B vitamins are some of the most important elements in maintaining optimum health. These eight water-soluble vitamins play a big role in cell metabolism and help to regulate muscle development, the formation of blood and the functioning of the brain and nervous system. However, they can be overlooked in the struggle to maintain a balanced diet. Here’s how to ensure you are getting enough of two key players.

One of the most crucial B vitamins is vitamin B9, or folic acid. It’s needed for normal cell division and is especially important during times of rapid cell growth, notably pregnancy and early infancy. Luckily it occurs naturally in many foods: avocado, spinach, liver, yeast, asparagus and Brussels sprouts are all good sources of dietary folate. Nuts, beans, peas, dairy products and eggs will also help you reach the recommended adult intake of 400 micrograms per day. Pregnant women should aim for 600 micrograms per day, but always speak to your doctor about the right amount for you.

The largest and most structurally complex of the B vitamins is B12, which contributes to DNA synthesis and regulation, as well as amino and fatty acid metabolism. B12 is obtained from bacteria and occurs naturally in most animal products, including meat, fish, milk and eggs. Unfortunately, plants and fungi are not capable of producing B12, which means vegans often struggle to maintain their levels. If you are following a vegan diet it is recommended you supplement your B12 intake accordingly.

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