Your body requires vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) for many functions, including protein metabolism, supporting your nervous system, producing red blood cells and maintaining robust immunity.
This article will help you find foods and recipes that contain the most vitamin B6 using the tools and charts used by Optimisers in our Micros Masterclass.
- Vitamin B6 Food Chart
- Vitamin B6 Rich Foods (Per Serving)
- Vitamin B6 Rich Foods (Per Calorie)
- Vitamin B6-Rich Recipes
- Why is Vitamin B6 Important?
- What Does Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) Do in Your Body?
- Symptoms of Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) Deficiency
- Who is at Risk of B6 Deficiency?
- Satiety Response
- Vitamin B6 Toxicity
- Optimal Vitamin B6 Intake
- Availability in The Food System
- Bioavailability of Vitamin B6
- Processing Losses
- Synergistic Nutrients
- How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Vitamin B6?
- Nutrient Density Starter Pack
- Nutrient Series
Vitamin B6 Food Chart
The chart below shows a range of popular foods in terms of vitamin B6 (per calorie) vs vitamin B6 (per serve). Foods towards the right will provide more vitamin B6 per calorie, while the foods towards the top will provide more vitamin B6 in the serving sizes we typically eat them.
For more detail, you can dive into the interactive Tableau version of this chart (on your computer), check out the food lists of popular foods below or download longer lists in our Optimising Nutrition Community here.
Vitamin B6 Rich Foods (Per Serving)
The popular foods listed below will give you more vitamin B6 in the typical serving sizes we consume them in.
- chicken breast
- beef steak
- pork chops
- ground beef
- pistachio nuts
- sweet potato
- brussels sprouts
Vitamin B6 Rich Foods (Per Calorie)
Foods highest in vitamin B6 per calorie tend to be green veggies like the ones listed below.
- bok choy
- green bell peppers
- red bell peppers
- chicken breast
- mustard greens
- coriander leaf
- yellow bell pepper
- beef liver
- Brussels sprouts
- beef steak
Vitamin B6-Rich Recipes
The chart below shows our 1400+ NutriBooster recipes that we use in the Micros Masterclass plotted in terms of vitamin B6 vs protein %. Recipes towards the right will help you boost your vitamin B6 with fewer calories.
To dive into the detail, you can open the interactive Tableau version of this chart (on your computer). Then, click on each recipe to learn more about it and view a picture of the recipe.
A selection of NutriBooster recipes that contain the most vitamin B6 is shown below.
Why is Vitamin B6 Important?
- Helps with the metabolism of amino acids: Vitamin B6 is involved in the metabolism of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. It helps to break down amino acids and convert them into other substances that the body can use.
- Supports the nervous system: Vitamin B6 is involved in the production of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other. It is also important for the production of myelin, which is the protective covering around nerve cells.
- Helps with the production of red blood cells: Vitamin B6 is involved in the production of hemoglobin, which is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.
- Supports the immune system: Vitamin B6 is involved in the production of white blood cells, which are important for fighting off infections and diseases.
- May reduce the risk of certain health conditions: Studies have suggested that vitamin B6 may help to reduce the risk of heart disease, cognitive decline, and some types of cancer.
What Does Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) Do in Your Body?
- Vitamin B6 is critical to utilising the protein, fat and carbohydrate you consume from food. However, it is most involved with protein metabolism.
- Pyridoxine is a coenzyme, making it a cofactor in over 100 enzymes involved in human metabolism.
- We need vitamin B6 to create red blood cells, antibodies, and haemoglobin.
- Pyridoxine keeps your mood in check, as it’s responsible for the creation of neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, gamma-butyric acid (GABA), and dopamine.
- The body uses vitamin B6 to synthesise and break down sex steroid hormones like estrogen to regulate the reproductive system. For this reason, it can be helpful to manage symptoms of PMS like water retention.
- Adequate pyridoxine is also critical to growth, cognitive development, immune function, and evading fatigue.
- B6 is essential for the health and integrity of the nervous system because it maintains your nerves and decreases harmful substances that can contribute to conditions like Alzheimer’s.
- Pyridoxine helps manage cardiovascular disease as it is known to improve homocysteine levels.
- B6 helps to ensure you sleep well by regulating your body’s level of the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor to melatonin.
- Pyridoxine helps manage, prevent, and counter inflammatory conditions like autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
- Adequate vitamin B6 is crucial for metabolising substances like oxalate and preventing kidney stones.
- Randomised controlled trials have found that Vitamin B6 helps with morning sickness and nausea in pregnancy and manages carpel tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) Deficiency
A deficiency of pyridoxine alone is rare in the Western world. However, when a deficiency of B6 appears, it is often accompanied by shortfalls in other vitamins like folate and B12.
Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include:
- hair loss,
- normocytic anemia,
- loss of appetite,
- mouth ulcers,
- cognitive changes,
- a swollen tongue (glossitis),
- pins and needles,
- electric shock sensations,
- sleepiness and fatigue,
- poor wound healing,
- joint pain,
- flaky skin,
- hearing problems, and
- growth retardation.
Who is at Risk of B6 Deficiency?
- B6 deficiency is rare in the Western world, where nutrient-dense or fortified foods are readily available. However, those who live in parts of the world where nutrient-poor foods are staples are at risk for deficiency.
- Individuals who suffer from alcoholism, obesity, and protein malnutrition are at a higher risk for B6 deficiency. In addition, because B6 is absorbed in the small intestine, someone with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), poor digestion, Celiac disease, or bariatric surgery may have difficulty absorbing their B6.
- People who are also at risk of becoming deficient in vitamin B6 are those with increased metabolic demands, like those with renal disorders, autoimmunity, or someone taking certain medications like steroids.
Our satiety analysis indicates that we have a moderate response to foods containing more Vitamin B6. For example, the chart below shows that Optimisers who consume around 5 mg/2000 calories of vitamin B6 from food tend to eat around 20% less than those who consume fewer amounts of B6.
However, as we can see in the chart below, simply adding more vitamin B6 from a supplement or fortified, processed foods to an otherwise nutrient-poor diet does not necessarily provide greater satiety.
Clinical deficiencies are seen with intakes of less than 0.5 mg/day of vitamin B6, but 1.1 mg/day is required to maintain long-term tissue stores of B6. Similar to protein, it is recommended that older people consume more vitamin B6.
The median vitamin B6 intake of Optimisers is 2.9 mg/2000 calories, which is significantly more than the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) of 1.0 mg/day or the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) of 1.3 mg/day.
Vitamin B6 Toxicity
Vitamin B6 is water-soluble. However, long-term supplementation of very high doses of vitamin B6 (greater than 1,000 mg per day) for extended periods results in painful neurological symptoms known as sensory neuropathy. For this reason, an Upper Intake Level has been set at 100 mg/day.
Because specific vitamins and minerals work antagonistically to one another, consuming large amounts of isolated supplements like B1 (thiamine) can contribute to a deficiency in vitamin B6 over time. Hence, you should focus on whole foods for your vitamins and minerals because they include a complete profile of synergistic nutrients.
Optimal Vitamin B6 Intake
Based on the robust satiety response data, we have set a stretch target of 5.0 mg/2000 calories for vitamin B6.
Once you start to get the hang of nutrient density, you could ‘level up’ by working to achieve these stretch targets to optimise your nutrition. For more details, see:
Availability in The Food System
The data in the chart below illustrates the increase in vitamin B6 fortification during the 1970s (data from USDA Economic Research Service). However, there has been an overall decrease in B6 in the food system since the USDA Dietary Guidelines in 1977. It’s important to note that the rise of obesity closely follows the rise in dietary B6 from fortified foods.
Consuming enough B6 to meet the EAR is not hard if someone consumes either fortified foods or whole foods. However, you will need to go out of your way to achieve the DRI and the stretch target.
Bioavailability of Vitamin B6
Studies have shown that the bioavailability of B6 in animal foods is much higher than in plant foods. About 75% of the vitamin B6 is bioavailable on a mixed diet.
- Similar to the other B vitamins, vitamin B6 becomes unstable when exposed to light, and 75% is lost from grains during the milling process.
- When we cook B6-rich foods, we can expect to lose 30 to 45% from heat, 70% when we freeze fruits and vegetables, and 50 to 70% when processing meat.
Vitamin B6 works synergistically with vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, E, biotin, chromium, copper, folate, leucine, magnesium, potassium, phosphate, selenium, sodium and zinc. For this reason, it is best to consume vitamin B6 from food sources that contain a complete nutrient profile to avoid imbalance.
How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Vitamin B6?
If you’re interested in determining if you’re getting the right amount of vitamin B6 in your diet, you can check your nutrient profile using our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge.
After a week of tracking your current diet in Cronometer, Nutrient Optimiser will give you a prioritised list of foods and NutriBooster recipes that will help you plug your current nutritional gaps, including selenium.
Nutrient Density Starter Pack
We’re eager to make the process of Nutritional Optimisation as simple as possible. So, to help you increase your intake of all the essential nutrients, including vitamin B6, when you join our free Optimising Nutrition Community, you’ll get a starter pack that includes:
- Food Lists – optimised for each essential nutrient, goals, preferences and conditions.
- The Healthiest Meal Plan in the World – see what a week of nutrient-dense eating looks like.
- Recipes – check out samples of each of our NutriBosoter recipe books.
- 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge – identify your priority nutrients and the foods and meals that contain them.
- Biotin (B7)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Vitamin B6
- Folate (B9)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K1
- Vitamin K2