Are you getting your B vitamins?

By Dr. Beth Mansfield

Are you:

  • vegetarian OR
  • female OR
  • involved in regular vigorous exercise (ie. running) OR
  • restricting foods/calories to lose weight?

If you answered yes to any of these then you should take a good look at your diet to make sure you are eating enough foods rich in the B complex of vitamins.

The B complex of vitamins is important for maintaining your overall health and athletic performance. Each B vitamin plays a key role in the chain of metabolic reactions in your body that harness energy from the foods you eat. In addition, the Vitamins B12 and folate are important in making hemoglobin for red blood cell production, effectively delivering more oxygen to your working muscles.

Label reading tip: Check the nutrition facts table and list of ingredients to see what B vitamins have been added to your packaged foods.

The B complex of vitamins includes thiamin (vitamin Bl), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folate (folic acid), vitamin B12 (cobalamin), pantothenic acid, and biotin.

The Benefits of Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a tasty and low calorie way to eat your B complex vitamins.  It is a flaky yellow product that is packed with B vitamins and glutathione, an important antioxidant for a healthy immune system.  Look for the varieties that are fortified with Vitamins B12 and folate.

Nutritional yeast has a nutty, cheesy flavour that lends itself well to salad dressings, and as a substitute topping for cheese – try it on cooked veggies and popcorn too!

This gluten-free food can also be used to thicken soups and sauces and it’s the “glory” in many vegan’s “Glory Bowl” meals (see Glory Bowl dressing recipe for yummy details). You can find it in Bulk Barn in the spices section or in specialty health food stores.

Glory Bowl Dressing recipe:

  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 Tbsp Tahini
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp Tamari or soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2/3 – ¾ cup vegetable  oil (try walnut oil to get some omega 3 fats in too)

TIP: This dressing can also be used on steamed vegetables – yummy!

Check the chart below to see what foods you need to eat to get your daily boosts of the B complex. Getting your B complex of vitamins form foods means you are also fuelling your body with an entire package of nutrients – that’s what nutritionists call healthy eating! Your body gets rid of any excess amounts you may consume, so don’t believe those energy boosting claims on all the B complex vitamin supplements

B complexKey Food Sources
Thiamine (B1)Animal sources: Pork, eggs, liver, yeast.
Plant sources: Whole-grains
Riboflavin (B2)Animal sources: Dairy foods, organ meats
Plant sources: Mushrooms, leafy greens
Pyridoxine (B6)Animal sources: liver, eggs, tuna, turkey, pork
Plant sources: leafy greens, Garbanzo beans, potatoes, bananas
Cobalamin (B12)Plant sources: Nutritional yeast fortified with B12, fortified foods
Animal sources: Meat, dairy, eggs
FolatePlant sources: Oranges, legumes (lentils, kidney beans, etc), peanuts, leafy greens, whole grains, wheat germ, avocado, fortified grains and cereals
NiacinAnimal sources: Meat, poultry, fish
Plant sources: Peanuts, legumes
Pantothenic AcidAnimal sources: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs
Plant sources: Whole grains, legumes
BiotinAnimal sources: Eggs, cottage cheese
Plant sources: Whole grains, wheat germ, nuts

Nutritional Yeast Ingredients:

INACTIVE NUTRITIONAL YEAST (DRIED YEAST, NIACIN (VITAMIN B3), PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), THIAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), FOLIC ACID, VITAMIN B12)

Dr. Elizabeth (Beth) Mansfield, PhD, RD is a Registered Dietitian, Sport Nutrition Specialist, and Certified Exercise Physiologist with Peak Performance in Ottawa. Beth educates Canadian athletes on sport nutrition for health and performance.