B-6 Vitamin Benefits and Natural Sources

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