What Are B-Vitamins and Folate?

Reviewed by Wendy Marcason, RDN
Green leafy vegetables - What Are B-Vitamins and Folate?

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Originally considered one vitamin, the B-vitamin group is actually diverse in their makeup and function. The most common B-vitamins — B1 or thiamin, B2 or riboflavin, niacin, B6 or pyridoxine, and B12 — are essential for supporting your body's metabolism rate, producing energy and aiding your body in fighting disease and infection.

Research shows folate (folic acid), another important component of the B-vitamins, is important for a healthy pregnancy, reducing the risk of serious birth defects of the spine and brain, also known as neural tube defects. Easing folic acid into your eating plan is easy: the delicious way is by eating folate-rich foods. Since 1998, enriched bread, cereal, pasta, flour, crackers and rice have been fortified with folic acid. You probably already eat some foods that have folate because many fruits and vegetables — including oranges (a good source) and avocado (an excellent source) — are sources of this vitamin.

Food sources of B-vitamins and folate include:

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): Pork, green peas and whole-grain and enriched-grain products including bread, rice, pasta, tortillas and fortified cereals
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Milk and dairy foods, enriched bread and other grain products, lean meats, eggs and leafy green vegetables such as spinach
  • Niacin: High-protein foods including peanut butter, beef, poultry, fish, avocado and enriched and fortified grain products
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Baked potato, banana, beef, fortified cereals, nuts, beans, pork, chicken and fish
  • Vitamin B12: Milk and dairy foods, meat, fish (especially salmon), poultry and eggs
  • Folate: Orange juice, spinach, Romaine lettuce, broccoli, peanuts, avocado, enriched grain products and fortified breakfast cereals.

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