B vitamins are actually a group of 8 water-soluble vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, biotin, folate, and B12. Some of these you may have heard of and some may be brand new to you, but they are all important and play vital roles in our body’s health. Being a water-soluble vitamin (versus a fat-soluble vitamin) means after our body digested the food and pulled out all the B vitamins that it can use at any one time, we are unable to store the leftover B vitamins for later use, so we send the rest out when we go to the bathroom. But B vitamins are so important for our well-being, we need to replenish them in our body throughout the day.
B vitamins play a large role in how our bodies convert food into fuel, making them a key player in how much energy we have throughout the day. B vitamins also create new blood cells to keep our immune system strong, while creating new skin cells and brain cells that keep our skin healthy and boost mental cognition.
These 8 vitamins are often found in the same foods and while they do definitely work together in the body, they also carry out their own unique functions. Two very important B vitamins are:
Thiamin (or vitamin B1): helps the body convert the carbohydrates we eat (fruits, veggies, grains) into energy throughout the day. Not getting enough thiamin can lead to short-term memory loss, weakness, fatigue, cardiovascular symptoms, and irritability.
Pyridoxine (or vitamin B6): is crucial for our bodies to store protein and carbohydrates to use as fuel later on and it plays a role in taking that stored fuel and putting it to work when we need a boost. B6 also plays a large role in keeping our immune system strong and our mental cognition healthy. A lack of pyridoxine in your diet can lead to muscle weakness, feelings of depression, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, and nervousness.
Where can we find them? You can find B vitamins in whole grains, salmon, tuna, legumes, and hemp foods. Add in more B vitamins by starting your day with an avocado toast with 3 tbsp. of hemp hearts sprinkled on top or, for a snack, have some plain Greek yogurt with a little Hemp Yeah! Granola. And for dinner, have some roasted broccoli with salmon or tuna crusted in hemp hearts or a vegetable medley stir-fry with 3-4 tbsps. of hemp hearts sprinkled on top.
About Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, CDN: Brigitte loves food and in her private practice she creates a plan for each client that combines the foods they love with their health and wellness goals. She practices a holistic and integrative nutrition approach and specializes in digestive/gut health, women’s nutrition, heart health, and general well-being and weight loss.