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Vitamin B-6, or pyridoxine, is one of eight B vitamins. The nutrients from this essential vitamin family are necessary for vital functions throughout your body. These functions include reducing stress as well as maintaining overall good health.
Vitamin B-6 is often lacking in the average American diet. It’s available in supplement form, but you can also up your intake with these 15 foods. It’s always best to take in your vitamins through foods.
A vitamin B-6 deficiency can cause serious health problems. Having too little can negatively affect your central nervous system. This is especially true for children. Making sure both kids and adults drink milk every day can help keep levels high.
One cup of cow or goat’s milk provides 5 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin B-6. Skim and 1 percent milk are low-fat, nutritious choices. Milk also provides high amounts of vitamin B-12 and calcium. If downing a glass of milk isn’t your cup of tea, try pouring it over a fortified low-sugar breakfast cereal instead.
Vitamin B-6 is a water-soluble vitamin, found in the whey protein content of cheese. The more whey the cheese has, the more B-6 it is likely to contain. Other water-soluble nutrients found in whey include thiamin (vitamin B-1), riboflavin (vitamin B-2), folate, and niacin (vitamin B-3). The cheese highest in whey is ricotta.
Adored for its smooth texture and mellow taste, ricotta is commonly found in many Italian specialties, including lasagna and cheesecake. It’s also used in quiche and in pancakes, such as this delicious lemon and blueberry version.
This heart-healthy fish has one of the highest concentrations of vitamin B-6 available in food. B-6 is important for adrenal health. Your adrenal glands produce important hormones, including cortisol, adrenalin, and aldosterone. Hormones produced in the adrenals help regulate blood pressure and work to control blood sugar. Salmon is rich in many other nutrients and is a great low-fat source of protein.
Salmon can be found on many restaurant menus. If you cook salmon at home, look for wild varieties. These have higher concentrations of B-6 than farmed salmon. Try experimenting with different spices and preparation techniques. Salmon can be broiled, grilled, sautéed, baked, and stir-fried. It’s delicious teriyaki-style, baked with low-sugar teriyaki sauce, sesame seeds, crushed garlic, and lime.
Vitamin B-6 helps produce hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen through your blood. Very high concentrations of B-6 can be found in tuna, especially in the yellowfin and albacore varieties. The highest B-6 concentrations are found in tuna steak, although canned tuna can also contain significant levels. Like salmon, it’s high in those health omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish. If you’ve got 30 minutes to spare, try this garlic herbed grilled tuna steak recipe from Taste of Home.
No matter how you cook them, two eggs provide 10 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin B-6, as well as protein and other nutrients. Eggs are a versatile food, packed with nutrition. They make the perfect breakfast, but they also serve as an easy-to-prepare lunch, brunch, or dinner. Try this recipe for frittata the next time you can’t think of what to cook, or whip up a veggie-filled omelet for added fiber.
This highly nutritious food is not as popular as it once was, but it’s a great source of protein, folate, and vitamin A, as well as B-6 and B-12. B-6 helps your body to break down and use protein efficiently. Chicken livers are delicious, easy to make, and inexpensive. Try a chicken liver sauté with green peppers and onions. The only seasonings needed are a pinch of salt and pepper. Try to resist overcooking the livers, as this can make them rubbery.
Meat, including hamburger and steak, often gets a bad nutrition rap. Beef can be high in fat, but it also provides significant amounts of protein and other nutrients, including vitamin B-6. If you opt for beef that is grass-fed and lean, you can benefit from the nutrition while eliminating much of the fat. Meat is a highly versatile, year-round food. In cold weather, it can be made into cozy beef barley soup or stew. In warmer weather, it’s perfect for barbecues.
One medium carrot stick supplies as much vitamin B-6 as a glass of milk, plus fiber and very high amounts of vitamin A. You can eat carrots raw, cooked, or liquefied in a smoothie or juice. Vitamin B-6 helps to form the protein sheath around your nerve cells, called myelin. Chop up carrots to make carrot raisin salad or toss them into a vegetable stir-fry — both great ways to add this all-important nutrient to your diet.
Vitamin B-6 helps to make antibodies, which help stave off infections and disease. Spinach is high in B-6, as well as in vitamins A and C, plus iron. For a real treat, try folding this versatile green into rolled Italian meatloaf. It’s also terrific in an omelet or as a fresh salad with cranberries and almond slivers.
Despite their sweet taste, sweet potatoes are not a guilty pleasure. One medium-sized spud supplies 15 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin B-6. Sweet potatoes also have lots of fiber, vitamin A, and magnesium.
Vitamin B-6 helps your body to regulate glycogen, the stored energy housed in your liver and muscles. Try folding a baked sweet potato into your diet once or twice a week. Or, bake a few at a time, and use the leftovers as the top layer for shepherd’s pie or as home fries.
Green peas are full of fiber and vitamins A and C. They also supply a hefty amount of vitamin B-6. If you keep a bag of frozen peas and carrots on hand, you’ll always have a delicious vegetable side dish that even kids will eat. Green peas are also delicious with Bombay potatoes.
Easily transportable and delicious to eat, a medium-sized banana is packed with vitamin B-6. Vitamin B-6 helps with the production of serotonin and norepinephrine, the chemicals which help with nerve function and the transmission of signals within your brain. If you have a sweet tooth, try peeling, slicing and then freezing ripe banana for a frozen treat.
Legumes such as chickpeas supply significant amounts of vitamin B-6 per serving. They are also high in fiber and protein. Chickpeas can be purchased canned or dried. Both are easy to use. Try draining canned chickpeas and adding them to salad for an added punch of nutrition. They’re also delicious in this braised coconut spinach and chickpeas with lemon recipe.
Some processed foods, such as breakfast cereals, are fortified with many nutrients that the average American diet lacks. Breakfast cereals such as All-Bran and Malt-O-Meal have high percentages of vitamin B.
Whether you think of it as a berry (it is) or a vegetable (it’s not), avocados are delicious and packed with nutrition. This silky food is high in vitamins B-6 and C, plus fiber and healthy fats. Make sure you let yours get ripe before you slice into it. Avocadoes are perfect sliced into salads, but nothing beats a classic guacamole.
Written by: Corey Whelan
Medically reviewed on: May 26, 2017: Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
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