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There’s much more to taking your vitamins than simply swallowing a pill. From absorption to timing, these four facts about B-vitamins will help you get the most biggest bang for your buck.
1. There are eight B-vitamins and they all have different functions 
- Thiamin (vitamin B-1) – helps break down carbohydrates, supports the brain and helps with synthesizing certain hormones
- Riboflavin (vitamin B-2) – important for energy production and helps break down fats
- Niacin (vitamin B-3) – makes carbs, fats, protein useable by the body, helps cells communicate, responsible for metabolic processes at the cellular level
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5) – important for red blood cells so they can utilize the nutrients for processes that involve energy and metabolism
- Vitamin B-6 – important for metabolizing amino acids, helps break down carbs and fats, plays a role in brain function and immune health
- Biotin B-7 – breaks down carbs, fats, protein, and is important for cell communication and regulation of DNA
- Folate (vitamin B-9) – helps the body metabolize vitamins and amino acids, and is important for pregnant women because of its role in DNA replication and cell division
- Vitamin B-12 – helps form new red blood cells, important for fat and protein metabolism, supports brain function and plays a role in DNA synthesis
2. Vegan diets can make getting B-12 more difficult
Regardless of whether you follow a vegan diet out of purpose or principal, you’ll likely need to supplement with vitamin B-12 to ensure you’re getting enough of this specific B-vitamin. That’s because B-12 in particular comes from animal-based sources such as salmon, beef, liver, milk and yogurt.
Across the spectrum, B-vitamins often come from the following sources:
- Beef, fish, pork, poultry
- Organ meats
- Eggs and dairy
- Legumes (beans and lentils)
- Dark, leafy greens (spinach, collard greens)
- Fruits and vegetables (broccoli, avocados, citrus fruits)
- Whole grains and fortified foods
3. B-vitamins are great for energy + mood
While the energy you get from B-vitamins isn’t the same as drinking a cup of coffee, B-vitamins help produce cellular energy, which is important to helping your body use the food you eat more effectively. B- vitamins help break down carbs, fats, proteins so your body can use them for fuel.
When it comes to mood, Vitamin B6 in particular, is a rate-limiting factor in the production of serotonin, a hormone that can help regulate your mood. If you’re deficient in B6, you won’t be able to produce as much serotonin despite having high levels in the other nutrients required to make it. Vitamins B9 and B12 also contribute to a healthy mood, but vitamin B6 is the most important of the three.
4. The best time to take B-vitamins is right when you wake up and right before you eat anything.
B-vitamins are water soluble, which means they are best absorbed on an empty stomach. Experts also recommend taking them an hour before or after your morning cup of coffee, as caffeine can impact the concentration of the B-vitamins. The second reason you should take B-vitamins in the morning is because taking them later in the day can impact your sleep.
Whether you’re already taking B-vitamins or haven’t yet started incorporating them into your routine, you can use the above facts to make informed decisions about what B-vitamins to take, where they’re sourced, when they’re best utilized, and how to get the most from each dose.