Our B-Vitamin Guide for Older Adults (Plus 11 Food Sources)

The eight B-group of vitamins work as a team to keep you in optimal health. They include:

  • Thiamin (also known as vitamin B1)
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin B5 (also known as pantothenic acid)
  • Biotin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Folate
  • Vitamin B12

B-vitamins not only play a critical role in keeping our brains healthy, they also help convert food into fuel for energy, keeping our metabolism humming and our cardiovascular system strong.

Important B-Vitamins for Older Adults

1. Vitamin B12

Of all the B vitamins, B12, which is important for red blood cell production and maintaining healthy brain and nerve function, gets the most notoriety. Vitamin B12 can only be found in animal products, including meat, fish, eggs and dairy. As we age, our bodies lose some of their ability to absorb this vitamin. If you take Metformin for diabetes, or use drugs to control stomach acid, such as Prilosec or Pepcid, be aware that they interfere with vitamin B12 absorption. The current recommended daily allowance for B12 is 2.4 micrograms, but some nutritionists believe that the intake minimum should be increased.

2. Folate

Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that’s naturally found in a variety of foods, especially dark green leafy vegetables. The Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health recommends adults aim to intake 400 micrograms of folate every day (the equivalent of 0.4 milligrams). A folate deficiency negatively impacts the nervous system and can also result in anemia. Folate is important to maintain a healthy nervous system and there’s growing evidence that a lack of folate can affect mood and cognitive function in older adults.

3. Thiamin (also known as vitamin B1)

Thiamin is critical for forming adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy source for every cell of the body. A vitamin B1 deficiency is rare; however, alcoholism, Crohn disease and kidney dialysis can cause a deficiency. Symptoms of a vitamin B1 deficiency include headache, nausea, fatigue, irritability, depression or abdominal discomfort. You may also have trouble digesting carbohydrates, which can allow pyruvic acid build up, causing a loss of mental alertness, difficulty breathing and heart damage. The recommended daily intake for vitamin B1 is 1.1 milligrams for women and 1.2 milligrams for men.

4. Vitamin B5 (also known as pantothenic acid)

The chemical name for vitamin B5 is Pantothenic acid, from a Greek word meaning “everywhere,” indicating its availability in a wide variety of foods. This vitamin helps manufacture red blood cells and is important for hormone production and cholesterol synthesis. Symptoms of a vitamin B5 deficiency include fatigue, insomnia, depression, irritability, vomiting, stomach pains, burning feet, and upper respiratory infections.

11 Food Sources of Vitamin B

B-vitamins are water soluble, meaning that our bodies cannot store them, so it’s important to replenish our supplies frequently and get our B-vitamins from fresh meats, vegetables and whole unprocessed grains. B-vitamins are also fragile. Processing, extended cooking and storage, as well as alcohol, destroy B vitamins.

Here’s a list of foods that are a good source of B-vitamins.

1. Avocados

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Avocados are an excellent source of folate, which has been linked to a lower risk of some types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.

What's the Nutritional Value in an Avocado?

2. Nutritional Yeast

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You’ll find nutritional yeast in the grocery store marketed as a cheese substitute with a Parmesan-like flavor. Nutritional yeast is a vitamin B powerhouse and particularly rich in vitamin B12.


3. Ancient Grain Bread

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Compared with modern grain varieties, which are often heavily refined, ancient grains contain many essential vitamins (particularly vitamin B) and minerals (such as potassium and magnesium), as well as iron and fiber.

Health Benefits of Ancient Grains

4. Pistachios

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These little vibrant green nuts are a source of thiamin. A 1/4 cup of pistachios provides 0.17 to 0.24 micrograms of thiamin or vitamin B1.

Pistachios: Little Nuts Loaded With Antioxidants

5. Macadamia Nuts

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These buttery nuts are a good source of thiamin (vitamin B1). They’re also are a source of manganese, a mineral essential for building and maintaining healthy bones.

Macadamia Nuts: Loaded With Good Fats

6. Dates

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Dates are a source of vitamin B6 as well as fiber, magnesium and iron. The insoluble fiber in dates (a type of fiber commonly found in the seeds and skins of fruit) provides great roughage to clean out your digestive tract.

Dates: The Perfect Pre-Workout Snack?


7. Asparagus

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Asparagus is a source of folate with four cooked asparagus spears containing about 128 to 141 micrograms of folate.

The Health Benefits of Asparagus

8. Corn on the Cob

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Corn contains vitamin B6 as well as vitamin C, potassium and magnesium, which all play a role in preventing heart disease.

Corn on the Cob: It's Healthier Than You Think

9. Fennel

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One cup of chopped-up fennel contains approximately 23 micrograms of folate. Fennel also contains a variety of plant nutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, including quercetin (also found in apples), rutin (good for blood circulation) and anethole (the source of fennel’s distinctive black licorice-like flavor).


10. Yogurt

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Fruit, plain or Greek yogurt is a source of riboflavin. A 3/4 cup of yogurt contains 0.2 to 0.4 milligrams of riboflavin. The recommended daily intake of riboflavin for older adults is 1.1 milligrams for women and 1.3 milligrams for men.

Why Regular Consumption of Yogurt Is Good for You

11. Eggs

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Eggs are chock full of B-vitamins including folate, thiamine and vitamins B12 and B5. If you’re hesitant to make eggs part of your diet due to high cholesterol, American health authorities recently declared that cholesterol is no longer a “nutrient of concern,” acknowledging that the “available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum [blood] cholesterol.”

What's the Latest on Eggs and Cholesterol?

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