What Are Vitamins B9, B12 and C and Why Do We Need Them?

Have you ever wondered what you’re eating and drinking? And we don’t just mean what type of steak, we mean what nutrients it contains. There are 13 essential vitamins we must consume because our bodies are unable to make them but need them to function properly. Without them or not having enough of them you can start to experience some unpleasant symptoms. Let’s focus in on vitamins B9, B12 and C.

Vitamin B9

What is it?

B9 is also known as folate and is a water-soluble vitamin. Because the human body is unable to store it, you can become deficient very quickly. Folate is essential for making DNA and repairing it if it becomes damaged as well as helping to produce red blood cells.

If you don’t take in enough vitamin B9, it can result in deficiency and anaemia. It causes your red blood cells to become abnormally large and underdeveloped, it makes it difficult for your red blood cells to do their job properly which is to transport oxygen around the body. So, symptoms of anaemia can include tiredness and shortness of breath.

Vitamin B9 food sources

To help prevent deficiency, it is important to include plenty of folate-rich foods into your diet. Generally, these foods are packed with other nutrients, too, so eating them will boost other areas of your nutrition, too.

Good sources of vitamin B9 include:

  • green leafy veg like kale, spinach, and cabbage
  • shellfish
  • eggs
  • oranges
  • lentils
  • wholegrain foods

Vitamin B9 and pregnancy

Folate is essential for the development of the brain and spinal cord of the baby during pregnancy. Deficiency in the first few weeks of pregnancy can cause neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Therefore, women are advised to take a folic acid supplement before, during and after pregnancy. You should seek advice from a medical professional before starting new supplements.


Vitamin B12

What is it?

Vitamin B12 is essential for the development of red blood cells, DNA production and for keeping nerve cells healthy. You must acquire vitamin B12 from your diet but if you consume a high amount, your body can store it for later use.

You can become deficient if you do not eat enough vitamin B12 rich food sources. Some people are at an increased risk of deficiency, especially those who follow a plant-based diet or if you do not produce enough intrinsic factor, a protein that helps the stomach to absorb vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 sources

Vitamin B12 is found mostly in animal-based products such as meat and dairy foods. That’s why people who follow a plant-based diet are at a greater risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. If you do follow a vegan or plant diet, you may need to supplement your diet, but there are also fortified foods available.

Good sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • lamb, beef, or veal liver
  • lamb or beef kidneys
  • clams
  • tuna
  • beef
  • fortified cereal

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

If you do not ingest enough vitamin B12 then you can be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. The symptoms include:

  • feeling extremely tired
  • lack of energy
  • shortness of breath
  • headaches
  • pale skin
  • heart palpitations
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss

Vitamin C

What is it?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin found in many different fruit and vegetables. It has many functions in the human body including keeping cells protected and healthy, supporting wound healing and keeping skin, bones, and blood vessels healthy. It’s also an antioxidant and can support immune function.

Because the body can’t make it, vitamin C must come from our diet and not getting enough can lead to a condition called scurvy. Although rare, scurvy can make you feel quite ill and run down.

Good sources of vitamin C

Your body can’t store vitamin C, so it’s essential to eat it regularly in small amounts. Good sources include:

  • oranges
  • orange juice
  • strawberries
  • blackcurrants
  • red and green peppers
  • broccoli
  • chilli peppers
  • rose hips
  • acerola cherries


Vitamins B9, B12 and D are examples of essential vitamins, that means it must be acquired through the diet. Deficiencies in these vitamins can cause unpleasant symptoms and if severe, can lead to anaemia. There are plenty of rich sources of these vitamins available and many of the sources are also packed with other vital nutrients. Plus, some sources such as strawberries are also very hydrating.


NHS. (2017). Overview Vitamins and Minerals. Available at:

National Institutes of Health. (2020). Vitamin B12. Available at:

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