Designing Sustenance (Part 2): B-Vitamins


One of my goals of presenting my weekly series of preferred sources of vitamins is to give a thorough explanation of why I use the ingredients I use, and to hopefully influence your grocery list at home. You can find articles all over the place on the internet that say the basics, like “Vitamins are good for you”.. Well, we know that, already. Show me the details. I want to know what these building blocks do in my body, what happens if I don’t get enough, what are some of the best food sources of them, etc.

        “I think that people are hungry for more detailed information about why they should bother eating healthy besides just losing weight or controlling a specific condition.” 


The Crucial Family of B-Vitamins – (Water Soluble)

You see them on nutrition labels, hopefully, as riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, pyroxidine, etc. They are actually a range of different substances who act similar to each other, and thus are considered part of one big happy family. The roles, functions, and sources of B vitamins are so numerous that I can only offer an abridged version, along with MY preferred sources. B-vitamin sources found most often in HealthSavor’s dishes are listed below, but I highly recommend you see what these vitamins are all about first. It’s nothing that anyone expects you to memorize, but take it from me, you retain more than you would expect, and you begin making smart and smarter choices at the grocery or restaurants over time. Nutrition science is a topic that is still in it’s infancy, and new discoveries are being made daily.  It is really fascinating to incorporate it into practice as a chef.

 If you are reading this, then you share my interest in clean food that gives you all of what you need, and none of what you don’t. But in order to know which is which, you have to travel down this rabbit hole, at least for a little bit, along with me. So, let’s go!!

What are the different B-vitamins and what do they actually do in my body?

Vitamin B1


Thiamin plays a central role in the generation of energy from carbohydrates. It is involved in RNA and DNA production, as well as nerve function. Its active form is a coenzyme called Thiamin pyrophosphate (TPP), which takes part in the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl Coenzyme A (CoA) in metabolism.[1]

Vitamin B2


Riboflavin is involved in the energy production for the electron transport chain, the citric acid cycle, as well as the catabolism of fatty acids (beta oxidation)[2]

Vitamin B3


Niacin is composed of two structures: nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. There are two co-enzyme forms of niacin: nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP). Both play an important role in energy transfer reactions in the metabolism of glucose, fat and alcohol.[3]

NAD carries hydrogens and their electrons during metabolic reactions, including the pathway from the citric acid cycle to the electron transport chain. NADP is a coenzyme in lipid and nucleic acid synthesis.[4]

Vitamin B5


Pantothenic acid is involved in the oxidation of fatty acids and carbohydrates. Coenzyme A, which can be synthesised from pantothenic acid, is involved in the synthesis of amino acids, fatty acids, ketones, cholesterol,[5] phospholipids, steroid hormones, neurotransmitters (such as acetylcholine), and antibodies.[6]

Vitamin B6


Pyridoxine is usually stored in the body as pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP), which is the co-enzyme form of vitamin B6. Pyridoxine is involved in the metabolism of amino acids and lipids; in the synthesis of neurotransmitters [7] and hemoglobin, as well as in the production of nicotinic acid (vitamin B3).[8] Pyridoxine also plays an important role in gluconeogenesis.

Vitamin B7


Biotin plays a key role in the metabolism of lipids, proteins and carbohydrates. It is a critical co-enzyme of four carboxylases: acetyl CoA carboxylase, which is involved in the synthesis of fatty acids from acetate; propionyl CoA carboxylase, involved in gluconeogenesis; β-methylcrotonyl CoA carboxylase, involved in the metabolism of leucin; and pyruvate CoA carboxylase, which is involved in the metabolism of energy, amino acids and cholesterol.[9]

Vitamin B9


Folic acid acts as a co-enzyme in the form of tetrahydrofolate (THF), which is involved in the transfer of single-carbon units in the metabolism of nucleic acids and amino acids. THF is involved in pyrimidine nucleotide synthesis, so is needed for normal cell division, especially during pregnancy and infancy, which are times of rapid growth. Folate also aids in erythropoiesis, the production of red blood cells.[10]

Vitamin B12


Vitamin B12 is involved in the cellular metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. It is essential in the production of blood cells in bone marrow, nerve sheaths and proteins.[11] Vitamin B12 functions as a co-enzyme in intermediary metabolism for the methionine synthase reaction with methylcobalamin, and the methylmalonyl CoA mutase reaction with adenosylcobalamin.[12]


B-Vitamin Sources:

Nutritional Yeast: Seen frequently on our ingredients list, nutritional yeast not only adds a unique, creamy consistency and cheesy flavor to dairy free dishes, it also contains  Thiamin 640%, Riboflavin 570%, Niacin 280%, Vitamin B6 480%, Folate 60%, Vitamin B12 130%… and that’s in only 2 tablespoons. What’s more, it has no sodium, adds 15% DV fiber, and is NOT an active yeast culture and will not negatively affect the intestinal flora/yeast balance.

Wild Caught or Sustainable Produced Salmon: Thiamin 28%, Riboflavin 44%, Niacin 78%, Vitamin B6 73%, Folate 11%, Vitamin B12 78%, Pantothenic Acid 30%, in addition to an insanely impressive omega 3 profile, loads of minerals, amino acids.

Farm Fresh Eggs: The best sources of eggs, nutritionally, come from free range pastures where the chickens can not only eat grains, but bugs and whatever else they feel inclined to eat. Pasture-raised eggs contain 70% more vitamin B12 and 50% more folic acid (British Journal of Nutrition, 1974).

Here are other great sources, some of which I use, and others that are just weird (like liver) or too high-glycemic. Turkey, tuna, and liver are great, concentrated sources of B-Vitamins. Good sources for B vitamins include whole grains, potatoes, bananas, lentils, chili peppers, tempeh, beans,  brewer’s yeast, and molasses.

You can’t eat meat all of the time, and that’s way I started using nutritional yeast. As I began to use it, I noticed the rather complex, savory, almost cheddar-like flavor and began to think of the massive potential of creamy sauces, omelets, quiches, soups.

The B12 vitamin is of note because it is not available from plant products, making B12 deficiency a legitimate concern for vegans. Manufacturers of plant-based foods will sometimes report B12 content, leading to confusion about what sources yield B12. The confusion arises because the standard US Pharmacopeia (USP) method for measuring the B12 content does not measure the B12 directly. Instead, it measures a bacterial response to the food. Chemical variants of the B12 vitamin found in plant sources are active for bacteria, but cannot be used by the human body. This same phenomenon can cause significant over-reporting of B12 content in other types of foods as well.

The most important thing to remember about B-vitamins… 

They, along with vitamin C, are water soluble, so your body does not store them anywhere, and most of your supply is either used quickly in comparison to fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. The amount of foods that DEPLETE your B-vitamins are numerous. Refined flours and sugars, and other food toxins all need to be detoxified in the liver, which needs B-vitamins.  Dark liquids like cola, coffee, and black tea, and caffeine require multiple members of the B-vitamin family to detox, to a lesser extent. It’s important to include a whole bunch of B-vitamin containing foods into your diet daily.

Stress actually depletes reserves as well. That’s why, when shopping for a B-vitamin supplement you might see a “Stress B Complex”. These vitamins are CRUCIAL to nervous system health, metabolism, and so much more. Vegetarians and particularly vegans are at higher risk for nervous system issues. I have consulted with quite a few who were depressed, had the shakes, short tempered, or tired all of the time, and they all had no sources of B-vitamins in their diet. Once they began using nutritional yeast and supplementing to overcome deficiency, these issues subsided.

Below is a table easily available to anyone on Wikipedia. It give a good idea of the importance of getting your daily dose of Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Pyridoxine, Biotin, Folic Acid, and Cobalamin, more conveniently referred to as the B-vitamins.

What if I don’t get my B-vitamins? 

Vitamin B1

Deficiency causes beriberi. Symptoms of this disease of the nervous system include weight loss, emotional disturbances, Wernicke’s encephalopathy (impaired sensory perception), weakness and pain in the limbs, periods of irregular heartbeat, and edema (swelling of bodily tissues). Heart failure and death may occur in advanced cases. Chronic thiamin deficiency can also cause Korsakoff’s syndrome, an irreversible dementia characterized by amnesia and compensatory confabulation.

Vitamin B2

Deficiency causes ariboflavinosis. Symptoms may include cheilosis (cracks in the lips), high sensitivity to sunlight, angular cheilitis, glossitis (inflammation of the tongue), seborrheic dermatitis or pseudo-syphilis (particularly affecting the scrotum or labia majora and the mouth), pharyngitis (sore throat), hyperemia, and edema of the pharyngeal and oral mucosa.

Vitamin B3

Deficiency, along with a deficiency of tryptophan causes pellagra. Symptoms include aggression, dermatitis, insomnia, weakness, mental confusion, and diarrhea. In advanced cases, pellagra may lead to dementia and death (the 3(+1) Ds: dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, and death).

Vitamin B5

Deficiency can result in acne and paresthesia, although it is uncommon.

Vitamin B6

Deficiency may lead to microcytic anemia (because pyridoxyl phosphate is the cofactor for heme synthesis), depression, dermatitis, high blood pressure (hypertension), water retention, and elevated levels of homocysteine.

Vitamin B7

Deficiency does not typically cause symptoms in adults but may lead to impaired growth and neurological disorders in infants. Multiple carboxylase deficiency, an inborn error of metabolism, can lead to biotin deficiency even when dietary biotin intake is normal.

Vitamin B9

Deficiency results in a macrocytic anemia, and elevated levels of homocysteine. Deficiency in pregnant women can lead to birth defects. Supplementation is often recommended during pregnancy. Researchers have shown that folic acid might also slow the insidious effects of age on the brain.

Vitamin B12

Deficiency results in a macrocytic anemia, elevated homocysteine, peripheral neuropathy, memory loss and other cognitive deficits. It is most likely to occur among elderly people, as absorption through the gut declines with age; the autoimmune disease pernicious anemia is another common cause. It can also cause symptoms of mania and psychosis. In rare extreme cases, paralysis can result.

About Chef Brandon

bkaleChef Brandon Schlunt is co-owner of HealthSavor, a Cincinnati Ohio based healthy, organic, gluten-free meal delivery service, created to help busy families, individuals and children eat nutritious meals easily and affordably. Chef Brandon focuses on helping his customers lose weight, lower their blood sugar and feels very honored to have earned the trust of many doctors, students, parents, athletes, and on-the-go businessmen and women all over the city. In his non-existent spare time, Chef B enjoys music, hanging with his daughter and fiance, and continuing his education in nutrition.

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