The B vitamin family is made up of eight B vitamins. Although they are commonly recognized as a group and often work together in the body, each of the B vitamins performs unique and important functions. To help you better understand the roles of each of the B vitamins, we have put together a friendly guide to introduce you to each member of this important family of vitamins and to answer the common question, what are the roles of B vitamins?
Also known as vitamin B1, thiamin is needed to help produce cellular energy from the foods you eat, and also supports normal nervous system function. Thiamin is found in a wide variety of foods, with some of the best sources coming from lentils and whole grains. Thiamin can also be found in red meats, yeast, nuts, sunflower seeds, peas, milk, cauliflower, spinach and legumes.
Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin supports cellular energy production. Riboflavin is found in a variety of foods such as fortified cereals, milk, eggs, salmon, beef, spinach and broccoli.
Niacin is also known as vitamin B3, and supports cellular energy production. Niacin, in the form of nicotinic acid, helps support cardiovascular health. Good sources of niacin include beef, poultry and fish as well as whole wheat bread, peanuts and lentils.
Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, is widely available in plant and animal food sources and helps support cellular energy production in the body.† Rich sources include organ meats (liver, kidney), egg yolk, whole grains, avocados, cashew nuts, peanuts, lentils, soybeans, brown rice, broccoli, and milk.
Involved in over 100 cellular reactions throughout the body, vitamin B6 is instrumental in keeping various bodily functions operating at their best.† Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is needed to metabolize amino acids and glycogen (the body’s storage form of glucose), and is also necessary for normal nervous system function and red blood cell formation.† Vitamin B6 is fairly abundant in the diet and can be found in foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, bananas, fish, fortified cereal grains and cooked spinach.
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, plays a critical role in the pathways of the body that produce cellular energy. It is also needed for DNA synthesis, proper red blood cell formation and for normal nervous system function. Individuals who follow vegan or vegetarian diets may benefit from a B12 supplement since B12 is predominantly found in foods of animal origin such as chicken, beef, fish, milk and eggs.