If you are unsure about the benefits of B vitamins, take our quiz to see if you need to be getting more B’s in your diet.
Q: Do you feel like you are not as strong as you used to be? Do you commonly lose your keys or having trouble remembering how to get home from a store you’ve shopped at for years?
A: Weak muscles, fatigue and low energy are symptomatic of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Confusion, feeling depressed, and having trouble remembering things that you can’t imagine ever forgetting are also signals.
Your body needs vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin) to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your cells to be converted into energy. A low red blood cell count means your cells become starved for air and your body shuts down your muscles to conserve energy. Brain cells that are deprived of oxygen begin to die off, leading to reduced cognitive function like memory loss and confusion.
To get the 6 mcg recommended daily amount (RDA) of B12 in your diet every day, eat eggs, dairy products, meats and fortified foods. Vegans should take a supplement.
Q: Do you have cracked skin at the corners of your mouth that no amount of moisturizer will heal?
A: A vitamin B6 deficiency is associated with a variety of skin ailments including painfully cracked skin at the corners of your mouth called cheilosis. A lack of vitamin B6 is also associated with an inflamed tongue, sores around the mouth, painfully cracked lips, and greasy or dry, flaky, peeling skin.
A vitamin B6 deficiency is pretty uncommon in the U.S. since many foods contain it. Since a deficiency in the vitamin also known as pyridoxine or pyridoxamine can also cause nerve damage, fatigue, and loss of balance—so getting the 200-milligram RDA is essential for good health. You can find it in nuts, chicken, fish, most vegetables, and bananas.
Q: Are you running to the bathroom more frequently?
A: Loose stools due to Irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s or celiac disease can cause a folic acid or B9 deficiency. Being deficient in B9 is linked to anemia, fatigue, gray hair, mouth sores, and tongue swelling.
Children who do not get enough folic acid may experience growth problems and pregnant women are at higher risk for delivering a low-birth weight baby.
You can get plenty of folic acid in your diet from foods like tomato juice, eggs, asparagus, chicken and pork and fortified cereals.
Q: What do widespread muscle pain, constipation and loss of sensation in the hands and feet have in common?
A: These are all common symptoms of a thiamine or vitamin B1 deficiency. The disorder is uncommon in the U.S. and tends to be a problem in countries where white rice is the main food source like South East Asia. The bran in the outer covering of white rice is where the much-needed thiamine resides.
In the U.S. and in developed countries alcoholics are at risk for developing health issues due to a vitamin B1 deficiency. However, if you consistently eat a diet of high carbohydrate low-nutrient foods like pretzels, chips, candy and most other common junk food items, you could be at risk for neurological disorders. Instead of vending machine fare, choose eat whole grain breads, peas, beans and fortified foods.
Q: Are your eyes itching, watering, bloodshot, and suddenly light sensitive?
A: If you are experiencing any of those problems with your eyes and have eliminated allergies as the culprit, you may be lacking enough vitamin B2 or riboflavin in your diet.
Riboflavin is essential for many metabolic processes in the body including normal cell growth and functioning, helping other B vitamins undergo the chemical changes necessary to be used by the body and is a powerful antioxidant.
In addition to vision problems, a lack of vitamin B2 is also linked to skin disorders, anemia, and swelling of the throat and tongue. You can get plenty of it (0.5-0.6 mg/day) in your diet by eating dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, milk cheese and yogurt, whole grains and meat.
Q: Are you feeling unusually fatigued even after a full night’s sleep and a cup of coffee?
A: You could be deficient in any number of the B vitamins. A lack of them in your diet causes anemia, which is characterized by muscle weakness and extreme fatigue. B vitamins are essential for helping the body convert food into energy and supply your cells with oxygen for energy. Because the B’s work together in the body, not getting enough of one kind means you may not be metabolizing others leading to a variety of health issues.
The benefits of B vitamins are well researched and documented. Getting enough of them in your diet is fairly simple. If you consume a variety of lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, there is no reason you can’t B very happy and healthy!