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Alphabet Soup! B is for Vitamin B Complex

When you look at this post, “Complex” is screaming at you!  Bear with me:  there is a lot to discover about Vitamin B Complex.

B is for Body cells, where this family of 8 vitamins lives and works.  They help children process and use the foods they eat, which in turn helps them grow and develop.  The B vitamins also help protect your child from infections and other health problems, while performing some of the most basic cell functions in the body.  These water-soluble vitamins are referred to as B-complex because they are found in similar foods and were originally thought to be one vitamin.  Due to scientific research and discovery, today we know that each B vitamin has a distinct job in your child’s Body.

Here are the 1-2-3’s (and aliases) of all the B’s:

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin):

  • Helps the body make energy from carbohydrates.
  • Deficiency is rare due to fortification of foods and widespread presence in foods.
  • Sources: pork, seafood, liver and other organ meats, potatoes, kidney beans, green peas, and whole and enriched grains.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin):

  • Helps cells make energy; changes tryptophan (an amino acid found in food) into niacin (another B vitamin).
  • Destroyed by UV light, so avoid products in clear containers.
  • Sources: dairy products, eggs, meat, chicken, salmon, organ meats, whole and enriched grains, leafy green veggies, nuts.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin):

  • Helps the body make energy from fats and sugars; builds healthy skin, nervous, and digestive systems.
  • Sources: high protein and enriched grain foods.

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid):

  • Helps cells make energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
  • Sources: meat, poultry, fish, whole grain cereals, legumes, milk, fruits, and vegetables.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine):

  • Helps break down protein, construct non-essential amino acids and body cells, and change tryptophan into niacin.
  • Helps produce seratonin (the “feel-good” brain chemical), insulin (the blood sugar balancer), hemoglobin (red blood cells), and antibodies  (part of the immune system).
  • May help pregnant women combat morning sickness, with doctor supervision.
  • Sources: beef, chicken, pork, seafood, some organ meats, potatoes, bananas, grains, nuts, and legumes.

Vitamin B7 (Biotin):

  • Helps make hormones; helps cells make energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
  • Sources: eggs, liver, yeast breads, nuts, mushrooms, grapefruit, bananas, watermelon, and cereals.

Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid):

  • Helps make new body cells through production of DNA and RNA (the cell reproducers).
  • Fortification of foods has reduced neural tube defects (spine and brain) by 50% to 70%.
  • May be protective against heart disease.
  • Works with B12 to form hemoglobin (red blood cells).
  • Excessive intake can mask a B12 deficiency.
  • Most common vitamin deficiency.
  • Can be easily destroyed during cooking and storage.
  • Sources:  orange juice, beans, leafy green vegetables, nuts, avocados, and grains.

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin):

  • Important to many body chemicals and to growth and development; helps cells use fats and proteins, and aids folate in red blood cell production.
  • Deficiency can take up to 7 years.
  • Children of vegan families are at high risk of deficiency, which can cause irreversible neurologic problems.  Close attention to adequate food sources is important.
  • Contrary to popular belief, it will not boost energy if amounts above recommendations are consumed.
  • Sources: animal products, and some fortified foods.

B is beautiful! Due to the overlap of many functions and food sources, a deficiency of most B vitamins is a rare find, though not unheard of.  A well-balanced diet is the best insurance policy your child can have.

 

Contributing Author:  Cami Ruark

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