Find out if it will help give you an energy boost. Plus learn more about good sources of all the B vitamins.

Julia Westbrook

Even if you don't sip energy drinks, you've seen their "Vitamin B12" and "B ­Vitamins!"–emblazoned labels. But do these nutrients really perk you up?

There's a kernel of truth here. There are eight essential B vitamins-B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folate) and B12. (FYI, the numbers are loosely in order of when each one was discovered.) They play important roles in the complex chemical reactions that happen at the cellular level to convert food into the energy that powers your body. That said, B vitamins themselves do not provide energy-you only get that from carbs, fat and protein in the food you eat. And they aren't stimulants, like caffeine, either. So, while they're related to energy, they don't give you more of it.

Fortunately, most of us get enough of these vitamins to keep our bodies' natural energy running right. Healthy sources of different Bs include dairy, eggs, chicken, fish, nuts, leafy greens and whole grains. And many grain products are fortified with B vitamins. But again, as long as your levels are adequate, eating extra B-rich foods won't give you a boost.

Food Sources of B Vitamins

Thiamin

  • Pork
  • Trout
  • Black Beans
  • Mussels
  • Acorn Squash

Riboflavin

  • Milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Beef
  • Portabella mushrooms
  • Almonds
  • Quinoa

Nicacin

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Peanuts

Pantothenic Acid

  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Chicken
  • Tuna
  • Avocado

Vitamin B6

  • Chickpeas
  • Fish
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Potatoes
  • Bananas

Biotin

  • Beef liver
  • Egg
  • Salmon

Folate

  • Spinach
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Rice
  • Asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts

Vitamin B12

  • Clams
  • Fish (trout, salmon, tuna, haddock)
  • Beef
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese
  • Egg

B Vitamin Deficiencies

Deficiencies are commonly due to alcoholism, impaired nutrient absorption or inadequate intake. For instance, vegetarians and vegans may be at greater risk for low B12, since you can't get it from plants. And pregnant or breastfeeding women need higher amounts of B vitamins. Falling short on folate or B12 is linked to bigger health conditions, like anemia or depression, that often have low energy as a symptom. If you really feel like you're dragging or are in a constant funk, ask your doctor about a blood test to see if you're getting enough. Deficiency can be remedied with dietary changes and supplements.

Bottom Line

B vitamins keep your motor running, but loading up won't give you an extra jolt. Get them from a variety of foods to ensure you hit all eight.

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