The 11 members of what’s known as the vitamin B complex are critical nutrients for all things mind-related: mood, memory, even migraines can benefit from the B’s. In the right amounts, the B’s can quell anxiety, lift depression, ease PMS, and boost your energy. And getting them couldn’t be easier.
The B vitamins are a chemically related family of nutrients that work as a team. Their mood-boosting and other health benefits (see chart below) result from intricate behind-the-scenes work in the body.
Some B vitamins help cells burn fats and glucose for energy. Others help make neurotransmitters like serotonin. And some B’s assist with the production and repair of DNA.
Many of us don’t get enough B’s; according to the USDA, deficiencies in folic acid, B12, and B6 are especially common. Ensuring that your diet contains plenty of B-rich foods — dark-green vegetables, protein from animal sources, and whole grains — is critical.
But if your stress level is high or your mood feels off-kilter, or if your diet is low in B’s, you’ll benefit from the higher amounts found in supplements.
Riboflavin (B2) - Higher doses shown to reduce migraine headaches 10-400 mg Niacinamide (B3) - Helps increase energy; needed for DNA repair; niacin form can cause flushing 50-100 mg
Pyridoxine (B6) - Needed for neurotransmitters, such as serotonin; may relieve PMS 10-50 mg Pantothenic Acid - Speeds wound healing; high doses of panethine form can reduce cholesterol levels 10-100 mg
Folic Acid (B9) - Lowers risk of heart disease, stroke, and birth defects; colon-cancer prevention 400-800 mcg Cyanocobalamin (B12) - May improve memory and reverse mental fogginess 20-1,000 mcg
Biotin - High dosages, combined with chromium, improve blood-sugar control 30-100 mcg Choline - Needed for normal brain and memory function 50-200 mg
Inositol - Helpful for depression and anxiety attacks 50-200 mg Para-Amino Benzoic Acid (PABA) - One of the few nutrients beneficial in scleroderma, a connective-tissue disease 30-100 mg
Find the best B complex - To get the most benefits from any of the B's, you need all of them, so start with a B-complex supplement that contains all 11. With the right B complex as a foundation, you can add larger amounts of individual B's depending on your health concerns. The B's are best taken with food -- they can cause nausea when taken on an empty stomach -- and early in the day. (Vitamin B6 increases neurotransmitter activity; when taken late in the day, it can lead to increased dreaming, resulting in a restless night's sleep.)