B-6 Vitamin Benefits and Natural Sources

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a natural source of vitamin B-6.

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a natural source of vitamin B-6.

Known scientifically as pyridoxine, vitamin B-6 has a long list of roles it plays in the body. As a water-soluble vitamin, B-6 is not stored in the body and must be replenished daily. To reap the health benefits without having to take a supplement, add a few natural sources of B-6 to your diet.

Brain Benefits

A common issue that comes with aging is the brain's inability to function as quickly as it once did. Adequate vitamin B-6 intake will help your brain stay sharp. High levels of the amino acid homocysteine increase your risk for Alzheimer's disease and brain-function decline. Researchers in Germany published an article in the March 2011 issue of "Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine" stating that high levels of homocysteine indicate a B-vitamin deficiency. To keep homocysteine levels down and improve brain function, they recommend adequate intake of vitamins B-6, B-12 and folate. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that another brain benefit of vitamin B-6 is its ability to raise levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps improve mood and fight depression.

Heart Benefits

The World Health Organization reports that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death globally, and its death-rate numbers are expected to increase as time goes on. To prevent yourself from being part of the statistic, ensure that you consume your daily intake of vitamin B-6. A review of vitamin B-6 by researchers at the University of Verona, published in the July 2011 issue of "British Journal of Nutrition," states that even a mild deficiency of B-6 will increase your risk of heart disease and other inflammatory diseases.

Immune System Benefits

No one likes to come down with a cold or flu, as they impair your ability to enjoy everyday functions. If you don't get enough vitamin B-6, you increase your chances of becoming infected. The Linus Pauling Institute explains that low levels of B-6 reduce your immune system's ability to fight infection, but increasing your intake will build your resistance back up. Adding foods rich in vitamin B-6 to your diet can help your immune system stay healthy.

Natural Sources

The recommended daily intake of vitamin B-6 for an adult is 1.3 milligrams, with those over age 50 requiring a trace more, according to the National Institutes of Health. Several foods offer significant amounts of B-6, including beef, fish and poultry. For vegetarians, chickpeas are an excellent choice, with 1 cup containing 1.1 milligrams per serving, or 55 percent of the RDI. A 3-ounce serving of beef liver or tuna fish contains 0.9 milligram, or 45 percent of the RDI. Vitamin B-6 is found in fruits and vegetables, including potatoes, bananas, onions, squash, spinach and watermelon. Eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and lean meats will help you reach your recommended B-6 intake and prevent deficiency.

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About the Author

A certified nutritionist who majored in health, fitness and nutrition, Traci Vandermark has been writing articles in her specialty fields since 1998. Her articles have appeared both online and in print for publications such as Simple Abundance, "Catskill Country Magazine," "Birds and Blooms," "Cappers" and "Country Discoveries."

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