ficca, Mirella, “Niacin”, Advances in Nutrition, 2016.

    (5) Annous, Kathleen F. and Song, Won O., “Pantothenic Acid Uptake and Metabolism by Red Blood Cells of Rats”, The Journal of Nutrition, 1995.

    (6) Merete et al, “Vitamin B6 is associated with depressive symptomatology in Massachusetts elders.”, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2008.

    (7) Hvas et al, “Vitamin B6 level is associated with symptoms of depression.” Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 2004

    (8) Czeizei et al, “Folate deficiency and folic acid supplementation: the prevention of neural-tube defects and congenital heart defects.” Nutrients, 2013.

    (9) Wright et al, “Folic acid metabolism in human subjects revisited: potential implications for proposed mandatory folic acid fortification in the UK.” British Journal of Nutrition, 2007.

    (10) Cole et al, “Folic acid for the prevention of colorectal adenomas: a randomized clinical trial.” JAMA, 2007.

    (11) Refenrece

    (12) Ankar, Alex and Kumar, Anil, “Vitamin B12 Deficiency (Cobalamin)”, Stat Pearls, 2019.

    (13) Watanabe et al, “Vitamin B12-Containing Plant Food Sources for Vegetarians”, Nutrients, 2014.

    (14) Morowitz et al, “Contributions of Intestinal Bacteria to Nutrition and Metabolism in the Critically Ill”, Surgical Clinics of North America, 2012. 

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