The Healthy Vitamins No One Ever Talks About
Forget the fussy pills and supplements — check out these delicious and nutrient-rich foods for optimum health and wellness
One thing to be mindful of these days is water-soluble vitamins. The body doesn’t store these vitamins naturally — so they’re needed in our daily diet. A major group of water-soluble vitamins is the B-complex group, which are essential for many different functions in our body.
B complex vitamins help us turn food into energy. They support our nervous system, give us healthy hair, skin, and nails, and are even tied to lowering the chances of a stroke.
To ensure you’re getting enough of this vitamin group every day — (but not too much! Always check with your doctor about proper amounts) — here are food sources for the various B vitamins and the benefits of each type. A lot of people don’t know where to begin when it comes to eating a nutrient-rich diet, so use this as a quick and handy guide to ensure you’re getting an important vitamin group into your everyday routine.
B-1: Thiamine. Thiamine helps us metabolize carbs (so when you’re carb-loading, you can pop a B-complex vitamin afterward). It also helps us produce new cells and acts as a protector for our immune system and nervous system. Quinoa and asparagus are both rich in B1. Additional sources of B1 include lentils and grains, if you’re vegan, and fish and eggs.
B2: Riboflavin. This "beauty vitamin" gives the hair, skin and nails a nourishment boost. B2 also helps us metabolize fat, carbs and protein. It helps our body create red blood cells, which help us carry more oxygen throughout the body — assisting with natural energy levels and circulation. Spinach and mushrooms are both rich in B2, so add these veggies to your morning omelette. Or, saute spinach and mushroom together as a side dish.
B3: Niacin. Niacin promotes skin health — some believe it may help treat acne — and helps the health of the nervous system. It also assists with energy creation from the food we eat. Green beans are rich in niacin, so you can make a big old green bean casserole! Additional niacin-rich foods include dried apricots, lima beans, broccoli, and tomatoes.
B5: Pantothenic acid. This helps us turn food into fuel and acts as a beauty vitamin: It has anti-aging properties and reduces redness or sagging skin. Cauliflower is rich in B5 — and if you want to go low-carb, you can whip up a dish of turmeric cauliflower rice. This winter macro bowl is packed with vitamin B-complex foods like quinoa, mushrooms and avocado. Sweet potato is also rich in B5.
B6: Pyridoxine. This helps us metabolize proteins and helps us produce serotonin, which regulates our sleep schedule and nervous system health. Some studies also show it may help reduce inflammation. Pistachios are rich in B6, so you can whip up a pistachio oatmeal bowl. Or, if you simply want to munch on pistachios as a snack, try the Setton Farms brand. I bring their Pistachio Chewy Bites to work when I need a midday pick-me-up; I love all of their different flavored pistachio options.
B7: Biotin. This is the ultimate hair, skin and nail vitamin. Many women take biotin supplements, as these may increase cellular growth, thus helping hair and nails grow stronger and longer. It may also help with blood glucose levels for those who have diabetes. Walnuts are rich in biotin — make apple energy balls that are packed with walnuts. Plant-based sources of biotin include potatoes, nuts and cauliflower. Additional sources include poultry, fish, and egg yolks.
A lot of plant-based goodies are rich in folic acid, such as mushrooms, green beans, dates, peas, asparagus, beets and parsnips.
B9: Folic acid. This is another B vitamin that is essential for DNA synthesis, which is why it is such a predominant vitamin in a prenatal supplement. Various types of greens, like collard and mustard greens, are rich in folic acid; you can make a big bowl of these mixed greens. A lot of plant-based goodies, such as mushrooms, green beans, dates, peas, asparagus, beets and parsnips, are rich in folic acid.
B12: Cobalamin. B12 helps iron create the protein that carries oxygen throughout our body. It's mainly found in animal products such as dairy, eggs, beef, and fish. There are many vegan foods that are fortified with B12, such as cereals and protein shakes, and if you take a vitamin B-complex supplement, you'll also be getting your daily dose of B12 as well.
Sarah Baker is a certified plant-based nutrition and holistic health coach, media personality, holistic business consultant, and the founder of Balanced Babe (www.balancedbabe.com). She creates educational resources, guides, and nutritional advice for those looking to lead a healthy and holistic lifestyle.