15 Healthy Foods That Are High In B Vitamins
Getting enough B vitamins is important for your energy, healthy brain function, and a balanced mood. B vitamins also support hormonal balance and fertility through the process known as methylation. Your B vitamin levels can also have a significant influence on your heart health, since you need those Bs to help balance your homocysteine levels.
There are 8 B vitamins and as a group, they are known as the B complex vitamins. The group includes thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12). While they all have different functions, they also support each other and work well together.
Since B vitamins are not stored in the body long-term, they need to be replenished regularly. Here are some of the best food sources for B vitamins.
This type of fish is a good resource for several B vitamins. A 3.5 ounce portion of cooked salmon would contain1:
- 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
Salmon also contains lower levels of mercury than many other fish, and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, and selenium.
2. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are among the richest vegetable sources of folate2. Some of them include:
- 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)
When you heat or cook greens, you do destroy some of the folate, and it may transfer, to a limited extent, to the cooking water. To benefit fully from the included vitamins, steam the greens until they are between crisp and tender.
3. Liver/Organ Meats
Admittedly, organ meats are not the most popular food choice. That said, they do contain high levels of B vitamins3. You can enjoy organ meat from beef, lamb, pork and chicken. In a 3.5 ounce serving of beef liver you will find:
- 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
If you don't prefer the strong flavor of liver or other organ meats, you can grind them up and mix them with more traditional cuts of ground beef. You can also add them to seasoned foods to help mask the taste.
If you are looking for a convenient way to get 33% of the RDI of biotin, you can eat one large egg. Eggs are a top source of biotin, and only liver will have more of it4. Eggs also contain other B vitamins in smaller amounts. One large cooked egg contains:
- 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
If you don't eat eggs or other animal products, you can get enough of them by consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. They have lower levels of biotin then animal products, but they do have it available.
An 8 ounce cup of milk provides 26% of the RDI of riboflavin and smaller amounts of other B vitamins, including5:
- 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
Studies have shown that dairy products are the top source of riboflavin for most people, followed by grains and meats. An observational study that involved 36,000 European adults showed that dairy products were responsible for up to 52% of the riboflavin in the average person's daily diet. Milk is also one of the most common sources of B12, providing 18% of the RDI in a 1 ounce serving.
If you include beef in your diet, it can provide a significant addition to your intake of B vitamins. An observational study of 2000 Spaniards showed that meat made up the main source of thiamin, niacin and pyridoxine in their diets6. A 3.5 ounce cut of sirloin steak, which is about half of the smaller size served in restaurants, contains the following B vitamins:
- Thiamine (B1): 5% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 8% of the RDI
- Niacin (B3): 39% of the RDI
7. Oysters, Clams and Mussels
If you're looking for an excellent source of B12 and riboflavin, you can include oysters, clams, and muscles in your diet. They also contain a smaller amount of thiamine, niacin and folate7.
Shellfish also have a lot of protein and a number of minerals, including selenium, manganese, zinc and iron. They also have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids.
Legumes are noted for having plenty of folate, but they also contain other types of B vitamins in smaller amounts8. These popular, cooked legumes contain folate in these percentages:
- 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
9. Chicken and Turkey
Both turkey and chicken have a significant amount of niacin and pyridoxine, more in the white meat than the dark9. The majority of the B vitamins are found in the meat, not in the skin, so you don't have to eat the fatty parts with all of their calories.
A 3.5 ounce serving of skinless chicken breast provides 69% of the RDI for Niacin and 30% of the RDI for Pyridoxine (B6). Turkey breast is a close second with 37% RDI for niacin and 28% RDI for B5.
You will find high levels of riboflavin and B12 in yogurt10. Depending on the brand, an average serving of yogurt includes about 20-25% of the RDI for riboflavin and about 25-35% of the RDI for B12. Greek yogurt will have about twice as much of these nutrients.
Nondairy yogurts made from fermented soy, coconut and almond milks generally will not be as good a source of B vitamins, unless they have been fortified.
11. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is packed with B vitamins and is often used by vegans or vegetarians as a source of B12. It's also a popular seasoning choice for its cheesy, nutty flavor. A 2 tablespoon serving of nutritional includes:
- Thiamine (B1): 680% RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 570% RDI
- Niacin (B3): 280% RDI
- Pyridoxine (B6): 480% RDI
- Folate (B9): 60% RDI
- Cobalamin (B12): 130% RDI
Pork is a great source of several B vitamins. It has an especially high value of thiamine, which tends to be low in beef. You can expect to find the following in a 3.5 ounce pork loin chops serving12:
- 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
Loin cuts have less fat and calories than shoulder cuts.
13. Fortified Cereals
There are often vitamins added to breakfast cereals, including B vitamins. You can find this information on the ingredients list. Thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, folate, B12 and B6 are the most commonly added B vitamins13.
Many cereals that are fortified are also high in sugar and refined grains. Look for a cereal with whole grains as the first ingredient and under 5g of sugar per serving.
Trout is a freshwater fish that has high levels of B vitamins14. You can expect to find the following in a 3.5 ounce cooked serving of trout:
- 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
You will also find plenty of protein and omega-3 fats in trout, a fish that is known for its low mercury content.
15. Sunflower Seeds
One of the best sources of pantothenic acid (B5) from a plant source is the sunflower seed. This vitamin gets its name from a Greek word pantos, which means "everywhere," because it can be found in almost any food, although usually only in trace amounts.
Eating 1 ounce of sunflower seeds will give you 20% of the RDI for this important B vitamin. Sunflower seeds also contain niacin, folate and B615.
The Final Word
If you really want to eat a healthy diet, it should include a significant amount of the eight B complex vitamins. The top sources of most of the B vitamins include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, leafy greens, legumes, seeds and fortified foods.
If you are vegan or don't eat a lot of these foods, it's very likely you could be short in some of these crucial B vitamins. NATURELO's Plant-Based B Complex can help fill the gaps to make sure you hit your daily B vitamin intake.
1. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4231/2, Fish, salmon, Atlantic, wild, cooked, dry heat Nutrition Facts & Calories
2. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2626/2, Spinach, raw Nutrition Facts & Calories
3. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/beef-products/3470/2, Beef, variety meats and by-products, liver, cooked, pan-fried Nutrition Facts & Calories
4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157503001558?via%3Dihub, Determination of the biotin content of select foods using accurate and sensitive HPLC/avidin binding, December 2004
5. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/69/2, Milk, whole, 3.25% milkfat Nutrition Facts & Calories
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29966236, Dietary Intake and Food Sources of Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamin and Vitamin B₆ in a Representative Sample of the Spanish Population. The Anthropometry, Intake, and Energy Balance in Spain (ANIBES) Study †, 2018 Jun 29;10(7). pii: E846. doi: 10.3390/nu10070846
7. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4253/2, Mollusks, oyster, Pacific, cooked, moist heat Nutrition Facts & Calories
8. https://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-beans016000000000000000000.html, Beans Nutrition Information In Legumes And Legume Products
9. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/poultry-products/703/2, Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, meat only, cooked, roasted Nutrition Facts & Calories
10. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/104/2, Yogurt, plain, whole milk, 8 grams protein per 8 ounce Nutrition Facts & Calories
11. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/custom/1323565/2, Nutritional Yeast Flakes (Kal) 2 Tablespoons Nutrition Facts & Calories
12. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/pork-products/2277/2, Pork, fresh, loin, sirloin (chops), boneless, separable lean only, cooked, broiled Nutrition Facts & Calories
13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27418034, Fortified breakfast cereal consumed daily for 12 wk leads to a significant improvement in micronutrient intake and micronutrient status in adolescent girls: a randomised controlled trial, 2016 Jul 14;15(1):69. doi: 10.1186/s12937-016-0185-6
14. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4241/2, Fish, trout, mixed species, cooked, dry heat Nutrition Facts & Calories
15. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3077/2, Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dry roasted, without salt Nutrition Facts & Calories