Since I’ve sadly outgrown the Flintstones Chewables stage of life, ensuring that I’m getting all of my essential vitamins can sometimes feel like a guessing game.
What Are B Vitamins?
There are many different B vitamins, each with their own number and name. As a group, they generally support metabolism and energy production.
Each of the eight major B vitamins described here have their own unique roles as well.
Note that there are several other substances in the B family (for example B4, B10, B20) but these are not considered to be vitamins and therefore will not be included in this article.
This portion of the article is broken down into parts, to showcase each of the B vitamins in all of its glory. You’ll learn how each one helps to support our health, and where to find it in the garden.
Each vitamin described below also has the DV or Daily Value listed, which is the FDA-defined amount considered sufficient to meet the needs of the general, healthy adult population.
If you have specific health concerns, please talk to your doctor about recommended amounts to meet your needs.
B1 – Thiamin
Thiamin is useful in conversion of the food we eat into energy, and helping with nervous system functions.
Beans and peas.
DV: 1.2 milligrams (mg) daily. One-half cup of black beans contains about 0.4 mg of thiamin.
B2 – Riboflavin
Riboflavin helps our bodies to convert food into energy, aids the formation of red blood cells, and assists in overall growth and development.
Mushrooms and spinach.
DV: 1.3 mg daily. One-half cup of grilled portobello mushrooms contains 0.3 mg of riboflavin.
B3 – Niacin
Niacin assists with the production of cholesterol, aids digestion, assists in converting foods into energy, and supports functionality of the nervous system.
tomatoes and a few other “veggies” mentioned in this article are technically fruits, but for the sake of simplicity I’m focusing on what we typically consider to be vegetables in our diet.
DV: 16 mg daily. One cup of marinara sauce contains 10.3 mg and 1/2 cup of lentils contains 1 mg of niacin.
B5 – Pantothenic Acid
B5 plays a role in various processes, including converting the foods we eat into energy (noticing a trend here?), metabolizing fats, producing hormones, and forming red blood cells.
avocados, and sweet potatoes.
DV: 5 mg daily. Half of an avocado contains 1 mg, and 1/2 cup cooked broccoli contains 0.5 mg.
B6 – Pyridoxine
Pyridoxine assists with immune function, nervous system function, metabolism, and red blood cell formation.
B7 – Biotin
Biotin plays vital roles in energy storage and metabolism.
cauliflower, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and also in many fruits.
DV: 30 micrograms (mcg) daily. For reference, a microgram is 1/1000th of a milligram. One-half cup of cooked sweet potato has 2.4 mcg of biotin.
B9 – Folate
Folate aids protein metabolism and red blood cell formation. It is essential in the diets of pregnant women, to prevent birth defects.
B12 – Cobalamin
Cobalamin plays a part in conversion of food to energy, nervous system function, and red blood cell formation. When B12 reaches the small intestine, it combines with a special protein called intrinsic factor that allows it to be properly absorbed.
Growing Your Own B-Vitamin Bounty
The B-vitamin family offers plenty of nutritional benefits. Are you interested in upping the vitamin B content of your garden? It can be quite simple to do!
First, this ‘Baby’s Leaf Hybrid’ spinach matures in about 30 days, and provides a good source of riboflavin and B6.
Packets of 300 seeds are available from Burpee.
You can read more about growing spinach here.
‘Princess Laratte’ potatoes are a good source of B6, and they also grow well in cooler climates.
You can find 10 mini tubers available at Burpee.
Read more about this cultivar and other favorite potato varieties to grow in the home garden.
Broccoli is another B-vitamin powerhouse, containing both biotin and B5. ‘De Cicco’ broccoli seeds can be started indoors or sown directly in your garden.
Find seeds available in a variety of packet sizes from Eden Brothers.
Broccoli also freezes well, which can help to extend the nutritional impact of your harvest. Read more about growing broccoli in the garden here.
Sweet potatoes can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, and are quite simple to grow.
To get started, find 12 bare roots available at Burpee.
Avocados provide folate, biotin, and B5, making them a B-vitamin powerhouse. While many cultivars prefer a warmer climate, there are several that can thrive in cooler climates as well.
Interested in planting a unique perennial crop? Check out this guide to growing your own asparagus. It can help you to increase your folate intake!
Whichever of these veggies you choose to grow, you can feel confident that you’re making an impactful start on meeting your B vitamin needs.
Boosting Vitamin B
Garden-fresh vegetables not only provide incredible flavor, they offer essential nutritional benefits as well. There are many options for getting a variety of sources of B vitamins growing in your garden that you can add to your diet.
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Tori Vallana is a registered dietitian with a passion for making food and nutrition simple. She holds an associate’s degree in baking and pastry arts as well as a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. Tori loves perusing her local farmers market to find high-quality produce and encourages her patients to do the same!