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10 of the best sources of vitamin B

Selection of foods including salmon, cheese, oats and liver
B vitamins have multiple roles in your body that you need to get through your diet. Here's how you can boost your vitamin B levels through food and supplements.
Vitamin B is a crucial nutrient that plays a vital role in helping you maintain a healthy body, but many people, around 6% of UK adults, don’t get enough vitamin B in their diets.1

In this article, we will explore what vitamin B is, the different types of vitamin B, and how you can ensure you are getting enough of this vital nutrient through the foods you eat.

What is vitamin B?

Vitamin B is a group of 8 essential vitamins that are so important for your health and well-being. Each B vitamin benefits your body differently, but together they help to release energy from the food you eat and help to keep your blood, skin, and nervous system healthy.2

The 8 B vitamins include:3 

What is a vitamin B deficiency?

B vitamins are water-soluble, so they can’t be stored in your body (except for vitamin B12) and must be replenished daily.4

You should get your daily dose of B vitamins through a healthy balanced diet including foods like seeds, fish, eggs, meat, and leafy greens. However, if you follow a restricted diet, like a vegan diet, you’ll likely cut out a lot of vitamin B food sources. This means you may find you’re not able to get enough – particularly vitamin B12 which is mainly found in animal sources.5

It is always best to check with your GP for any deficiencies, especially if you follow a restricted diet. Your GP will be able to offer you help, advice and appropriate treatment if necessary.

The top 10 food sources of vitamin B 

Luckily, there are many different healthy foods available which contain a range of the different types of B vitamins. From fish and eggs to leafy greens and legumes, these vitamin B foods are perfect for including in any diet.

Here are 10 top foods high in vitamin B:

1. Salmon

Salmon is considered to be one of the most nutritious types of fish and it’s no wonder as it is packed full of beneficial nutrients. High in protein, zinc, potassium, selenium, and omega 3’s, salmon is a great source of lots of different types of vitamin B too. In fact, just 100g of cooked salmon is thought to contain:6
  • Thiamine (B1) 
  • Riboflavin (B2) 
  • Niacin (B3) 
  • Pantothenic acid (B5) 
  • Pyridoxine (B6) 
  • Vitamin B12 
Out of all the B vitamins, salmon is richest in vitamins B3, B6 and B12 which are important for your heart and brain health, as well as aiding in maintaining your nervous system and keeping your blood healthy.7,8,9,10

2. Eggs

Eggs are believed to be one of the most beneficial foods available as they are a great natural source of so many essential nutrients like vitamin D, iron, and choline, and they are jam-packed full of B vitamins too.11  Just one egg contains:12
  • Riboflavin (B2) 
  • Pantothenic acid (B5) 
  • Biotin (B7) 
  • Folate (B9) 
  • Vitamin B12 
An egg is thought to be one of the top sources of biotin (vitamin B7), which contributes to normal energy metabolism, the maintenance of normal skin and hair, and the functioning of your nervous system.13

3. Leafy Greens

Leafy green vegetables like spinach pack a nutritional punch when it comes to B vitamins, particularly folate (vitamin B9). Vitamin B9 is important for helping your body make DNA and other genetic material, as well as helping your cells divide.14

Just 90g of cooked spinach contains 39% of your recommended daily amount of vitamin B9.15  Some folate can be destroyed during cooking, so it’s best to steam your spinach instead, to help minimise the amount of folate lost.16

4. Milk

It is believed that milk, as well as some other dairy products, are the top source of riboflavin (vitamin B2), with as little as 240ml containing 32% of the recommended daily amount.17,18

Milk also contains several other types of vitamin B, including:
  • Thiamine (B1) 
  • Pantothenic acid (B5) 
  • Vitamin B12 
Milk is also thought to be a great source of vitamin B12, with one small 240ml glass containing around 46% of your daily recommended intake.18 Even better, vitamin B12 is well-absorbed from consuming milk, with an absorption rate of 65%.19

5. Legumes 

Well known for their high folate content, legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and black beans, are a rich source of vitamin B. However, legumes also contain vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6, legumes making them a healthy addition to any diet.20

Snacking on some hummus or even peanuts, which is actually a legume, is an easy way to up your vitamin B levels as these both contain a high amount of B vitamins - just two tablespoons of peanut butter offer 14% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin B6.21

6. Yoghurt

Plain Greek yoghurt is thought to be naturally high in riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin B12, both important B vitamins for good health. In fact, 100g of plain Greek yoghurt contains around 50% of your daily vitamin B12 intake and approximately 22% of your daily vitamin B2 intake.22

However, non-dairy yoghurt alternatives like those made with coconut milk or almond milk, generally don’t have a good concentration of B vitamins, unless they’ve been fortified.23

7. Chicken

A nutritious staple in many recipes, chicken is a well-known source of B vitamins. Just one 100g chicken breast is believed to contain 86% of your daily intake of niacin (vitamin B3) in addition to:24
  • Riboflavin (B2) 
  • Pantothenic acid (B5) 
  • Pyridoxine (B6) 
  • Vitamin B12 
However, the type of B vitamin and the amount depends on the kind of chicken meat you’re choosing. For instance, vitamin B12 is found in the highest concentration in the darker meat from thighs and legs and chicken livers, whilst vitamin B6 is found more in chicken breasts.25

8. Nutritional Yeast 

Often used to improve the flavour and nutrient content of different recipes, nutritional yeast naturally contains B vitamins and is usually fortified with them too (although different brands will vary, so always check the label!).

Nutritional yeast is believed to include:26
  • Thiamine (B1) 
  • Riboflavin (B2) 
  • Niacin (B3) 
  • Pyridoxine (B6) 
  • Folate (B9) 
  • Vitamin B12

The cheesy, nutty flavour of nutritional yeast makes it a great addition to so many recipes. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, nutritional yeast is a good solution to ensuring you get enough vitamin B12, which can be hard to get if you don’t consume animal products. Just two teaspoons of nutritional yeast are 363% of your daily recommended intake!26

9. Fortified Cereals

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and often, breakfast cereals are fortified which means they have vitamins and other nutrients added to them to help you get more of the vitamins and minerals you need in a day.27,28

Each brand and product will vary in the amounts and types of B vitamins included. However, cereals are usually fortified with:27 
  • Thiamine (B1) 
  • Riboflavin (B2) 
  • Niacin (B3) 
  • Pyridoxine (B6) 
  • Folate (B9) 
  • Vitamin B12
It is worth noting though, that many fortified cereals are also high in sugar and refined grains. So, you want to try to choose a wholegrain cereal with a low amount of sugar, especially if you’ll be eating it every day!29

10. Liver & Organ Meat

Most of us will likely overlook organ meats when we go food shopping, but organ meats like liver are especially nutrient-dense and are believed to be one of the best sources of vitamin B12 and folate.30

Whether it's chicken, beef, pork, or lamb, you’ll find they contain plenty of B vitamins. 100g of beef liver can include:31 
  • Thiamine (B1) 
  • Riboflavin (B2) 
  • Niacin (B3) 
  • Pantothenic acid (B5) 
  • Pyridoxine (B6) 
  • Biotin (B7) 
  • Folate (B9) 
  • Vitamin B12
Organ meats have long been considered to have a strong flavour and unusual texture, but there are many ways you can incorporate them into different meals to boost your vitamin B.

Vitamin B supplements

A healthy, balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruit, whole grains, leafy greens, and protein is important to make sure you’re getting enough B vitamins to keep you healthy. But, in some cases, it’s not always possible to get all the vitamin B you need every day.

Not everyone can get their daily vitamin B from food sources alone as animal protein is thought to be the best source of vitamin B. For those with restricted diets, like vegetarians or vegans, a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables is often not enough.

The good news though, is that taking a vitamin B supplement can help with your vitamin B intake. From a vitamin B complex supplement to get all your vitamin B in one go, to a more tailored and specific supplement for each vitamin B type, there are a variety of vitamin B supplements you can choose to help you meet your needs.

Before taking any form of vitamin B supplement, it’s best to check with your GP. They will be able to advise on the type of vitamin B to take, whether you need to take a vitamin B supplement at all and more.

The bottom line

Incorporating vitamin B rich foods into your diet is so beneficial for your overall health and well-being. B vitamins play an important part in improving energy levels, supporting a healthy immune system, and healthy skin and hair.

Eating a balanced diet is the best way to make sure you get enough vitamin B every day, but sometimes, this isn’t always possible if you follow a restricted diet. Vitamin B for vegetarians and vegans can be hard to come by, but luckily vitamin B supplements are available to help you reach your vitamin B goals.

Why not use our vitamin B foods list as inspiration and start adding more foods like meat, fish, eggs, and leafy greens to your meals today?

Handpicked content

Sources

1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/ 
 
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