Vitamins Alert!

Do we get enough vitamins from the food we eat? How much vitamins do we need and how do we know if we have enough? These are the common questions that are running through our mind, especially the health conscious.

Being a vegetarian, a large part of my diet is vegetables, beans, pulses and toufu. But after reading articles and having some feedback from other vegetarian friends, they gave me the impression that Vitamin B, especially B12 may be lacking in our diet. So I googled on Vitamin B and here it goes, thought I should share with more people:

What are the Vitamin Bs?

The primary group of the B vitamins include B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cyanocobalamin). In addition, there are numerous sub-groups of the Vitamin B family which are considered less pertinent to human needs, but important to other organisms and some animals.  These include B4 (adenine), B8 (inositol), B13, (orotic acid), B17 (amygdalin), B20 (carnitine), and more.

Food sources

Some foods which are considered to be high in some of the Vitamin B group are chili peppers, lentils, bananas, potatoes, and tempeh (soy based).  In addition, molasses and brewer’s yeast are good sources of B vitamins.

Oats, barley, wheat bran, avocado, salmon, Brazil nuts (and other nuts) are more good sources of B vitamins.
Dairy products and eggs are high in vitamin B12. For vegans, fortified cereal, fortified soymilk and brewer’s yeast are sources of B12 which are required in trace amounts.

The Need for Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is needed for cell division and blood formation. Neither plants nor animals make vitamin B12. Bacteria are responsible for producing vitamin B12. Animals get their vitamin B12 from eating foods contaminated with vitamin B12 and then the animal becomes a source of vitamin B12. Plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 except when they are contaminated by microorganisms or have vitamin B12 added to them. Thus, vegans need to look to fortified foods or supplements to get vitamin B12 in their diet. Although recommendations for vitamin B12 are very small, a vitamin B12 deficiency is a very serious problem leading ultimately to anemia and irreversible nerve damage. Prudent vegans will include sources of vitamin B12 in their diets. Vitamin B12 is especially important in pregnancy and lactation and for infants and children.

Importance of Vitamin B

The Vitamin B group is beneficial and even necessary for healthy bodies in numerous ways, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Supports healthy metabolism.
  • Helps maintain healthy skin and muscle tone.
  • Improves immune system function.
  • Improves nervous system function.
  • Helps promote cell growth and division, including red blood cells.
  • Helps combat symptoms of stress, depression, and cardiovascular disease.

Deficiencies in certain B vitamins can result in such illnesses as beriberi, anemia, heart disease, and birth defects.