What B vitamins do you need - and what are the best vegan sources of B vitamins?
B vitamins are often called “the energy vitamins” - but they have many other roles in the body. From supporting metabolism to producing neurotransmitters, B vitamins are crucial for everyday function.
This blog will cover the importance of B vitamins in the diet and why we all need them - including vegans, who may be low on certain Bs. We’ll also explain how deficiencies in certain B vitamins can lead to health issues, and how to prevent this by eating foods high in vitamin B.
What does vitamin B do?
First things first: what is vitamin B good for?
For a start, there’s not just one B vitamin but eight: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12. And all of them are necessary for proper function of the body and mind at every stage of life. 
B vitamins act as coenzymes in several enzymatic processes that support every aspect of cellular function, particularly within the brain and nervous system.
B vitamins play a vital role in catabolic metabolism: the generation of energy in cells by breaking down food that we eat. Although each vitamin has its own specific role in the body, the group works together to assist enzymes in releasing energy from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates and creating energy in the form of ATP molecules.
Vitamins B6 and B12 are especially required for the production of hemoglobin and the transport of red blood cells and oxygen throughout the body. 
Vitamins B9 (folate) and B12 are essential for the biochemical pathways that generate methyl groups required in DNA synthesis, amino acid homeostasis, antioxidant generation, and epigenetic regulation. 
Here’s a quick overview of the roles of each B vitamin.
B1 (thiamine): cofactor for enzymes in amino acid catabolism and synthesis of nucleotides and fatty acids. A cofactor in the citric acid cycle and in the breakdown of glucose for energy production.
B2 (riboflavin): precursor for essential nucleotides involved in cellular energy. Essential for producing niacin, folic acid, vitamin B6, and all heme proteins. Also needed for breaking carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into glucose.
B3 (nicotinamide): precursor for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) which is required for energy metabolism and antioxidant production.
B5 (pantothenic acid): precursor for coenzyme A (coA), which is required for the function of numerous enzymes.
B6 (pyridoxine): A coenzyme that supports numerous enzymes in their functions, including maintaining homocysteine levels, supporting immune function and brain health, and the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
B7 (biotin): Essential for gene regulation, cell signaling, and replication. Also catalyzes the breakdown of fatty acids, glucose, and amino acids.
B9 (folate): Crucial for synthesis of nucleotides and methyl-donors in the one-carbon metabolism pathway, and also for red blood cell production. It is involved in converting homocysteine to methionine, which is essential for production of neurotransmitters.
B12 (cobalamin): Helps to release cobalamin from animal protein. B12 is involved in red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis, and is a key player in the function and development of brain and nerve cells. Folate, B6, and B12 work together to break down homocysteine and produce S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), which is essential for neurotransmitter production.
Best Vegan Sources of B Vitamins
The eight B vitamins are not stored in the body, so they need to be replaced daily.
However, deficiency of certain B vitamins is highly prevalent in vegetarians and vegans due to a lack of animal products in the diet. Vitamin B12 is naturally available in animal foods, and vegans are especially prone to B12 deficiency. 
Plant sources of B12 for vegans are not as common as animal sources - or as rich - but some do exist, primarily seaweed. The trick is to know how to add them to your daily diet, along with other vegan-friendly B-vitamin foods.
Here’s a quick overview of the best vitamin B food for vegans:
Wholegrains (wholemeal bread and pasta, oats, brown rice)
Yeast spreads such as Marmite or Vegemite
Seeds: sunflower and sesame
Nuts: pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds
Tahini (sesame seed paste)
Pulses (peas, beans and lentils)
Fortified soya milk
Tempeh (fermented soya beans)
Peanuts and peanut butter
Tofu, green vegetables (asparagus, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, white cabbage, pak choi, rocket, broccoli, lettuce and peas),
Recipes and meal ideas for vegans
Homemade Beet Hummus Recipe
Beets, chickpeas, and tahini provide folate and B6, plus B1, B2, and B3.
• 1/2 cup small beet, chopped
• 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
• 1 clove garlic
• 3 tablespoons tahini
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1/4- 1/2 cup water
• 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Steam or boil beet until tender (about 15 minutes). Process garlic until finely chopped, then add all ingredients to the food processor. Process until smooth. Add water from cooked beets if needed.
Red lentils and root veggies are a good source of B1, B5, B6, and folate.
• 2 parsnips, 2 carrots, 1 sweet potato, and 4 small red potatoes: peeled and chopped
• 1 cup red lentils
• 1 tablespoon olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee
• 1 large onion, finely chopped
• 1x 1-inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
• 6 cloves of garlic, minced
• 3 teaspoons curry powder
• 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
• 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
• 6 cups water
• Half bunch of kale, chopped
• Juice of half a lemon or lime
• Fresh cilantro
Set aside root vegetables in a large bowl.
Add the oil and onions and pinch of salt to a large pot over medium heat, stir until onions are translucent. Add ginger, garlic, and spices. Stir briefly, then add root vegetables and the lentils, plus six cups of water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
Bring the soup to a boil then reduce to simmer partially covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water if stew becomes too thick.
When all ingredients are tender, turn off heat and add chopped kale. Stir until wilted, then add juice of half a lemon or lime and stir. Add salt to taste.
Tempeh spring rolls
Tempeh provides plant-based B12, while tamari and spinach provide folate and B6.
• 1 package tempeh (about 8 oz)
• 1 tbsp tamari
• 2 tbsp almond butter
• 2 tbsp white miso
• 2 tsp fresh ginger grated
• 4 tbsp water
• 1 packet rice paper sheets
• 2 medium carrots
• 2 medium cucumber
• 2 ripe avocado
• 1 cup baby spinach
Combine tamari, almond butter, miso, grated ginger, and water in a bowl. Chop tempeh into narrow strips and add to bowl, covering well with marinate. Cover bowl and leave in fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Cook marinated tempeh on medium-high heat until soft (approx. 15 mins).
Chop salad ingredients finely.
Prepare rice paper sheets and fill the bottom half with tempeh and salad, leaving about 1/2-1 inch of space on all sides for folding. Tuck in the sides of the rice paper and roll into a burrito shape.
Make a dip by mixing the almond butter, miso and lemon juice in a bowl.
B Vitamin Supplements
While there are plenty of food sources of B vitamins, some people may struggle to maintain adequate levels of B vitamins from diet alone.
Supplements can fill in these nutritional gaps, especially for vegans or those with malabsorption disorders.
Remember to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen.
One of the best B12 supplements for vegans is B-Methylated-II. Available exclusively from Methyl-Life®, B-Methylated II contains two of the most important B vitamins: B9 as L-methylfolate and B12 as methylcobalamin. These two nutrients are in their methylated form for maximum bioavailability, ensuring they can be immediately used in the body.
For those looking for a supplement providing all of the vitamin B complex benefits and more, Methyl-Life’s® Chewable Methylated Multivitamin is your best bet. This highly rated multi contains a vitamin B complex (including methylfolate and active B12) plus Vitamins A, D3, E and bioactive K2, patented minerals, and a host of antioxidants to provide comprehensive mind and body support.
The eight B vitamins play a wide range of roles in supporting daily function, from energy production right down to DNA replication. A vitamin B deficiency can have serious consequences for both short- and long-term health.
While most people can maintain adequate B vitamin status through diet alone - including plant-based diets - supplementation may be necessary for vegans or those with absorption difficulties. In these cases, a scientifically researched B vitamin supplement such as Methyl-Life’s® B-Methylated II can provide highly bioavailable folate and B12 (the two nutrients most commonly deficient in vegans). Methyl-Life’s® Chewable Multi is a B complex vitamin supplement that also provides a range of other powerful nutrients.
Updated On: March 31, 2023
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