Vitamin B: Are You Getting Enough of All Kinds?

Adequate B vitamins support energy production and other functions in the body.

To B or Not ...

You definitely should. Without enough B12 (and folate), for example, you can become tired, weak, constipated, or depressed. And that's just one of the kinds of vitamin B you need. For a big hit of vitamin B12, try clams or beef liver.

Lack of B6 may lead to mental confusion and other symptoms.

Vitamin B6

Without enough of this B, you may get sick more often and feel depressed or confused. You may also get scaly, cracked lips. You only need a small amount of it each day, though, and most of us get that. If you want to make sure, your best bets are chickpeas, tuna, and -- surprise -- beef liver.

Alcohol consumption inhibits absorption of vitamin B1.

B1 (Thiamin)

Your body may not absorb enough of this if you often have more than a few drinks. Without it, you may have weakness, fatigue, and even brain damage. It can also lead to psychosis. So get your B1. Enriched rice, trout, and black beans are good sources.

Beef is a good source of vitamin B2.

B2 (Riboflavin)

Most Americans get plenty of riboflavin. That's a good thing, because a serious lack of it can damage your liver and nervous system. For the most per bite, eat a big plate of beef liver. Can't do it? Milk, yogurt, and beef are good second choices.

Vitamin B3 helps skin, nerves, and digestion, but it can be harmful in excess.

B3 (Niacin)

Niacin helps your digestion, skin, and nerves work the way they should. It also helps change food to energy. You can get it from milk, eggs, rice, and fish. But don't overdo it. Too much can cause liver damage, peptic ulcers, and skin rashes.

A lack of biotin may make your hair fall out.

B7 (Biotin)

A lack of B7 can lead to skin rashes, hair loss, high cholesterol, and heart problems. You can find it in cauliflower, salmon, carrots, bananas, soy flour, cereals, and yeast.

Folic acid is important for women to protect against birth defects.

Folic Acid (Folate)

This is an important member of the B vitamin family -- especially if you're pregnant, because it can help prevent certain birth defects. Folic acid is the lab version of folate, which is naturally found in foods. Whip up some spinach and black-eyed peas to get some in your diet.

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REFERENCES:

  • National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information: "Thiamin(e): the spark of life."
  • MedlinePlus: "Drugs and Supplements."
  • Mayo Clinic: "Drugs and Supplements."
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