Good nutrition is tied to good health, as well as to the prevention and treatment of many conditions. Getting the recommended amounts of vitamins each day is an important part of the nutrition equation, and B vitamins are essential for preventive care. Abundant in green vegetables, whole or enriched grains, dairy and meats, B vitamins help promote a healthy metabolism and are also linked to a reduced risk of stroke, research shows. Vitamin B12, a water-soluble vitamin, plays a significant role in nerve function, the formation of red blood cells, and the production of DNA. While most people get plenty of vitamin B12 benefits in a varied, balanced diet, if you are on a vegan or vegetarian diet, you are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. Also, elderly adults and people with GI disorders lack adequate B12.
Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
• Difficulty maintaining balance
• Intestinal problems
• Mood disturbances
• Muscle weakness
• Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
• Poor memory
• Soreness of the mouth or tongue
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is vital for normal brain development and for keeping the immune system and nervous system working properly. Most people who eat poultry, fish, potatoes, chickpeas, and bananas have enough vitamin B6. But certain illnesses, such as kidney disease and malabsorption syndromes, can lead to vitamin B6 deficiency. Lack of B6 can result in a reduction of red blood cells, which take oxygen to tissues throughout the body. As mentioned earlier, people with B vitamin deficiencies experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Folate (vitamin B9) is in the forefront of mood management. Findings show that many people with depression have lower levels of folate in the blood. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, peanuts, and other legumes, and citrus fruits. Additionally, folic acid (the synthetic form of folate in supplements and fortified food) is essential during early pregnancy to prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine such as spina bifida. Taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid three months before conception and eating folic-acid fortified foods can help women get plenty of this essential B vitamin.
Your doctor can determine if you are deficient in one of the B vitamins and may prescribe a vitamin B complex supplement. Even if you’re taking a supplement, a varied and balanced diet is essential to avoiding a B vitamin deficiency and reaping the health benefits of these important vitamins.
Read on to learn about the daily doses of different B vitamins you need, natural sources to include in your diet, and the health benefits you can expect to reap.
Lower Stroke Risk
In addition to their role in metabolism and in maintaining healthy skin and hair, B vitamins have been linked to a lower incidence of stroke, a condition in which a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain, or a blood vessel bursts in the brain.
But before you begin taking vitamin B complex or any B vitamin supplement, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider
The recommended daily intake of vitamin B1, also called thiamine, is 1.1 milligram (mg) for women over age 18, up to 1.4 mg for those who are pregnant, and 1.5 mg for those who are breast-feeding. For men age 14 and older, 1.2 mg per day is recommended.
Vitamin B1 plays a major role in metabolizing food into energy. B1 is found in whole-grain cereals, yeast, beans, nuts, and meats. Too little vitamin B1 causes beriberi, a disease affecting the heart, digestive system, and the nervous system. Beriberi is found in patients who are malnourished, and in those who are heavy drinkers of alcohol. Symptoms of beriberi include difficulty walking, loss of sensation in the hands and feet, and paralysis of the lower legs — and it may even lead to congestive heart failure. People who consume large amounts of alcohol should take a vitamin B complex supplement to be sure they get enough B1. Also, taking any one of the B vitamins for a long period of time can result in an imbalance of other important B vitamins. For this reason, you may want to take a B-complex vitamin, which includes all the B vitamins.
Boosts immune system
A diet rich in vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, is needed to avoid riboflavin deficiency. Recommended daily allowances of B2 are 1.3 mg a day for men and 1.1 mg a day for women. Pregnant women need 1.4 mg daily, and breast-feeding mothers should have 1.6 mg each day. You can get this B vitamin from natural sources such as nuts, green vegetables, meat, and dairy products.
Riboflavin helps your body break down and use the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in your diet and helps metabolize food into energy. This type of B vitamin also functions to keep your skin, the lining of your gut, and your blood cells healthy. Getting enough riboflavin may be preventive for migraine headaches and cataracts.
Riboflavin may also increase energy levels, boost the immune system, and treat acne, muscle cramps, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Breaks down food into energy
We need vitamin B3, also called nicotinic acid or niacin, in our diets every day to break down food we eat into energy we can use. Females who are 14 and older need 14 mg a day; males in this age group need 16 mg daily. Legumes, nuts, enriched breads, dairy, fish, and lean meats are all good sources of this type of vitamin B
Not getting enough niacin in your diet causes the disorder known as pellagra. Symptoms of pellagra include both physical and mental difficulties, diarrhea, inflamed mucus membranes, and dementia. Pellagra can also result when the body is not able to absorb enough niacin because of alcoholism. Health benefits of niacin include its use as a treatment to help control high blood levels of cholesterol . Doses of niacin high enough to lower cholesterol are associated with several side effects and should only be taken with a physician’s supervision.