What are B vitamins? What do they do?.
The B Vitamins are made up of 8 singular vitamins. Grouped together they’re known as Vitamin B Complex.
The meaning for complex is:
[something consisting of many different and connected parts.]
This is a great way to explain what the B Vitamins are.
They’re important individuality. But they’re magical as a group. Working in union with each other and alongside chemical reactions needed for life to exist.
B Vitamins are water-soluble vitamins. Being water-soluble means they need water to be used by the body.
B vitamins are absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestines. From there, they’re used, to perform many tasks. Tasks performed range from carbohydrate metabolism to providing glowing skin and hair.
Water Soluble Vitamins are unstable
Our bodies are constantly working to replenish. Either removing waste or providing nutrients. This is done via the digestive system (bowel) and urinary system (kidneys and bladder).
The bladder, with help from the kidneys regulate levels of water-soluble vitamins.
The bowel, with help from enzymes and healthy bacteria work to absorb B vitamins or remove them.
We need a good source of beneficial bacteria as well as water to be present in the bowel. If either are lacking, B vitamins will most likely be removed with your stools.
The opposite of water-soluble vitamins are fat soluble vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in our liver and fat stores.
Unfortunately, unlike fat soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body. If they’re not absorbed, they’ll be disposed of in your urine and stools. This makes the level of water-soluble vitamins unstable, requiring a continual supply.
Due to this, it’s important that we continuously have a good daily supply of B Vitamins in our diet. We not only need a good intake of B vitamins but we also need a healthy environment in the gut for them to be used.
Once absorbed in the gut, B Vitamins are recognised as coenzymes. To understand coenzymes it’s important to understand enzymes.
Enzymes are molecules that help to perform bodily functions. They’re needed to spark a chemical reaction in the cells. They play a hugely important role being selected specifically for particular jobs.
Let’s use a pasta salad as an example. We’ve prepared and eaten a delicious pasta salad.
To breakdown the pasta in our salad, we need the help of an enzyme called Amylase. Its role as an enzyme is primarily to breakdown carbohydrates.
With the pasta present in the digestive system, amylase gets to work. It breaks down the carbohydrate in the pasta into glucose, supplying us with energy.
What would happen to the pasta if we didn’t produce the enzyme?
Well, without it, the pasta would be sitting in our stomachs rotting away, producing putrid toxins.
Therefore, you can see how important enzymes are. It would be incredibly difficult to function without them.
Now, the job of providing chemical reactions is a tough job. A little help is required along the way. For most businesses, teamwork is required for a project to be completed. For a business to thrive it needs a number of workers to carry out numerous tasks. And this is the same with the body.
The body needs a team of helpers to carry out numerous daily tasks to keep us alive. For enzymes, they need the help of a co-worker.
For enzymes, this is in the form of a coenzyme.
What is a coenzyme?
Coenzymes are small molecules that work alongside enzymes. They work with enzymes to allow a chemical reaction to take place. This allows normal bodily roles to occur. Coenzymes are not able to bypass working with an enzyme. And enzymes can fail to work without a coenzyme buddy.
There’s a special relationship with coenzymes and enzymes. And B vitamins are the spark allowing for this relationship to form.
B vitamins aren’t the only vitamins working as coenzymes. There’s another vitamin helper. This, in the form of another water-soluble vitamin. Vitamin C.
The role of B vitamins and vitamin C are very important indeed. Their enzyme team-mates need them.
So, I hope it’s clear to see the importance of having a regular dietary intake of B vitamins. It’s not just the fact you take them and they miraculously give you glowing skin and hair. But it’s the fact that they’re needed for numerous amounts of important bodily functions with glowing skin and hair being two of many jobs.
As explained earlier, B vitamins are coenzymes working with enzymes.
They have many roles, some of those roles are:
• Protecting our nerves
• Giving us healthy hair, skin and nails
• Producing hormones
• Nourishing the brain
• Helping our mental health, producing those ‘feel good’ hormones
One of the biggest roles is helping us to breakdown our foods. They aid in the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
An important task is making use of the foods we put into our bodies. As mentioned before, carbohydrate foods need B vitamins to work as coenzymes.
Without B Vitamins, carbohydrate foods cannot be broken down to form glucose. We can’t function without glucose.
The B vitamins involved in carbohydrate metabolism to provide us with energy are:
•Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
•Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
•Niacin (Vitamin B3)
•Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)
•Biotin (Vitamin B7)
As well as carbohydrate metabolism. Vitamin B is involved in protein metabolism. The important B vitamin here is pyridoxine. Known as vitamin B6. In the body it converts into a bodily form which enables the production of lots of enzymes. This form of vitamin B6 breaks down proteins into amino acids.
Vitamins B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin) also play a huge role in the production of amino acids too.
These B vitamins also play a huge role in producing hormones. They provide a healthy nervous system. And give us healthy muscular and skeletal systems.
B vitamins are important for fat metabolism too. Fat metabolism requires vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin) and B5 (pantothenic acid) for their coenzyme properties. Their presence allows for the formation of enzymes. This further breaks down and uses the fat component from our diet.
Vitamins B12 and folic acid are involved with lipid metabolism. Lipids are fats found in our bloodstream and tissues.
Niacin is extremely important for cholesterol metabolism. Aiding in boosting healthy cholesterol known as HDL cholesterol and lowering the unhealthy form known as LDL cholesterol.
Good sources of B Vitamins
Good sources of B vitamins can be found in:
• Whole grains (brown rice, barley, millet)
• Meat (red meat, poultry, fish)
• Eggs and dairy products (milk, cheese)
• Legumes (beans, lentils)
• Seeds and nuts (sunflower seeds, almonds)
• Dark, leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kale)
• Fruits (citrus fruits, avocados, bananas)
Try and get a daily intake of these groups of foods to get a good consumption of B vitamins.
Poor sources of B Vitamins
Refined foods provide us with empty nutrients. These are foods that have been through the refining process.
They’re a poor source. But a popular choice for many of us.
Foods such as breads, pasta and table sugar are examples of foods that have been refined.
The unfortunate thing is that these foods were once great sources of B vitamins. In the refined state, the favourable form for most of us, it’s not.
This, all due to the refining process which sadly destroys many nutrients. Removing B vitamins in abundance.
Due to this we must choose our foods wisely. Refined foods are popular choices for most of us. Let’s be honest, they tend to be convenient and our favourite picks. Many of us enjoy eating breads, cakes and pastries. And savour in adding spoons of sugar to our lattes, tea and coffees.
These choices once provided a good source of B vitamins in their natural state. And provided the coenzymes to aid in carbohydrate digestion. In its refined state they now need B vitamins to break them down.
Now this is not to say you can never have pastries ever again. But keep this blog post in mind and the importance of B vitamins. We must choose our foods wisely. Remember, B vitamins are not stored in the body. We need to keep our vitamin B levels topped up.
So opt to choose foods in their unrefined state. Choose whole grains. If you need sugar choose brown sugar instead of white sugar.
The benefits of B vitamins are huge. Aren’t they? You can see the reason why vitamin B complex is so widely recommended as a supplement.
My advice is to obtain a good source of B vitamins with every meal. You’ll surely obtain adequate levels with a healthy balanced diet.
There are times when some of us require higher levels than our diets can supply. It may be beneficial to look at taking a supplement to meet the needs your body requires.
If you’re a sufferer of disease seek advice from your doctor if you wish to take supplements. If you opt to take supplements, constantly monitor your symptoms. And report any changes of health to your doctor.
Images: unsplash/rawpixel, unsplash/Jonathan Perez
Related website: B Vitamins and fat metabolism.
I’m Cheryl. I’m on a quest to help and share what I’ve learnt about nutrition, yoga, autoimmune disease, hormones and joint disease.
I’m a sufferer of the above diseases and have used yoga and nutrition to manage my illnesses. Success with my health led me to become a qualified Nutritional Therapist and Yoga Teacher.