Technically speaking, vitamin B is not a single vitamin but a whole group of vitamins. This vitamin B complex is made of the following eight vitamins:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxamine and pyridoxal)
- Vitamin B7 (biotin)
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid)
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
Another special feature of the vitamin group is that they are all very different substances both chemically and in effect. For example, the body can only store a few B vitamins, mainly vitamin B12 and B3. However, both vitamins can only be stored in small amounts. The body cannot store other B vitamins at all because they are water-soluble and excreted from the body. This is why you need to take B vitamins regularly through food.
All members of this complex are different, with their effects on the body and the metabolic process which are involved in differ greatly. Below you can read more about the many different tasks B vitamins perform to maintain your health.
Vitamin B1, or thiamine, helps keep your mind and body healthy. Thiamine ensures, among many things, the nervous system, heart and psyche function normally. Hence, it is commonly known as a “mood vitamin”. If you drink a lot of coffee or black tea, this can inhibit this vitamin from being absorbed.
Vitamin B2, technically known as riboflavin, has many functions. It supports a normal energy metabolism and maintains blood cells. Since these properties are important for various growth processes, among other things, riboflavin is also known as a "growth vitamin“.
But the positive effect on the eyes are also well known because vitamin B2 helps maintain normal vision. Contained in many foods even after warming, if prepared gently: Although this B vitamin does not tolerate light particularly well, it is relatively insensitive to heat.
Niacin, or vitamin B3, is important for maintaining normal mucous membranes and skin, also helping to reduce tiredness and fatigue. Niacin is found in many foods, however, Niacin found in meat is easier for the body to absorb than from plants. Your body can produce vitamin B3 from the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in soya beans and peas.
If you want to stay alert, vitamin B5 (including pantothenic acid) is your friend. Vitamin B5 supports energy metabolism and contributes to the normal synthesis of some neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are messengers from nerve cells. Pantothenic acid also helps reduced fatigue and tiredness and contributes to the normal synthesis of vitamin D.
Vitamin B6 ensures a healthy protein balance and cysteine synthesis. Cysteine is an amino acid mainly found in hair and nails. It also contributes to normal nervous system function and helps regulate hormone activity. Vitamin B6 is really a collective term for several chemical substances (pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine) but they all occur together in many foods. Vitamin B6 is sensitive to heat, so foods containing it should be prepared carefully.
Vitamin B7 is probably best known to women as “biotin”. It helps maintain normal hair and skin. Since these are so important, biotin is now even found in shampoos. Among other things, vitamin B7 contributes to the healthy metabolism of micronutrients (fat, carbohydrates and proteins) and the energy metabolism.
Vitamin B9 is water-soluble and primarily known as folate or folic acid, particularly important for pregnant women and women planning to have children. Folic acid plays an important role in growing maternal tissue during pregnancy. Folic acid also has a function in cell division and is indirectly involved in the multiplication of genetic material.
Like most vitamins, your body cannot produce vitamin B12 itself, or in technical terms, “cobalamin”. This B vitamin contributes to healthy red blood-cell formation, cell division, normal energy metabolism, while reducing fatigue and tiredness. Lastly, it supports the mental and nervous system functions.
Vitamin B12 is produced by micro-organisms in the soil, which are absorbed by animals. This means you can easily get enough vitamin B12 through animal products. Vegetarians and especially vegans can avoid deficiency by taking vitamin B12 supplements, after consulting a doctor. In addition to medicines, high-dose vitamin B12 supplements are also suitable for this purpose.
Since your body cannot store water-soluble vitamins, ensuring a sufficient daily intake through a balanced and varied diet is important. As different as the members of the vitamin B complex are, as different are the daily requirements and the quantities contained in food. The following lists are reference values from the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) and will give you an indication of correct amount of each vitamin you should take. Following each overview are tips on an appropriate diet.
All the following are average values according to Souci, Fachmann, Kraut: Food Composition and Nutrition Tables (7th ed.). Munich: C.H. Beck. 2008
Vitamin B1 - Reference values & food
|Age||Thiamine mg/day - men||Thiamine mg/day - women|
|Children between 1 and 4 years||0.6 mg||0.6 mg|
|Children between 4 and 7 years||0.7 mg||0.7 mg|
|Children between 7 and 10 years||0.9 mg||0.8 mg|
|Children between 10 and 13 years||1.0 mg||0.9 mg|
|Youth between 13 and 15 years||1.2 mg||1.0 mg|
|Youth between 15 and 19 years||1.4 mg||1.1 mg|
|Adults between 19 and 25 years||1.3 mg||1.0 mg|
|Adults between 25 and 65 years||1.2 mg||1.0 mg|
|Adults 65 years and above||1.1 mg||1.0 mg|
|Pregnant women - 2nd trimester||1.2 mg|
|Pregnant women - 3rd trimester||1.3 mg|
|Breastfeeding women||1.3 mg|
Whole grain products, pulses, grains, as well as fish and meat are especially good thiamine sources. Here are some examples of small vitamin B1 bombs.
|Food||Thiamine per 100 g|
|Sunflower seeds||1.9 mg|
|Dried peas||0.8 mg|
|Beef heart||0.51 mg|
|Wheat (wholegrain)||0.455 mg|
|Millet, husked||0.433 mg|
|Natural rice||0.41 mg|
|Rye, wholemeal||0.368 mg|
|Chicken liver||0.32 mg|
|Beef fillet||0.1 mg|
|Wheat flour type 405||0.06 mg|
Vitamin B2 - Reference values & food
|Age||Riboflavin mg/day - men||Riboflavin mg/day - women|
|Children between 1 and 7 years||0.7,-0.8 mg||0.7-0.8 mg|
|Youth between 13 and 19 years||1.4-1.6 mg||1.1-1.2 mg|
|Adults 19 years and above||1.3-1.4 mg||1.0-1.1 mg|
|Pregnant women from 2nd trimester||1.3 mg|
|Breastfeeding women||1.4 mg|
Riboflavin is relatively resistant to heat but not sunlight. Therefore, store food in a dark place. For a diet rich in vitamin B2, use these foods:
|Food||Riboflavin per 100 g|
|Dried soybeans||0.46 mg|
|Whole milk||0.18 mg|
Vitamin B3 - Reference values & food
|Age||Equivalent of niacin mg/day - men||Equivalent of niacin mg/day - women|
|Children between 1 and 7 years||8-9 mg||8-9 mg|
|Youth between 13 and 19 years||15-17 mg||13 mg|
|Adults 19 years and above||14-16 mg||11-13 mg|
|Pregnant women from 2nd trimester||14-16 mg|
|Breastfeeding women||16 mg|
Fruit and vegetables contain very little niacin; however, animal products and mushroom contain larger amounts.
|Food||Niacin per 100 g|
|Chicken liver||12 mg|
|Oyster mushroom||10 mg|
|Beef (pure muscle)||7.5 mg|
|Cultivated mushroom||5.2 mg|
Vitamin B5 - Reference values & food
|Age||Pantothenic acid mg/day|
|Children between 1 and 7 years||4 mg|
|Youths between 13 and 19 years||6 mg|
|Adults 19 years and above||6 mg|
|Pregnant women||6 mg|
Pantothenic acid is mainly found in high concentration in offal, whole grain products, avocados, eggs and nuts.
|Food||Pantothenic acid per 100 g|
|Pork liver||6.8 mg|
|Wheat bran||2.5 mg|
|Natural rice||1.7 mg|
|Dried soybeans||1.7 mg|
Vitamin B6 – Reference values & food
|Age||Vitamin B6 mg/day - men||Vitamin B6 mg/day - women|
|Children between 1 and 7 years||0.7 mg||0.7 mg|
|Children between 7 and 10 years||1.0 mg||1.0 mg|
|Children between 10 and 13 years||1.2 mg||1.2 mg|
|Youths between 13 and 15 years||1.5 mg||1.4 mg|
|Youths between 15 and 19 years||1.6 mg||1.4 mg|
|Adults 19 years and above||1.6 mg||1.4 mg|
|Pregnant women in 1st trimester||1.5 mg|
|Pregnant women from 2nd trimester||1.8 mg|
|Breastfeeding women||1.6 mg|
Vitamin B6 is also found in many foods. However, up to a third of the vitamin is released into water when cooked, so vegetables are best steamed or eaten raw if possible.
|Food||Vitamin B6 per 100 g|
|Baker’s yeast||0.7 mg|
|Pork liver||0.59 mg|
|Beef fillet||0.5 mg|
|Topside pork||0.39 mg|
Vitamin B7 - Reference values & food
|Children between 1 and 4 years||20 µg|
|Children between 4 and 7 years||25 µg|
|Children between 7 and 13 years||25 µg|
|Youth between 13 and 19 years||35 µg|
|Adults 19 years and above||40 µg|
|Pregnant women||40 µg|
|Breastfeeding women||45 µg|
Biotin is found in many foods in medium to high concentrations, so you can easily cover your daily requirements with a balanced and varied diet.
|Food||Biotin per 100g|
|Wheat bran||44 µg|
|Pork liver||27 µg|
|Wheat bran||20 µg|
|Whole milk||3,5 µg|
Vitamin B9 - Reference values & food
|Age||Folic acid µg/day|
|Children between 1 and 7 years||120-140 µg|
|Youths between 13 and 19 years||300 µg|
|Adults 19 years and above||300 µg|
|Pregnant women||550 µg|
|Breastfeeding women||450 µg|
Folic acid or “folate” is mainly found in green vegetables.
|Food||Folic acid per 100 g|
|Backer’s yeast||716 µg|
|Dried chickpeas||340 µg|
|Dried soybeans||250 µg|
|Wheat bran||195 µg|
|Lamb’s Lettuce||145 µg|
Vitamin B12 - Reference values & food
|Age||Vitamin B12 µg/day|
|Children between 1 and 7 years||1.5-2 µg|
|Youths between 13 and 19 years||4 µg|
|Adults 19 years and above||4 µg|
|Pregnant women||4.5 µg|
|Breastfeeding women||5.5 µg|
Vitamin B12 is almost only found in animal products.
|Food||Vitamin B12 per 100 g|
|Pork liver||39 µg|
|Beef fillet||2 µg|
You can provide enough B vitamins for yourself and your family through a balanced and varied diet. An excess of vitamin B is usually extracted through urine and many B vitamins are unlikely to be deficient with a balanced diet. Vegetarians or vegans should take measures to ensure they get enough vitamin B12, which is almost exclusively found in animal products.
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