How much do you need daily?
Men need around 1.4 milligrams a day and women, around 1.2 milligrams of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) per day.
The government recommends the following intakes
Amount of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) recommended (milligrams per day)
No increase required
No increase required
Are we getting enough?
The 2014 UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that the average daily intakes of vitamin B6 from food sources were well above the recommended levels for most people. Less than 0.5 per cent of people had intakes of vitamin B6 from food below the target level.
Why do we need it??
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) has several important functions, including helping the body use and store energy from protein, carbohydrates and fat. It plays a crucial role in many reactions involving protein and helps to form haemoglobin (the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body). Vitamin B6 keeps immune and nervous systems functional and healthy and is involved in the regulation of homocysteine, high levels of which are a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin B6 is essential in the biosynthesis of melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm).
Do I need a supplement?
No, a healthy vegan diet containing the foods below on a daily basis will cover your needs.
Vitamin B6 is abundant in a healthy diet but if you take supplements, make sure they don’t contain too much B6. High intakes – more than 200 milligrams a day – of vitamin B6 for a long time can lead to a loss of feeling in the arms and legs (peripheral neuropathy), skin lesions and digestive problems.
The Department of Health say people shouldn’t take more than 10 milligrams of vitamin B6 a day in supplements unless advised by a doctor.
The best plant sources
The best plant sources of vitamin B6 include nutritional yeast, muesli, fortified vegan breakfast cereals, avocados, pistachio nuts, wheat germ, acorn squash, banana, quinoa, sunflower seeds, corn on the cob, wholemeal spaghetti, Brussel’s sprouts, spring greens, chestnuts, hazelnuts, oranges, tahini (sesame seed paste), sesame seeds, tomatoes and walnuts.
Nutritional yeast is a food additive that can be used as a condiment or ingredient. It is made from yeast grown on molasses and then harvested, washed and heated to kill or ‘deactivate’ it. It doesn’t froth or grow like baking yeast as it is inactive. It is sold in tubs of flakes that can be sprinkled on dishes or added to sauces. Very popular with vegans, it even has its own nickname – nooch! A five gram teaspoonful of nutritional yeast provides 121-142 per cent of your daily requirement of vitamin B6. Buy one that’s fortified with vitamin B12 to cover all bases!
Signs of deficiency
Deficiency is very rare but can include anaemia, scaling on the lips and mouth corners, swollen tongue, depression and confusion, weak immune system, problems digesting food and sleeping.
Foods to include
Milligrams of vitamin B6 per serving
% of recommended daily amount for women (1.2 milligrams)
% of recommended daily amount for men (1.4 milligrams)
|*Nutritional yeast (5g serving)|
|Muesli, Swiss style (large portion, 80g)|
|Avocado (1 medium, 145g)|
|Fortified vegan breakfast cereals (Shreddies, medium portion, 50g)|
|**Pistachio nuts (1 handful, 28g)|
|Wheat germ (2 tablespoons, 14g)|
|Acorn squash (baked, 1 cup, 205g)|
|Banana (medium without skin, 100g)|
|**Quinoa, cooked (medium portion, 180g)|
|**Sunflower seeds (1 tablespoon, 16g)|
|Corn on the cob (kernels only, 125g)|
|Wholemeal spaghetti (average portion, 220g)|
|Brussel’s sprouts, boiled (90g)|
|Spring greens, boiled (medium portion, 95g)|
|Chestnuts (5 whole nuts, 50g)|
|Hazelnuts/filberts (1 handful, 28g)|
|Oranges (1 medium, 160g)|
|Tahini – sesame seed paste (1 heaped teaspoon, 19g)|
|Sesame seeds (1 heaped teaspoon, 19g)|
|Tomatoes, grilled (1 medium, 85g)|
|Walnuts (6 halves, 20g)|
Source: Source: Public Health England: McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods Integrated Dataset, *Engevita, Marigold Health Foods Ltd, **USDA Food Composition Databases.
The government says that you should be able to get all the vitamin B6 you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you take vitamin B6 supplements, don’t take too much as this could be harmful. Taking more than 200 milligrams a day for a long time can lead to a loss of feeling in the arms and legs known as peripheral neuropathy. This may improve once you stop taking the supplements, but in some cases, where people have taken large amounts of vitamin B6 for more than a few months, the effect can be permanent.