We’ve all had it drummed into us that we need vitamin D, the so-called ‘sunshine’ vitamin, for healthy bones and a strong immune system.
But there’s another vitamin you probably never think of that’s crucial for energy, mood and brain power – vitamin B.
Only yesterday, Australian scientists revealed that vitamin B3 during pregnancy could slash the number of birth defects and miscarriages worldwide.
Known also as niacin, vitamin B3 helps to correct a nutrient deficiency that can stop babies' organs developing correctly.
But there are many more, little-known reasons why it boosts our health.
Vitamin D is not the only vitamin recommended to stay healthy. Vitamin B can help with stress, brittle nails, chapped lips and tiredness (file photo)
For example, vitamin B6 can help the body manufacture neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body) such as serotonin. This helps the body to cope depression, stress and anxiety.
Meanwhile, a lack of vitamin B2 gives us those unsightly cracks around the mouth and a shortage of B7 can lead to brittle hair and nails.
The good news? Most of us get more than vitamin B through our diet – many cereals, for example, are fortified with it, and it’s found in a wide variety of foods.
The bad? Our hectic, stress-filled lifestyles – coupled with a sugary, white-carb and booze-filled diet (something many of us are guilty of) – can deplete our reserves of this vital vitamin.
In addition, the body cannot store B vitamins, so they must be replenished every day (the exception is B12, which can be stored in the liver).
In short, this could be the reason you’re suffering from a number of ailments (see below for a detailed breakdown) or general lethargy.
WHAT ARE B VITAMINS?
Unlike other types of vitamin, there are various ‘sub-types’ of B vitamins.
These eight vitamins make up what’s known as the B complex group.
Specifically, this is comprised of: thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin(B12).
HOW ARE B VITAMINS DEPLETED?
A SUGARY OR HIGH CARB DIET
A diet that is high in sugar and white carbohydrate foods (e.g. white bread, white pasta) can take its toll on the B vitamins.
These foods require large amounts of B vitamins to help metabolize them into a usable energy source within the body.
This means stocks are lower to keep other bodily functions running as they should.
This presents the body with large amounts of carbohydrates and sugar that require B vitamins to be metabolized.
In particular, drinking more than the recommended 14 units of alcohol a week can burn B vitamins quickly, especially thiamin (B1).
In turn, low thiamin levels can affect your mood.
Not only that, alcohol also stops B vitamins from being absorbed by the body, so there’s a double-whammy effect.
B vitamins play a key role in the maintenance of a healthy nervous system.
While a little stress is common in day-to-day life, excessive stress can put a burden on the body’s requirement for B vitamins – it needs more to manufacture neurotransmitters to keep our mood stable.
Stress can also impact on our diet, leading to us skip meals and/or choose foods of poor nutritional quality, which in turn may reduce the number of B vitamins we take in.
THE VITAMIN B BIBLE
B1 - THIAMIN
Why you need it: This vitamin is required for the break down and release of energy from food. You also need it to maintain a healthy nervous system – vital to prevent low mood.
Signs of deficiency: tiredness, loss of concentration, irritability, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, constipation
How to eat it: Asparagus, peas, sunflower seeds, green peas, trout, macadamia nuts, pistachio nuts, acorn squash, soy beans, black beans, navy beans
B2 - RIBOFLAVIN
Why you need it: Required for keeping your skin and eyes healthy as well as maintaining a healthy nervous system and converting the food you eat into energy.
Signs of deficiency: Mouth ulcers, sores and cracks at the corner of the mouth (angular cheilosis), tired, sensitive, gritty, blood-shot eyes, sensitivity to bright light, sore throat and tongue, itching, scaly eczema-like skin rash -especially on the face and nose, insomnia
How to eat it: Mushrooms, eggs, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, almonds, cheese, mackerel, squid, sesame seeds
B3 - NIACIN
Why you need it: Research published