B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B-6, biotin, folate, and B-12 are essential vitamins, meaning that your body needs them but cannot make them. You must get them through foods in your diet and/or supplements.
Fortunately, most B vitamins are easily obtained from foods and people should be able to get adequate intakes through their diets (although there are exceptions, as noted below).
You may be surprised, for example, to see how much folate you are getting from foods fortified with folic acid (such as breakfast cereals), because folic acid provides much more folate than currently reflected on labels (e.g., 400 mcg of folic acid provides the equivalent of 680 mcg of natural folate). This is a concern because there are risks associated with getting too much folate from folic acid.
Good sources of B vitamins
In the table below, we show the adult Daily Value for each B vitamin and how much you can get from foods known to be good sources of those vitamins. (Note: The Daily Values broadly cover the needs of a population, but to see how requirements differ by age and gender see our table of Recommended Daily Intakes and Limits.)
Source: USDA Nutrient Database unless otherwise noted.
1Staggs, J Food Compost Anal 2004
Who may need a B vitamin supplement
People who may need to supplement their diet include:
- Older men and women and those taking medications to reduce stomach acid, who may be low in B-12 due to reduced absorption
- Pregnant woman, who should get folate in the form of folic acid from a supplement to help prevent birth defects
- People with certain genetic variants who may also benefit from special forms of folate
- Individuals who have high cholesterol and are instructed by a health professional to take high-dose of niacin to help lower it
Which B vitamin supplements are best?
For more about getting the right amount of B vitamins from your diet or supplements, as well as our tests of products, see the B Vitamins Supplements Review, which includes our Top Picks for B vitamins based on quality and value.
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