The Vitamin B Breakdown

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by | Updated: December 3rd, 2016 | Read time: 3 minutes

B vitamins are in a class all their own. Literally, there are enough to make up a small class – or at least a basketball team with a few on the bench. With so many to choose from, no wonder they get a bad rap for being so darn confusing. I bet at some point in your supplement-shopping experience, you’ve asked yourself one or more of these questions: Should I take a complex with all the B vitamins or is B12 enough? How do I know if I’m deficient in Bs? Do I need a flushing niacin or is a non-flushing formula just as effective?

B Vitamins for Energy, Mood & More
B-complex formulas provide every B you need and then some.


Though complicated to choose from, B vitamins are considered essential for your body to function and provide great health benefits for your heart, mind, mood and energy level. B vitamins are water-soluble, making you low at risk for taking in excess. In all, there are eight B vitamins:

B1 – thiamin
B2 – riboflavin
B3 – niacin/niacinamide/nicotinamide
B5 – pantothenic acid
B6 – pyridoxal/pyridoxine
B7 – biotin
B9 – folic acid
B12 – cobalamin

As with any supplement search, when you’re shopping for biotin or B-complex formulas, it’s important to recognize your specific needs. With that in mind, let me help guide you to a healthy state with this basic breakdown of B vitamin benefits.

B energized – Need a perk-me-up? All B vitamins work to convert food into energy. When B12 partners with folic acid to help ramp up red blood cells, you benefit from healthy energy at a cellular level.* The recommended daily amount (RDA) for B12 is 2.4 micrograms, which seems like small potatoes. But if you eat mostly vegetables (and small potatoes), your diet may not provide even the minimum RDA since good sources of B12 include meat, fish and dairy. To ensure you’re getting enough – particularly vegan women who require slightly more than the average Joe – have fortified cereal for breakfast. Better yet, start taking a methylcobalamin supplement – the preferred form of B12. Garden of Life KIND Organics makes a convenient raspberry spray B12 supplement that’s non-GMO and certified organic.

B heart strong – Folic acid, niacin and their kin help break down homocysteine in the blood. Maintaining healthy homocysteine levels supports the cardiovascular system. Niacin is the one B vitamin that acts as a vasodilator, which further supports blood circulation and a healthy heart.* Make sure you’re getting 400 micrograms of folic acid daily from citrus fruits and whole grains. If your doctor approves, a niacin supplement may be advisable – provided you don’t mind the flushed face that’s sure to follow.

B more even keel – Grumpiness gets you nowhere. Luckily, B vitamins can go far in supporting a healthy nervous system. In addition to helping maintain communication between your brain and the rest of your body, B vitamins have a unique influence on your overall disposition.* Vitamin B6 actually converts tryptophan (yes, the amino acid you hear so much about at Thanksgiving) to serotonin – the neurotransmitter with a hand in mood, sleep and an unforgiving appetite. Most people don’t get enough B6 from diet alone. Vitacost B-100 Complex provides a more-than-sufficient 100 mg to make up for your aversion to legumes and tofu (maybe that’s just me).

B a beauty (or a stud muffin) – Ask any hairstylist if there’s a supplement you can take for naturally beautiful locks and they’ll tell you biotin. Go ahead and ask, because the truth is that sufficient biotin intake can be the saving grace for healthy hair. And you don’t need much biotin, especially if you’re a cheddar-cheese-lover like me. That being said, there’s no upper limit to how much biotin you can have daily, so taking a supplement may be just the trick for your tresses. You may also notice improvements in your skin and nails, which surely won’t go unnoticed (wink, wink).

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.