We have all sat through charts of essential food groups in school to know that a balanced meal is more than just watching our calorie intake. Apart from carb, fat and protein, we also need essential nutrients such as vitamins that play specific roles towards keeping our bodies running and healthy. The B Vitamins, for instance, include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin and pantothenic acid, with each having separate functions. Collectively the B Vitamin complex helps the body release the energy it gets from carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

The good news is that Vitamin B is widely distributed among regular food groups, so those on a balanced diet are likely to be getting their adequate share of its benefits. There are however, some vitamins among the lot that can only be found in specific foods. Here’s a closer look at some of the essential roles played by Vitamin B and how you can make sure it’s in your diet.

Thiamin: This vitamin is particularly important for those trying to lose weight as it supports the body’s metabolic function and helps regulate the appetite. Severe deficiency of thiamine leads to diseases like beri beri. You can get your daily thiamine requirements from a variety of sources including leafy greens, whole-grain cereals, peas, lentils, almonds as well as from animal protein such as pork and ham.

Riboflavin: Also known as B2, Riboflavin helps in energy production as well as the catabolism of fatty acids. It also contributes towards glowing, healthy skin. Milk, yogurt and cheese are rich sources of riboflavin. You can also get your daily requirements from asparagus and spinach, along with chicken, fish, and eggs.

Niacin: This element plays an important role in energy transfer reactions during the metabolism of glucose, fat and alcohol. It also promotes healthy nerve function, benefits your cardiovascular system and aids in energy production. Animal protein such as chicken, turkey and fresh fish including salmon and tuna contain generous amounts of niacin. Vegetarians can get their fill from legumes, peanuts, and whole-wheat pastas.

Folate: Also known as folic acid or folacin, folate promotes red blood cell health and nervous system function. It is also essential for normal cell division, especially during pregnancy and infancy. Leafy greens like spinach, mustard and turnip greens and other fresh fruits and vegetables are all excellent sources of folate. Grains and cereals like pasta, rice and breads also contain adequate amounts.

Biotin: Biotin plays a key role in the metabolism of lipids, proteins and carbohydrates and is widely distributed among all foods. Eggs and liver are a rich source, but you can also get your biotin from foods like salmon, avocado and most varieties of grains and cheese.

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Pantothenic acid: This vitamin is essential for enzyme function and the breakdown of fatty acids. Yogurt, avocado, lentils and split peas, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and broccoli are all sources of pantothenic acid.

Vitamin B6: An important role played by the B6 vitamin is in the synthesis of amino acids. While deficiencies are uncommon due to its wide availability, severe deficits can lead to neural disorders. Poultry, seafood, bananas, leafy vegetables such as spinach, potatoes and certain grains are all rich sources of the vitamin.

Vitamin B12: The B12 plays an important role in red blood cell production as well as in the functioning of the nervous system. It is naturally only found in animal sources and shellfish such as clams, mussels and crab, fin fish and beef though certain cereal and soy products are also fortified with it.

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