Vitamin B6 – pyridoxine

Why do you need it?

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) helps your body use and store energy from protein, carbohydrates and fat. It plays an important role in many reactions involving protein and helps to form haemoglobin – the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen around your body. Vitamin B6 keeps your immune and nervous systems healthy. It’s also essential  for making melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm) and may also help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.


Deficiency can lead to anaemia, scaling on the lips and mouth corners, swollen tongue, depression and confusion, weak immune system, problems digesting food and sleeping.

How much do you need?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 1.3 milligrams of vitamin B6 a day for adults aged 19 to 50. The recommended intakes for infants, children, adolescents and older adults, as well as pregnant and lactating women are given below.

Recommended nutrient intakes for vitamin B6. Click to read more…
Age groupRecommended nutrient intake mg/day
Infants and children
0-6 months0.1
7-12 months0.3
1-3 years0.5
4-6 years0.6
7-9 years1.0
Females 10-18 years1.2
Males 10-18 years1.3
Females, 19-501.3
Males, 19-501.3
Females, >501.5
Males, >501.7
Pregnant women1.9
Lactating women2
Source: WHO, FAO. 2004. Vitamin and mineral requirements in human nutrition. 2nd ed. Geneva: WHO.

Where to find vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

The best plant sources of vitamin B6 include pulses, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, potatoes, peppers, avocados and bananas. 

  • Pulses: Peas, beans and lentils are a good source of vitamin B6. Popular varieties include yellow, green and split peas, red kidney beans, black beans, mung beans, cowpeas (black-eyed peas) and red ‘masoor’ lentils. They are frequently used in traditional Ugandan dishes such as curries, soups, stews, salads or simply boiled and served as a side dish. One cup (164 grams) of cooked chickpeas contains 0.7 milligrams of vitamin B6, supplying over half your daily needs.
  • Wholegrains: Brown rice, oats, millet and sorghum are staple foods in many parts of Uganda and can contribute to your daily intake of vitamin B6. One cup (202 grams) of cooked brown rice contains 0.2 milligrams of vitamin B6. 
  • Nuts and seeds: Although they contain less than some other foods, nuts and seeds can also contribute to your overall intake of vitamin B6 and can be eaten as snacks or added to dishes. A small handful (28 grams) of mixed nuts contains 0.1 milligrams of B6, while a small handful of sunflower seeds contains 0.2 milligrams. 
  • Vegetables: Spinach and other green leafy vegetables are a good source of vitamin B6 along with other veg such as bell peppers. One cup (180 grams) of cooked spinach contains 0.4 milligrams and one cup (92 grams) of sliced bell pepper contains 0.3 milligrams. 
  • Potatoes: Potatoes and sweet potatoes are good sources of vitamin B6 that are widely available in Uganda. One cup (156 grams) of boiled potatoes contains 0.4 milligrams of vitamin B6 and one cup (200 grams) of sweet potato contains 0.6 milligrams.
  • Fruit: Avocados and bananas are a good source of vitamin B6. One (126 gram) banana or (201 gram) avocado contains around 0.5 milligrams of B6, over a third of your daily needs.