Many people don't realize that there are 8 B vitamins and as a group, they are known as the B complex vitamins.
The group includes thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12).
Each of the B vitamins has a unique benefit but for the most part, they help to produce energy for the body and to make important molecules for the cells.
Your body is able to store vitamin B12 but the other vitamins are not stored for long amounts of time. That is why it is necessary to replenish your vitamins through the foods that you eat.
Many foods may provide B vitamins but if they are to be in a classification of being high in a vitamin, they need to have at least 20% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) in one serving. If a food contains between 10-19% of the RDI, it would be a 'good source'.
The following 15 foods are high in at least one of the B vitamins.
This type of fish is a good resource for several B vitamins. If you were to consume a 3.5 ounce portion of cooked salmon, it would contain1:
- Thiamine (B1): 18% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 29% of the RDI
- Niacin (B3): 50% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 19% of the RDI
- Pyridoxine (B6): 47% of the RDI
- Cobalamin (B12): 51% of the RDI
Salmon also contains lower levels of mercury than many other fish and has many omega-3 fats, proteins and selenium.
2. Leafy Greens
There are numerous leafy greens that have high levels of folate and they are among the highest vegetable source of folate2. They include the following:
- Spinach, raw: 41% of the RDI in 3 cups (85 grams)
- Spinach, cooked: 31% of the RDI in a 1/2 cup (85 grams)
- Collard greens, cooked: 20% of the RDI in a 1/2 cup (85 grams)
- Turnip greens, cooked: 25% of the RDI in a 1/2 cup (85 grams)
- Romaine lettuce, raw: 29% of the RDI in 2 cups (85 grams)
When you heat or cook greens, you do destroy some of the folate and it may transfer, to a limited extent, to the cooking water. To benefit fully from the included vitamins, steam the greens until they are between crisp and tender.
3. Liver/Organ Meats
Admittedly, organ meats are not the most popular food choice and liver is often at the bottom of the list of things to eat. That being said, they contain high levels of B vitamins3. You can enjoy organ meat from beef, lamb, pork and chicken.
In a 3.5 ounce serving of beef liver you will find the following:
- Thiamine (B1): 12% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 201% of the RDI
- Niacin (B3): 87% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 69% of the RDI
- Pyridoxine (B6): 51% of the RDI
- Biotin (B7): 138% of the RDI
If you don't prefer the strong flavor of liver or other organ meats, you can grind them up and mix them with more traditional cuts of ground beef. You can also add them to seasoned foods to help mask the taste.
If you are looking for a convenient way to get 33% of the RDI of biotin, you can eat one large egg. Eggs are a top source of biotin and only liver will have more of it4.
Eggs also contain other B vitamins in smaller amounts. One large cooked egg contains the following:
- Riboflavin (B2): 15% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 7% of the RDI
- Biotin (B7): 33% of the RDI
- Folate (B9): 5% of the RDI
- Cobalamin (B12): 9% of the RDI
Raw egg whites contain a protein known as avidin. It binds with biotin and prevents it from being absorbed properly if you eat raw egg whites. Cooking the egg would make the avidin inactive and helps to lower the risk.
If you don't eat eggs or other animal products, you can get enough of them by consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. They have lower levels of biotin then animal products but they do have it available.
An 8 ounce cup of milk gives 26% of the RDI of riboflavin and smaller amounts of other B vitamins including the following5:
- Thiamine (B1): 7% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 26% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 9% of the RDI
- Cobalamin (B12): 18% of the RDI
Various studies have shown that dairy products are the top source of riboflavin for most people, followed by grains and meats.
An observational study that involved 36,000 European adults showed that dairy products were responsible for up to 52% of the riboflavin in the average person's daily diet.
Milk also contains B12, providing 18% of the RDI in a 1 ounce serving. You also tend to absorb a lot of the B12 from milk and other dairy products.
If you include beef in your diet, it can provide a significant addition to your intake of B vitamins. An observational study of 2000 Spaniards showed that their eating habits included meat that made up the main source of thiamin, niacin and pyridoxine6.
A 3.5 ounce cut of sirloin steak, which is about half of the smaller size served in restaurants contains the following B vitamins:
- Thiamine (B1): 5% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 8% of the RDI
- Niacin (B3): 39% of the RDI
7. Oysters, Clams and Mussels
If you're looking for an excellent source of B12 and riboflavin, you can include oysters, clams and muscles in your diet. They also contain a smaller amount of thiamine, niacin and folate7.
You can find the following in a 3.5 ounce cooked serving of each:
Shellfish have a lot of protein and a number of minerals including selenium, manganese, zinc and iron. They also have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids.
Legumes are noted for having plenty of folate but the also contain other types of B vitamins in smaller amounts8. The following popular, cooked legumes contain folate in these percentages:
- Black beans: 32% of the RDI
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans): 35% of the RDI
- Edamame (green soybeans): 60% of the RDI
- Green peas: 12% of the RDI
- Kidney beans: 29% of the RDI
- Lentils: 45% of the RDI
- Pinto beans: 37% of the RDI
- Roasted soy nuts: 44% of the RDI
Folate or folic acid (synthetic) reduces the risk of birth defects. The percentages above are for an RDI of 400 mcg but it is recommended that pregnant women get 600 mcg every day.
9. Chicken and Turkey
Both turkey and chicken have a significant amount of niacin and pyridoxine. Eating the white meat, including the breast gives more than what you would get in the dark meat, such as the thigh9.
You can get the following in a 3.5 ounce serving of skinless chicken or turkey:
You don't have to eat the fatty parts with all of their calories. The majority of the B vitamins are found in the meat, not in the skin.
You will find high levels of riboflavin and B12 content in yogurt10. There will be different nutritional values, depending upon the brand but a average serving of yogurt includes the following:
It is good to remember that most flavored, refrigerated and frozen yogurts will include up to 4 teaspoons of sugar for every 2/3 cup serving.
There may also be some nondairy yogurt in the store including fermented soy, coconut and almond yogurts. Unless these products are fortified, they will not typically have as much riboflavin or B12.
11. Nutritional and Brewers Yeast
Both brewers and nutritional yeast are inactive, so they can't be used to make bread. You can use them to add flavor and nutrients in many dishes.
Those yeasts typically contain B vitamins and may also be fortified with them as well. This is especially true of nutritional yeast. If there are additional nutrients included, they will be listed in the ingredients on the label.
Here is a comparison of nutritional and brewers yeast based on a 2 tablespoon serving11. Please note that the values may differ by brand:
Nutritional yeast is often used by vegans or vegetarians because it has B12 added. It can be challenging to get enough B12 if you aren't eating animal products.
Nutritional yeast also is a popular seasoning choice for cheesy, nutty flavor. Brewers yeast may be bitter and is better mixed into foods, such as smoothies, soups and salad dressings.
Pork is a great source of several B vitamins. It has an especially high value of thiamine, which tends to be low in beef. You can expect to find the following in a 3.5 ounce pork loin chops serving12:
- Thiamine (B1): 69% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 24% of the RDI
- Niacin (B3): 24% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 9% of the RDI
- Pyridoxine (B6): 27% of the RDI
- Cobalamin (B12): 14% of the RDI
To ensure that you are getting the healthiest choice possible, try to use loin cuts because they have less fat and calories than shoulder cuts.
13. Fortified Cereals
There are often vitamins added to breakfast cereals, including B vitamins. You can find this information on the ingredients list.
Thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, folate, B12 and B6 are the most commonly added B vitamins13. The following is a comparison of some of the more popular cereal brands:
Many cereals that are fortified are also high in sugar and refined grains. Choose a product that has under 5 g of sugar per serving and also includes plenty of whole-grain. It should be listed as the first ingredient.
Trout is a freshwater fish that is similar to salmon and has high levels of B vitamins14. You can expect to find the following in a 3.5 ounce cooked serving of trout:
- Thiamine (B1): 28% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 25% of the RDI
- Niacin (B3): 29% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 22% of the RDI
- Pyridoxine (B6): 12% of the RDI
- Cobalamin (B12): 125% of the RDI
You will also find plenty of protein and omega-3 fats in trout, a fish that is known for its low mercury content.
15. Sunflower Seeds
One of the best sources of pantothenic acid from a plant source is the sunflower seed. It is a type of B vitamin that gets its name from a Greek word, pantos, which means 'everywhere'. It is known as such because it can be found in almost any food but only typically in trace amounts.
Eating 1 ounce of sunflower seeds will give you 20% of the RDI for this important B vitamin. Sunflower seeds also contain niacin, folate and B615.
Many people with peanut allergies use sunflower seed butter as a convenient resource but it also contains a lot of pantothenic acid as well.
The following is a comparison between sunflower seeds and sunflower seed butter:
The Final Word
If you really want to eat a healthy diet, it should include a significant amount of the eight B complex vitamins.
We recommend taking NATURELO's Plant-Based B Complex to make sure you hit your daily B vitamin intake.
The top sources of most of the B vitamins include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, leafy greens, legumes, seeds and fortified foods.
If you must restrict your intake of some of those food groups because of dietary choice or allergies, you might end up with a significant B vitamin deficiency.
References: 1. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4231/2, Fish, salmon, Atlantic, wild, cooked, dry heat Nutrition Facts & Calories 2. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2626/2, Spinach, raw Nutrition Facts & Calories 3. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/beef-products/3470/2, Beef, variety meats and by-products, liver, cooked, pan-fried Nutrition Facts & Calories 4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157503001558?via%3Dihub, Determination of the biotin content of select foods using accurate and sensitive HPLC/avidin binding, December 2004 5. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/69/2, Milk, whole, 3.25% milkfat Nutrition Facts & Calories 6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29966236, Dietary Intake and Food Sources of Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamin and Vitamin B₆ in a Representative Sample of the Spanish Population. The Anthropometry, Intake, and Energy Balance in Spain (ANIBES) Study †, 2018 Jun 29;10(7). pii: E846. doi: 10.3390/nu10070846 7. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4253/2, Mollusks, oyster, Pacific, cooked, moist heat Nutrition Facts & Calories 8. https://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-beans016000000000000000000.html, Beans Nutrition Information In Legumes And Legume Products 9. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/poultry-products/703/2, Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, meat only, cooked, roasted Nutrition Facts & Calories 10. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/104/2, Yogurt, plain, whole milk, 8 grams protein per 8 ounce Nutrition Facts & Calories 11. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/custom/1323565/2, Nutritional Yeast Flakes (Kal) 2 Tablespoons Nutrition Facts & Calories 12. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/pork-products/2277/2, Pork, fresh, loin, sirloin (chops), boneless, separable lean only, cooked, broiled Nutrition Facts & Calories 13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27418034, Fortified breakfast cereal consumed daily for 12 wk leads to a significant improvement in micronutrient intake and micronutrient status in adolescent girls: a randomised controlled trial, 2016 Jul 14;15(1):69. doi: 10.1186/s12937-016-0185-6 14. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4241/2, Fish, trout, mixed species, cooked, dry heat Nutrition Facts & Calories 15. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3077/2, Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dry roasted, without salt Nutrition Facts & Calories