Vitamins and minerals A-Z

Vitamin B1 Thiamin

Thiamin is necessary for breaking down and using energy from food e.g. carbohydrates as well as maintaining normal function of the nervous system. Thiamin is widely available in brown rice, wholemeal bread, fortified flour, fortified breakfast cereals, pulses, nuts, potatoes and yeast extract. Alcohol impairs the absorption of thiamin. Thiamin is unstable and easily lost if sodium bicarbonate is used in baking and if sulphur dioxide is used as a preservative.

Vitamin B2 Riboflavin

Riboflavin is necessary for growth, tissue respiration and maintaining the integrity of mucous membranes, skin, eyes and the nervous system. Riboflavin is present in small amounts in most food but is mainly obtained from milk and dairy products, eggs, cereals, wholemeal bread, rice, yeast extract, green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach), mushrooms and beverages such as beer, lager and tea. The content of riboflavin in milk is reduced when exposed to light so be aware of leaving dairy milk on the doorstep.

Vitamin B3 Niacin

Niacin is needed for energy production, fatty acid metabolism, tissue respiration and many other metabolic pathways. Niacin is present in wholegrain and fortified cereals, maize, fortified flour, yeast extract, coffee beans and beverages such as beer and lager. Niacin is an exceptionally stable B vitamin.

Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine

Pyridoxine is essential for protein metabolism, in particular the conversion of tryptophan to niacin. Pyridoxine is present in wholegrains such as brown rice, oatmeal, and wholemeal bread, fortified cereal products, potatoes, bananas, soya beans, nuts, pulses, yeast extract and beverages such as beer and lager. Pyridoxine absorption may be reduced with consumption of orange juice and wheat bran.

Vitamin B12 Cobalamin

Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cell formation, growth and a healthy nervous system. Vitamin B12 is not found in plants except from microbial contamination.  The main vegetarian sources are milk, dairy products and eggs. Fortified plant foods include soya milk, breakfast cereals, veggieburger mixes, some yeast extracts and herbal soft drinks. These are useful sources in a vegan diet. Low vitamin B12 levels can cause anaemia but this can be masked if folate intake is high. 


Biotin is involved in fat metabolism and energy production. Biotin is produced by bacteria in our gut. Dietary sources include egg yolk, nuts, pulses, wholegrain cereals, dried fruit and yeast extract. Absorption of biotin can be impaired by avidin, a substance in raw egg white, if large quantities are consumed.


Folate, derived from folic acid, supports red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis and together with vitamin B12 is essential for cell division. Pregnant women require additional intakes of folate to reduce the risk of neural tude defects, such as spina bifida. Folate is present in cereal products, potatoes, pulses (e.g. chickpeas, black-eyed beans), leafy green vegetables (e.g. broccoli), nuts, yeast extract and fruits such as oranges and bananas. Folate bioavailability may be reduced by consuming milk and wheat bran.

Pantothenic Acid

Pantothenic acid has a central role in energy metabolism. Pantothenic acid is present in eggs, peanuts, yeast and green leafy vegetables such as broccoli. Large amounts of pantothenic acid can be lost during cooking.

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The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom Limited, Parkdale, Dunham Road, Altrincham WA14 4QG
Registered Charity No. 259358, Registered Company No. 959115 (England and Wales)

Fundraising Regulations