B vitamins have an important role in changing carbohydrates, protein and fat to energy. Vitamin B6 also works together with the mineral iron to stabilise levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that, if raised, can increase the risk of heart disease. Vitamin B6 is assisted by vitamin B12 and folate. Vitamin B12 is also important for healthy blood and nerves. Together, folate and vitamin B12 contribute to the making and functioning of our genetic material (DNA), so they impact every cell in the body.
Most B vitamins have a number and a name. We have used the most common term for each, but you may see either, or both, on food packaging.
B vitamins need to be eaten daily as they are not stored in the body, but used as required. Because any B vitamins we don’t need are flushed out through our urine, it is difficult to consume too much. Deficiencies of most B vitamins are rare in New Zealand as adequate amounts are available in everyday foods, and supplements are rarely necessary. The exceptions to this are folate and vitamin B12 (as detailed below).
* Not all brands of breakfast cereals and yeast extracts are fortified with B vitamins. Check the ingredients list of the brand you choose.
**Some bread in New Zealand with the exception of organic and non-yeast leavened bread are fortified with folic acid. Check the ingredient list to determine if it is present in your bread of choice.
Last modified: March 10, 2022