Healthy Foods High in B Vitamins

They are thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12).

Though each of these vitamins has unique functions, they generally help your body produce energy and make important molecules in your cells (1).

Aside from B12, your body cannot store these vitamins for long periods, so you have to replenish them regularly through food (1).

Many foods provide B vitamins, but to be considered high in a vitamin, a food must contain at least 20% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) per serving. Alternatively, a food that contains 10–19% of the RDI is considered a good source (2).

Here are 15 healthy foods high in one or more B vitamins.

1. Salmon

This all-around nutritious fish is high in several B vitamins. A 3.5-ounce (100- gram) cooked serving of salmon contains (3):

  • Thiamine (B1): 18% of the RDI
  • Riboflavin (B2): 29% of the RDI
  • Niacin (B3): 50% of the RDI
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): 19% of the RDI
  • Pyridoxine (B6): 47% of the RDI
  • Cobalamin (B12): 51% of the RDI

Additionally, salmon is a low-mercury fish that is high in beneficial omega-3 fats, as well as protein and selenium (4).

2. Leafy Greens

Several leafy greens stand out for their folate (B9) content. These are among the highest vegetable sources of folate (5, 6, 7, 8, 9):

  • Spinach, raw: 41% of the RDI in 3 cups (85 grams)
  • Spinach, cooked: 31% of the RDI in a 1/2 cup (85 grams)
  • Collard greens, cooked: 20% of the RDI in a 1/2 cup (85 grams)
  • Turnip greens, cooked: 25% of the RDI in a 1/2 cup (85 grams)
  • Romaine lettuce, raw: 29% of the RDI in 2 cups (85 grams)

Notably, some folate is destroyed by heat during cooking, and some can transfer to the cooking water as well. To minimize folate loss during cooking, steam the greens until partway between tender and crisp (10, 11).

3. Liver and Other Organ Meats

Though not especially popular, organ meats — especially liver — are packed with B vitamins. This is true whether they’re from beef, pork, lamb or chicken (12, 13, 14, 15).

For example, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of beef liver contains (12, 16):

  • Thiamine (B1): 12% of the RDI
  • Riboflavin (B2): 201% of the RDI
  • Niacin (B3): 87% of the RDI
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): 69% of the RDI
  • Pyridoxine (B6): 51% of the RDI
  • Biotin (B7): 138% of the RDI
  • Folate (B9): 65% of the RDI
  • Cobalamin (B12): 1,386% of the RDI

If you’re unaccustomed to liver’s strong flavor or view organ meats as unappetizing, try them ground and mixed with traditional cuts of ground meat or add them to highly seasoned foods, such as chili.

4. Eggs

One large egg contains 33% of the RDI for biotin distributed between the yolk and white. In fact, eggs are one of the top sources of biotin — only liver contains more (16, 17).

Eggs also contain smaller amounts of other B vitamins. One large (50-gram) cooked egg contains (16, 18):

  • Riboflavin (B2): 15% of the RDI
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): 7% of the RDI
  • Biotin (B7): 33% of the RDI
  • Folate (B9): 5% of the RDI
  • Cobalamin (B12): 9% of the RDI

Bear in mind that raw egg whites contain avidin, a protein that binds with biotin and prevents its absorption in your gut if you regularly eat a lot of raw egg whites. Cooking eggs inactivates avidin and reduces food safety risks (17, 19).

If you don’t eat eggs, meat or other animals products, you can meet your biotin needs by consuming foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains, which all contain small amounts of biotin (16, 17).

5. Milk

One 8-ounce cup (240 ml) of milk provides 26% of the RDI for riboflavin, as well as smaller amounts of other B vitamins (20):

  • Thiamine (B1): 7% of the RDI
  • Riboflavin (B2): 26% of the RDI
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): 9% of the RDI
  • Cobalamin (B12): 18% of the RDI

Unsurprisingly, studies indicate that milk and other dairy products are generally people’s top source of riboflavin, followed by meat and grains (21, 22).

For example, in an observational study in more than 36,000 adults in Europe, dairy products supplied 22–52% of the riboflavin in people’s diets (22).

Like other animal products, milk also is a good source of B12, supplying 18% of the RDI per 1-cup (240-ml) serving (19).

What’s more, you absorb B12 best from milk and other dairy products — with absorption rates of 51–79% (23).

6. Beef

Beef can make a big contribution to your B vitamin intake.

In an observational study of eating habits in about 2,000 people in Spain, meat and meat products were the main sources of thiamine, niacin and pyridoxine (21).

Here’s the amount of B vitamins in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) cut of sirloin steak, which is about half the size of the smallest steak typically served in restaurants (24):

  • Thiamine (B1): 5% of the RDI
  • Riboflavin (B2): 8% of the RDI
  • Niacin (B3): 39% of the RDI
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): 6% of the RDI
  • Pyridoxine (B6): 31% of the RDI
  • Cobalamin (B12): 29% of the RDI

7. Oysters, Clams and Mussels

Oysters, clams and mussels are a stellar source of B12 and an excellent source of riboflavin. They also supply smaller amounts of thiamine, niacin and folate.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) cooked serving of each provides (25, 26, 27):

These shellfish are also high in protein and several minerals, including iron, zinc, selenium and manganese. They’re a good source of omega-3 fats as well (25, 26, 27).

8. Legumes

Legumes are most notable for their high folate content. They also provide small amounts of other B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and B6 (28).

Here is the folate content of a 1/2-cup (85-gram) cooked serving of some commonly eaten legumes (29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36):

  • Black beans: 32% of the RDI
  • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans): 35% of the RDI
  • Edamame (green soybeans): 60% of the RDI
  • Green peas: 12% of the RDI
  • Kidney beans: 29% of the RDI
  • Lentils: 45% of the RDI
  • Pinto beans: 37% of the RDI
  • Roasted soy nuts: 44% of the RDI

Folate — or its synthetic form folic acid — is important for reducing the risk of certain birth defects. Note that the RDI percentages above are based on an RDI of 400 mcg, but pregnant women need 600 mcg daily (37).

9. Chicken and Turkey

Chicken and turkey are most notable for their niacin and pyridoxine content. White meat — such as the breast — supplies more of these two vitamins than dark meat — such as the thigh — as shown in the table below.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked, skinless chicken or turkey provides (38, 39, 40, 41):

If you skip fatty poultry skin to cut calories, don’t worry — most of the B vitamins are in the meat, not the skin (42, 43).

10. Yogurt

Yogurt is notable for its riboflavin and B12 content. Though nutrition varies by brand, a serving of yogurt averages (44, 45, 46, 47):

Keep in mind that when flavored, most frozen and refrigerated yogurts also contain 3–4 teaspoons of added sugars per 2/3-cup serving — so enjoy them in moderation (45, 46, 47).

Stores also sell many non-dairy yogurt alternatives, such as fermented soy, almonds or coconut yogurts. However, these products — unless fortified — generally aren’t good sources of riboflavin or B12 (46).

11. Nutritional and Brewer’s Yeast

Nutritional yeast and brewer’s yeast are inactive, meaning you can’t use them to make bread. Rather, people use them to boost the flavor and nutrient profile of dishes.

These yeasts naturally contain B vitamins and are often fortified with them as well — particularly nutritional yeast. If nutrients are added, you’ll see them listed in the ingredients on the label.

Here’s how the two yeasts compare based on a 2-tablespoon (15–30-gram) serving, though these values vary by brand (48, 49):

Vegetarians and vegans commonly use nutritional yeast, as it’s fortified with B12, which is challenging to obtain if you don’t eat animal products (50).

The nutty-cheesy flavor of nutritional yeast also makes it popular as a seasoning. Brewer’s yeast, however, can taste bitter and may be better mixed into foods like smoothies, salad dressing or soup.

12. Pork

Like other common meats, pork is packed with several B vitamins. It’s especially notable for its high amount of thiamine, of which beef provides little.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) pork loin chop provides (51):

  • Thiamine (B1): 69% of the RDI
  • Riboflavin (B2): 24% of the RDI
  • Niacin (B3): 24% of the RDI
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): 9% of the RDI
  • Pyridoxine (B6): 27% of the RDI
  • Cobalamin (B12): 14% of the RDI

To keep pork a healthy choice, opt for loin cuts, which are much lower in fat and calories than shoulder cuts (commonly used for pulled pork), spareribs and bacon (52).

13. Fortified Cereal

Breakfast cereals often contain added vitamins, including B vitamins. Check for them in the ingredients list (53).

The B vitamins most commonly added to cereal are thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folate (as synthetic folic acid) and B12. Amounts found in a few popular brands — namely, Cheerios and Total by General Mills and Raisin Bran by Post — are (54, 55, 56):

Keep in mind that many fortified breakfast cereals are high in added sugars and refined grains. Select a product with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving and a whole grain — such as whole wheat or whole oats — listed as the first ingredient.

14. Trout

Trout, a freshwater fish, is closely related to salmon and high in several B vitamins.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) cooked serving of trout provides (57):

  • Thiamine (B1): 28% of the RDI
  • Riboflavin (B2): 25% of the RDI
  • Niacin (B3): 29% of the RDI
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): 22% of the RDI
  • Pyridoxine (B6): 12% of the RDI
  • Cobalamin (B12): 125% of the RDI

Additionally, trout is an excellent source of protein, rich in omega-3 fats and low in mercury (57, 58).

15. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are one of the best plant sources of pantothenic acid. This B vitamin gets its name from the Greek word “pantos,” meaning “everywhere,” because it’s found in most plant and animal foods — but usually only in small amounts (59).

Remarkably, 1 ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds packs 20% of the RDI for pantothenic acid. Sunflower seeds are also a good source of niacin, folate and B6 (60).

Sunflower seed butter, popular among people with nut allergies, is an excellent source of pantothenic acid as well.

Here’s a comparison of the B vitamin contents of sunflower seeds and sunflower seed butter (60, 61):

The Bottom Line

Consuming adequate amounts of the eight B complex vitamins puts you on the path to a healthy diet.

Some top sources of B vitamins include meat (especially liver), seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, legumes, leafy greens, seeds and fortified foods, such as breakfast cereal and nutritional yeast.

If you restrict your intake from some food groups due to allergies or diet, your chances of B vitamin deficiencies may increase.

If you wonder whether you’re getting enough B vitamins, try a free online program to track and analyze your food intake throughout the week. You can then adjust your eating habits to ensure you’re getting the vitamins you need.

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