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
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: September 16, 2010
Updated on: February 13, 2016