Of all the vitamins out there, B vitamins are probably one of the most important as they play a key role in maintaining your health and well-being. Not only do B vitamins have a direct impact on your energy levels, they also influence brain function and cell metabolism amongst other bodily functions. Taking Vitamin B frequently also helps to prevent infections and promotes better cell health in general. Dive in and let’s find out more about the benefits of taking Vitamin B!
Firstly, what is Vitamin B?
Vitamin B is a group of water-soluble vitamins that is essential for our body. They can be found in many foods such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, lean meat and fish. There are eight types of B vitamins in total – thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12).
10 benefits of Vitamin B
1. It supports your immune system
Taking Vitamin B frequently is beneficial to your immune system as various B vitamins help to boost immune function. Pyridoxine (B6) and folate (B9) for example, are responsible for producing white blood cells to fight off infections. A deficiency in folate (B9) has also been linked to an increased risk of getting infections.
Besides producing white blood cells, pyridoxine (B6) is also needed for the production of antibodies that help to identify and neutralise viruses and bacteria. In other words, taking vitamin B frequently can help you fall sick less!
2. It helps boost your energy levels
The B vitamins play an important role in energy production. Thiamin (B1) especially, helps to convert carbohydrates into glucose for energy use by cells so staying topped up with thiamin will help you feel more alert throughout the day. Thiamin is also a coenzyme that processes carbohydrates, lipids and proteins in order for the body to generate energy so if you are feeling a bit lethargic as of late, it might be worthwhile to run by your doctor to check if your vitamin B levels are sufficient. A Vitamin B supplement can do wonders when it comes to combating fatigue!
3. Promotes cell health
Of all the B vitamins, pyridoxine (B6) and cobalamin (B12) are the ones responsible for helping cells to multiply. This is key considering some cells e.g. red blood cells have shorter life spans. Pyridoxine (B6) is also essential in cellular and enzyme reactions in the body, supporting proper growth and development of the nervous system.
4. Maintains healthy red blood cells
Pantothenic acid (B5) plays an important role in the production of red blood cells while pyridoxine (B6) helps to produce haemoglobin and support blood sugar levels. Besides B5 and B6, riboflavin (B2) has also been found helpful when it comes to increasing haemoglobin levels naturally.
5. Supports healthy brain function & concentration levels
As mentioned earlier, thiamin (B1) helps the brain produce energy from glucose and this also helps to support brain function as the energy then acts as a source of fuel for brain activity.
Other B vitamins such as pyridoxine (B6), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12) also help to support brain function. Pyridoxine (B6) helps the brain produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which affects your mood and allows you to feel certain emotions such as satisfaction and pleasure. Folate, on the other hand, builds new neural pathways between nerve cells so they can communicate better with each other; this leads to improved concentration levels over time when consumed regularly. Last but not least, cobalamin (B12) helps to maintain the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells.
6. Supports good digestion
Besides supporting brain health, folate (B9) also aids digestion by breaking down proteins into amino acids so they can be absorbed through our intestinal walls into bloodstreams. They then travel all over the body, aiding in essential body functions such as repairing tissue damage caused by exercise. Besides folate (B9), pyridoxine (B6) also supports your system by processing the proteins you eat while Biotin (B7) helps to process carbohydrates and fats.
7. Promotes a healthy appetite
In general, B vitamins help to maintain a healthy appetite by ensuring that the body is able to properly digest and absorb nutrients from food, and regulate the hormones that control hunger and satiety.
As thiamin (B1) helps to convert carbohydrates into energy, it is crucial to maintaining a healthy metabolism and appetite. It also regulates the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which is necessary for proper digestion and nutrient absorption to take place.
Riboflavin (B2) is involved in the production of enzymes responsible for breaking down fats, proteins and carbohydrates. This then helps to ensure the body is able to extract the optimal amount of nutrients from food, which improves appetite and health overall.
8. Supports hormone production and healthy cholesterol
While B vitamins do not directly produce hormones, they play an important role in the hormone production process through supporting the functioning of various glands and enzymes.
As mentioned earlier, pyridoxine (B6) helps in the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. It also helps to produce melatonin to regulate sleep. Pantothenic acid (B5) is involved in the production of adrenal hormones such as cortisol which is important for stress regulation. Niacin (B3) helps to regulate the production of hormones involved in appetite control i.e. insulin, glucagon and leptin. It also plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats which contributes to maintaining a healthy appetite and healthy cholesterol levels.
9. Encourages proper nerve function
B vitamins are essential in the production and maintenance of healthy nerve cells. Thiamin (B1) for instance, helps the body produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter needed for muscle contraction and other nervous system functions. Pyridoxine (B6) and cobalamin (B12) is involved in producing myelin – a fatty substance that covers and protects nerve cells. Besides producing myelin, cobalamin (B12) also helps to improve nerve signalling.
10. Supports cardiovascular health
Vitamin B mainly supports healthy cardiovascular health through two ways: 1) by lowering homocysteine levels within the blood as well as 2) improving cholesterol levels. Taking pyridoxine (B6), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12) helps to lower homocysteine levels while niacin (B3) on the other hand, improves cholesterol levels by increasing the amount of ‘good’ cholesterol. This all contributes to reducing the risk of heart disease.
Pantothenic acid (B5) is also known for regulating blood pressure, which is key to good heart health.
Signs of Vitamin B Deficiency
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you could very well be low in Vitamin B.
- Poor Memory
- Muscle Cramps
- Low Blood Pressure (hypotension) and/or High Blood Pressure (hypertension)
If your symptoms persist, we recommend getting yourself checked out by a doctor – you can never be too careful!
How to Increase Your Vitamin B Intake
If you’re looking to include more vitamin B in your diet, here are some foods you can take to increase your intake naturally:
- Whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
- Bread made from 100% whole wheat flour or pasta made from durum semolina
- Barley (add it to soups or casseroles!)
- Bulgur wheat
- Brown rice
Sources of vitamin B
In general, Vitamin B can be found in a wide variety of foods such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits & vegetables. Lean meats and fish are also good sources of B6 and many dairy products e.g. milk or yoghurt are also fortified with cobalamin (B12).
Whole grains especially, contain both folate (B9) and magnesium so when possible, choose whole grains e.g. brown rice and quinoa over white rice for a healthier choice!
In conclusion, vitamin B plays an essential role in maintaining one’s overall health and well-being. From supporting the immune system to improving brain function and digestion, B vitamins help by either acting as coenzymes, or by producing important hormones to aid with regular body functions.
A deficiency in vitamin B can lead to serious health problems such as an increased risk of heart disease and a decline in cognitive function and mental performance, so make sure to take enough vitamin B and have a balanced diet! Whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables are a good place to start.
If you are struggling to take enough vitamin B, you can also consider taking a supplement to keep your B levels up. Increasing your intake of vitamin B will help improve your energy levels, immune function and do wonders for your health overall.