Which Foods are Good Sources of Vitamin B?

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  • Originally Written By: Niki Foster
  • Revised By: Malysa Stratton Louk
  • Edited By: Sara Z. Potter
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2018
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Vitamin B is a compilation of eight different vitamins, known as vitamin B complex, found naturally in high-protein foods. Leafy greens are another natural food source containing lots of B vitamins. Many processed foods and grains, such as cereals and breads, have synthetic versions of this vitamin added into them. It is common for some foods to have more of one type than the others; for example, some foods contain more B12 and B6 and less of the others. Most people who eat a balanced diet get enough of each of these vitamins from their food, but they are also available in supplements.

Protein Sources

Foods with the most natural vitamin B are typically those that are high in protein. Both wild-caught and farm-raised salmon, trout, catfish, tuna, halibut, cod and many other fish varieties contain large amounts of B-complex vitamins. Lamb is another good source of vitamin B and protein as are beef, poultry, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products. Foods that are high in protein are the only ones containing significant amounts of natural B12.


Vegetable and Plant Sources

Certain fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes are good sources of vitamin B; however, they do not contain significant amounts of B12 that is found in meat and dairy foods. Avocado, pomegranate, dates, watermelon, and some berries are especially high in B-complex vitamins. Leafy greens and vegetables such as amaranth, bok choy, Swiss chard, kale, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, squashes and parsnips also contain significant amounts. Most legumes have a lot of B vitamins; however, soy beans, black-eye peas and edamame contain the highest amounts of B9, also known as folate.

Synthetic and Supplemental Sources

The eight vitamins that make up the vitamin B complex are often added to processed or packaged foods and grain sources. These include the following:

  • B1 — thiamine
  • B2 — riboflavin
  • B3 — niacin
  • B5 — pantothenic acid
  • B6 — pyridoxine and pyridoxamine
  • B7 — biotin
  • B9 — folate or folic acid
  • B12 — cobalamin

Reading the labels on the package can help identify added synthetic supplemental sources, particularly on cereal, flour, rice and other grain products. For example, the label may read, "enriched flour" or 'enriched with thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin." This indicates that synthetic B vitamins have been added, rather than occurring as a natural source. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of yeast high in protein and vitamins that can be added as a natural supplement to foods and beverages. Caution should be taken not to confuse "nutritional yeast" with "brewer's yeast."

Natural vs. Synthetic Sources

Generally speaking, it's better to get natural vitamin B from a varied diet rather than synthetic versions from processed foods or supplements. This is because all 8 of these vitamins are essential for health, and taking too much of some of them, notably B3, B6, B9, and B12, can cause health problems. Also, these substances are easily affected by processing, particularly being cooked for a long time or being taken with alcohol, so many nutritionists recommend getting them from foods that are as fresh as possible, and avoiding extended drinking.

Despite this, certain people may need to take supplements to avoid deficiency. Those over 50 are sometimes unable to properly absorb enough vitamin B12 to meet their daily needs, and women who are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant often take folic acid, which can help prevent certain birth defects in babies. Likewise, vegans may be at a particular risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, since they do not eat many of the foods that contain it, so they may need to take supplements.


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Discuss this Article

Post 24

Being vegan myself, I can tell you from first hand experience, it is not difficult to eat a healthy amount of b-vitamins. This is a myth perpetuated by the industry that wants you to buy more meats and dairy- spend more time at your doctor's office, who's also not a dietician. Everything you need to be healthy is found in the vegan diet, assuming you don't eat just one type of fruit/vegetable/bean every day. A varied diet is a healthy diet.

Post 22

Eggs are a good source of biotin but not raw. They should be boiled.

Post 21

I try and get most of the nutrients I need from the food I eat. There are a lot of foods that contain B vitamins and if you eat a variety of foods you shouldn't have any trouble getting the B vitamins you need from the food you eat.

I think the only exception to this would be if you are a vegan. I enjoy eating a lot of different foods, which include meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. I don't eat the same thing all the time and have never taken a B vitamin supplement.

When I rely on getting B vitamins from the food I eat I don't have to worry whether it is a synthetic source or not. Many times I think it is too easy for people to eat a poor diet and think a supplement will give them the nutrients they need.

Post 20

One thing I was told about B vitamins is that biotin is the most expensive one. If you are looking at a B complex supplement check to see how much biotin in included. Since it is so expensive many companies don't put very much of it in. I don't know which foods are high in biotin but I find it easier to just take a daily supplement.

Post 19

When I was pregnant my doctor told me I needed to take some extra folic acid in a vitamin B supplement. I think this is pretty common advice for women who are pregnant. This is something I had never taken before, but since I had my son I have continued taking this vitamin.

I need the extra energy to keep up with him. Even though I try to eat right and like a lot of the foods that have amounts of vitamin B, I like knowing on days that I don't have time to eat right, I am still getting some B vitamins.

Post 18

@anon254813 -- Getting enough vitamin B in your diet can make a difference in your hair. It is also good for your skin and nails. I have found the easiest way to get enough vitamin B in my diet is with a supplement. I don't think this is too expensive when I think about the amounts of food I would need to eat to get the same amount.

One thing I was told is to make sure you are getting a B complex that has all of the B vitamins. They work better when they are all together instead of singling out just one of the B vitamins.

After I started taking a B complex I not only noticed a difference in my energy, but my hair was thicker and my nails were stronger and grew faster.

Post 17

@Oceana – Yes, it is. I'm not a fan of cooked cabbage, but I love it raw in coleslaw.

I've been eating a bit of coleslaw instead of salad every day. I use low-fat mayonnaise, so it isn't detrimental to my diet. It's good to know that I'm getting vitamin B from something so yummy.

Post 16

I'm glad that spinach is one of the vitamin B rich foods. I eat a salad of raw spinach at lunch every day.

I've heard that using salad dressing that contains fat is necessary for you to be able to absorb all the vitamins in the spinach. I love Italian dressing on plain spinach, but if I want to add strawberries and blueberries to the salad, I will go with a raspberry vinaigrette.

I've been looking to expand my menu to include other leafy greens, though. Is cabbage a good source of vitamin B?

Post 15

@jonrss – If you begin to feel weak, tired, and lightheaded for no good reason, you might have a vitamin B deficiency. It can also make your complexion pale and make you bruise easily.

If you are eating plenty of the foods mentioned in this article, you should be fine. I wouldn't worry about it unless I became really tired or anemic.

Post 14

@ZsaZsa56 – My best friend would agree with you. Her energy level had dipped to an all time low, and once she started taking a vitamin B complex supplement, she got it back.

She had gone so far as to visit her doctor to determine the source of her fatigue. Since she hadn't been doing anything different physically, he asked about her diet.

She had been working two jobs, so she had no time to cook. Her diet consisted mostly of fast food. So, her doctor recommended the supplement.

Post 13

I have priced B vitamins at several local stores and they always seem so expensive. Does anyone know where I can buy them at a discount?

Post 12

Vitamin B is one of the most important vitamin supplements that you can take so I always supplement the amount that I get naturally in my diet.

I take a B-Complex vitamin every morning and I swear it is the secret source of energy that gets me through my day. If I ever miss taking it I really do feel different.

Post 11
I am a vegetarian and do not eat any meat at all. Do I need to be worried about getting enough vitamin B in my diet? I eat pretty healthily and pretty balanced. But I am not a monk. How would I know if I was deficient in vitamin B? Would there be some physical sign that could indicate that?
Post 9

Doctors can't make money sending you to buy an herb. They work hand in hand with drug companies and were only taught how to treat with drugs. A fifth grade kid with a week's reading could teach 99 percent of the doctors I've met.

Post 8

I want to grow my hair fast so I need some food or drinks that contain vitamin B. Any tips?

Post 6

Well, doctors are told what to give and prescribe people by the pharmaceutical companies, so that's why, depending on the nature of the visit, it's sometimes better to just look up natural remedies, or talk to a naturalist who would have better knowledge on the subject.

On the other hand, being a doctor doesn't mean that you are a dietician. I'm pretty sure that Nutrition isn't a required course to be taken while studying to become a doctor. It's generally sciences in High School, then whatever the study of cadavers is called, pharmacology and some other stuff in university before medical school. So, it's not entirely that one doctor, it's that it's not required (which I think is ridiculous.)

Post 4

LOL. I asked the company doctor what natural sources of Vitamin B there were, and she answered that she didn't know, does she have a commission per prescribed supplement or something? She prescribed Neurontin, by the way.

Post 2

B-5 is pantothenic acid, not B-4, isn't it?

Post 1

It seems that liver is high in vitamin B, well, I will have to pass on that one and try to get B vitamins in a different way. I will take any day wild salmon, avocado or maybe beans or sweet potatoes, which all have B vitamins.

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