A Guide to the B Vitamins

Apr 20, 2021 Energy 6 MIN

What is Vitamin B

The B vitamin family is made up of eight B vitamins. Although they are commonly recognized as a group and often work together in the body, each of the B vitamins performs unique and important functions. To help you better understand the roles of each of the B vitamins, we put together a friendly B vitamins list to introduce you to each member of this important family of vitamins and to answer the common question: what are the roles of the eight B vitamins?

What are the Different Types of B Vitamins?

The B vitamins are often found together in varying quantities in the same foods. All of the B vitamins are foundational to whole body health and are responsible for many important functions in the body, like converting the food you eat into cellular energy, maintaining healthy cells and tissues within the body, and helping to form new blood cells. As important cofactors, B vitamins support a healthy brain and nervous system. In addition, some of the B vitamins, such as vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid, support the production of neurotransmitters needed for mood health. Since these are essential nutrients, it’s important that you get enough of each B vitamin through your diet, or through vitamin supplements, if necessary.†

So, what is vitamin B and how does it work in the body? There are actually 8 B vitamins. We’ll take a closer look at each one. Read on for details on the following B vitamins:

  • Thiamin (vitamin B1)
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Niacin (vitamin B3)
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
  • Pyridoxine (vitamin B6)
  • Biotin (vitamin B7)
  • Folic acid (vitamin B9)
  • Cobalamin (vitamin B12)

What is Thiamin, or Vitamin B1?

Thiamin (Vitamin B1) is needed to help produce cellular energy from the foods you eat, and also supports normal nervous system function. Since only small amounts of Thiamin are stored in the body, you need to consume this vitamin every day.†

How much Thiamin do I need?

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Thiamin for men over age 19 is 1.2 mg daily, and for women it’s 1.1 mg daily. Although, pregnant and lactating women need more, at 1.4 mg daily.[1]

What are Good Sources of Thiamin?

Thiamin is found in a wide variety of foods, from lentils to whole grains and pork. Thiamin can also be found in red meats, yeast, nuts, sunflower seeds, peas, milk, cauliflower, spinach, and legumes.

What is Riboflavin, or Vitamin B2?

Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin supports cellular energy production. Most of the Riboflavin that you consume is used immediately and not stored, so you’ll want to make sure you’re getting it in your daily diet.†

How much Riboflavin do I need?

The RDA for Riboflavin for men and women over 19 years is 1.3 mg and 1.1 mg respectively, while pregnant and lactating women need 1.4 mg and 1.6 mg respectively.[1]

What are Good Sources of Riboflavin?

Riboflavin is found in a variety of foods such as fortified cereals, milk, eggs, salmon, beef, spinach, and broccoli.

What is Niacin, or Vitamin B3?

Niacin is also known as vitamin B3 and supports cellular energy production and nervous system function. Like the other B vitamins, Niacin is water-soluble, so any excess amounts your body doesn’t need will be excreted through your urine.†

How much Niacin do I need?

For adults over age 19, the RDA for Niacin is 16 mg per day for men and 14 mg for women. And yes,  pregnant women need more (18mg per day) as do lactating women (17 mg per day).[1]

What are Good Sources of Niacin?

Good sources of niacin include beef, poultry, and fish, as well as whole wheat bread, peanuts, lentils, and bananas.

What is Pantothenic Acid, or Vitamin B5?

Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, is widely available in plant and animal food sources and helps support cellular energy production in the body. It also supports healthy adrenal function and the synthesis of the stress hormone (cortisol), thus supporting your body’s natural stress response. This vitamin is found in nearly all living cells, making it available in most plant and animal foods.†

How much Pantothenic Acid do I need?

The RDA for Pantothenic acid is 5 mg per day for both men and women over age 19. Pregnant women need 6 mg per day, and lactating women need 7 mg per day.[1]

What are Good Sources of Pantothenic Acid?

As we said, Pantothenic acid is found in most foods. Rich sources of Pantothenic acid include organ meats (liver, kidney), egg yolk, whole grains, avocados, cashew nuts, peanuts, lentils, soybeans, brown rice, broccoli, and milk.

What is Vitamin B6, or Pyridoxine?

Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is involved in several cellular reactions throughout the body and is instrumental in keeping various bodily functions operating normally. Vitamin B6 is needed to metabolize amino acids and glycogen (the body’s storage form of glucose), and is also necessary for normal nervous system function and red blood cell formation. Along with folic acid and vitamin B12, vitamin B6 supports the production of neurotransmitters needed for mood health.†

How much Vitamin B6 do I need?

The RDA for Vitamin B6 varies by age:[1]

  • Men ages 14-50: 1.3 mg/day
  • Men age 51+: 1.7 mg/day
  • Women ages 14-18: 1.2 mg/day
  • Women ages 19-50: 1.3 mg/day
  • Women age 51+: 1.5 mg/day
  • Pregnant women: 1.9 mg/day
  • Lactating women: 2 mg/day

What are Good Sources of Vitamin B6?

Vitamin B6 is fairly abundant in the diet and can be found in many of the foods that we consume daily. The following foods are great sources of vitamin B6: 

  • Meat 
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Bananas
  • Fish
  • Fortified cereal grains
  • Cooked spinach

What is Biotin, or Vitamin B7?

Biotin, or vitamin B7, supports carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism and supports healthy hair, skin and nails.†

How much Biotin do I need?

Unlike other B vitamins, Biotin does not have an established Recommended Daily Amount. Instead, there is an Adequate Intake (AI) level for the amount needed by most people and that is 30 mcg per day. Lactating women are suggested to consume more at 35 mcg per day.[1]

What are Good Sources of Biotin?

Biotin is commonly found in foods such as brewer’s yeast, strawberries, eggs, salmon, organ meat, cheese and soybeans.

What is Folic Acid, or Vitamin B9?

Vitamin B9 is known as both Folate (the natural form found in food) and Folic acid (the form used in dietary supplements and fortified foods). Folic acid is most commonly known for its role in fetal health and development as it plays a critical role in the proper development of the baby’s nervous system. This important developmental process occurs during the initial weeks of pregnancy; therefore adequate folic acid intake is especially important for all women of childbearing age. Adequate folic acid in healthful diets may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a neural tube defect.†

How much Folic Acid do I need?

The RDA for Folic Acid is listed as micrograms (mcg) of Dietary Folate Equivalents (DFE). Adults over age 19 should consume 400 mcg DFE per day. Pregnant and lactating women need more, 600 mcg DFE and 500 mcg DFE respectively. [1]

What are Good Sources of Folic Acid?

Fortified foods such as breads and cereals are good dietary sources of folic acid. Other good sources are dark green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and spinach as well as brewer’s yeast, liver, fortified orange juice, beets, dates and avocados.

What is Vitamin B12, or Cobalamin?

Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, plays an important role in the pathways of the body that produce cellular energy. It is also needed for proper red blood cell formation and for normal nervous system function.†

How much Vitamin B12 do I need?

For adults, the RDA of Vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg/day. Pregnant women should consume 2.6 mcg/day and lactating women should consume 2.8 mcg/day.[1]

What’s a Good Source of Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is predominantly found in foods of animal origin such as chicken, beef, fish, milk and eggs. People who follow a vegan or strict vegetarian diet may benefit from a vitamin B12 supplement, such as Nature Made Vitamin B12 1000 mcg Liquid Softgels.

Learn More: Vitamins for Vegans

What’s the Best Source for All of the B vitamins?

One easy way to make sure that you get your daily dose of these important B vitamins is to take a Vitamin B Complex supplement, such as Nature Made Super B Energy Complex, which contains over 100% of the Daily Value of all eight B vitamins in one convenient softgel.

Learn More About Vitamins & Supplements:

† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


  1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. B Vitamins. Accessed on 8 Feb 2023. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamins/vitamin-b/


Sandra Zagorin, MS, RD

Science and Health Educator

As a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Sandra educates healthcare professionals and consumers on nutrition, supplements, and related health concerns. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Sandra worked as a clinical dietitian at University of Chicago Medicine in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Sandra received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, with minors in Spanish and Chemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She earned her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from RUSH University in Chicago, IL. As part of her Master’s program, Sandra performed research on physical activity participation and correlates in urban Hispanic women.

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