Also known as cobalamin, Vitamin B12 is one of the most essential nutrients needed for the proper functioning of the nervous system, synthesis of all blood cells, DNA synthesis, and a wide range of other body functions.
Nowadays, vitamin B12 insufficiency or deficiency is high not only in vegans and vegetarians, but in meat eaters as well.
Though the highest rates of vitamin B12 deficiency is still found most in vegans. Continue reading for more information about health benefits of Vitamin B12, the dangers of its deficiency, and how to get this vitamin naturally from the food you eat.
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What are the most powerful benefits of vitamin B12?
Studies after studies have been conducted to find out the biggest benefits of vitamin B12, including all sources of it, such as supplementation, vegan sources, and general ones.
Maintaining vitamin B12 levels in the body will help you:
- Keep your energy levels high, reducing the symptoms of stress, fatigue, and mental disorders.
- Prevent anemia and red blood cell production, which lead to chronic fatigue and body weakness.
- Relieve the symptoms of depression, especially in postmenopausal women.
- Improve brain health, boost memory, and lower the chances of developing Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Treat and ward off most types of cancers.
- Maintain good heart health.
- Prevent the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Ensure healthy protein metabolism.
- Prevent digestive system disorders.
- Boost your hair, nail, and skin health.
- Decrease the bad cholesterol levels.
- Reduce high blood pressure and ward off strokes.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin B 12 depends your age:
- Toddlers: 0.9 micrograms (mcg) per day
- Children: 1.2 mcg per day
- Teens: 1.8 mcg per day
- Adults: 2.4 mcg per day
What are the biggest dangers of vitamin B12 deficiency?
If you’re at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency or you already lack this essential vitamin, you’re more likely to experience the following health issues:
- High temperature.
- Mood swings, severe panic attacks, anxiety disorders, and dementia.
- Disturbed or blurred vision.
- Dizziness and breathlessness.
- Mouth ulcers and glossitis (an inflamed tongue).
- Walking and balance disturbances.
- Nerve damage.
- Chronic fatigue.
- Jaundice or pale skin.
Healthy foods rich in vitamin B12
Even though it’s a bit challenging to get enough B12 from the foods we eat daily, there’s a group of foods that will reduce your risk of this nutrient deficiency:
Canned or grilled, tuna is jam-packed of the quality protein, brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12 – 100 grams of this fatty fish provides your body with 181% of your recommended daily intake.
Aim to consume around 300 grams of both canned and grilled tuna during the week to meet your vitamin B12 needs.
A salmon relative trout contains up to 4 micrograms of vitamin B12 in each 3 ounces.
Aim to eat 100-200 grams of trout weekly to supply your body with 125%-250% of RDI of vitamin B12. Or, simply include this amount into your monthly meal plan.
Unfortunately, eating eggs alone won’t meet your body’s needs of vitamin B12 as many vegetarians believe. But still, they’re an excellent and cheap non-meat source of this nutrient.
Eggs are also loaded with choline, which plays an important role in your liver function. Numerous studies have linked low choline levels to liver dysfunction and a bigger chance of cancer development.
So, eating eggs regularly won’t only help you reduce your risk of vitamin B12 deficiency but will help your liver function properly as well.
Salmon is a rich source of vitamin B12, containing 53% of RDI in 100 grams. It’s also plentiful in vitamin D, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, protein, vitamin B6, and phosphorus, among the others.
It’s recommended to consume salmon in moderation twice a week.
Nutritional yeast comes from beet molasses and sugarcane and contains 3 times your recommended daily value of vitamin B12 per ¼ cup.
Additionally, nutritional yeast is believed to be a complete protein because it has 9 out of the 18 amino acids that our bodies can’t produce. An average daily serving is 1-2 tablespoons.
Add it to pasta sauce for a cheesy texture or sprinkle it over popcorn for a nutty taste and a quick nutrient boost.
A cup of milk will deliver 18% of your required needs for vitamin B12 in a single cup.
Moreover, a cup of milk contains 30% of RDI of calcium and 8 grams of protein, along with the other nutrients.
Try to find organic milk though. Or opt for nut milk fortified with vitamin B12.
Not all cereals are unhealthy. Some are made with whole-grain bran or oats and fortified with vitamin B12, providing around 30% of RDI in a single serving.
Add a cup of milk or 2 tablespoons of unsweetened Greek yogurt to boost your vitamin B12 intake. You can also eat them with a handful of nuts or fresh berries for a light yet nutritious nosh.
Sardines are teeny fish known for being high in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and lean protein, which are crucial for cognition and fetal brain development. Most importantly, sardines are also a good source of vitamin B12.
A can of sardines contains 136% of your daily value and a cup of drained sardines delivers enormous 221% of your daily value of this vitamin. Sardines are also overflowing with magnesium, vitamin B6, iron, calcium, vitamin A, protein, and potassium – just to say a few.
Swiss cheese is the richest source of vitamin B12 than any other kind of cheese, delivering around 14% of the recommended daily intake per ounce. It’s also rich in protein, fiber, and calcium. Stick to a few slices per day since Swiss cheese is highly caloric.
Combine a slice of Swiss cheese with a piece of fruit, such as mango or grapes for a filling and nutritious snack to fight those pesky cravings while increasing your vitamin B12 intake.
Besides providing nearly 80% of the recommended daily vitamin B12 intake, shrimp is chock full of lean protein and choline, the nutrient that’s linked to heart and brain health.
Make a fresh shrimp cocktail or serve some shrimp with your favorite salads or mixed veggies, if you aren’t a big fan of this crustacean.
While cottage cheese can’t be compared with Swiss cheese when it comes to vitamin B12, this dairy staple can still help you improve your intake of this vitamin and other nutrients.
100 grams of cottage cheese pack 6 % of RDI of vitamin B12, 11 grams of protein, 104 mg potassium, and 8% of RDI of calcium. Look for a lower-sodium cottage cheese but avoid fat-free or low-fat versions as they contain zero nutrients.
Spread some cottage cheese on your toast or mix it with plain yogurt and fresh fruit or berries for a nutrient-dense dessert.
When it comes to vitamin B12 rich foods, grass-fed beef deserves its place on the list.
It contains 43% of recommended daily intake of vitamin B12, 20% of vitamin B6, and 52% of protein in 100 grams.
Several scientific reviews have shown that grass-fed beef is richer in precursors for cancer-fighting antioxidants, vitamin E, and vitamin A in comparison with grain-fed beef. Since meat, including beef, can cause the cholesterol spikes, make sure you consume it in moderation.
Another cheese on the list, feta cheese is the great amounts of vitamin B12 and a host of other vitamins and minerals, including calcium and vitamin B2 (riboflavin).
Typically feta cheese is made from a mix of goat’s and sheep’s milk or sheep’s milk. If you’re able to buy feta cheese made from raw goat’s or sheep milk, you’ll receive a lot more nutrition, including vitamin B12.
One wedge of feta cheese contains 10% of your daily value of vitamin B12, 18% of calcium, 10% of protein, and 10% of vitamin B6.
Due to its rich nutrient content, especially B vitamins, eating feta cheese regularly but in small amounts can help to alleviate headaches, including chronic migraines.
Not for everyone, beef liver is another source of B vitamins. It boasts a very high vitamin B12 content and provides most of your’s daily requirements for this vitamin in a single ounce of the highest quality beef liver.
That means finding beef liver that’s organic from pasture-raised and grass-fed cows. High in folate and iron, frequent beef liver consumption can help to prevent or treat anemia as these two nutrients along with vitamin B12 have been shown to help in a natural and more effective recovery from anemia.
One of the most powerful sources of chlorophyll on the planet, spirulina is also a rich source of vitamin B12 – especially for vegans and vegetarians – since it packs up to 150% of your RDI in just one serving.
With vitamin B12, you’ll also get 4 grams of protein that equals 880% of your daily value for vitamin A and 80 percent of iron.
Apart from helping with fatigue, digestive woes, and weight loss, spirulina helps to detoxify the whole body, fighting inflammation and improving your skin health. A green smoothie with spirulina in the morning is a fun way to get your entire day’s intake of Vitamin B12.
Mussels are a luxury food item that very few of us can afford and not all of us can stand the taste.
If it’s not about you and you can consume 3 ounces of mussels at least twice a week, you’ll provide your body with more than 340% of RDI of vitamin B12.
Furthermore, mussels are a great source of iron, vitamin C, and lean protein.
While being one of the best sources of lean protein, chicken is also rich in vitamin B12.
A cup of it provides 13.7 micrograms of the vitamin. Chicken is also high in vitamin B6, niacin, phosphorus, and other nutrients that your body needs to work properly.
The Pros and Cons of Vitamin B12 supplementation and injections
Sometimes it’s very hard to get enough vitamin B12 from the food you eat or if you’re already deficient in this vitamin, foods rich in Vitamin B12 may not be as effective as supplements or injections.
Here are some pros and cons of both methods.
Vitamin B12 supplementation
Pros: It’s a painless and consistent way to provide your body with vitamin B12. Supplements don’t require any prescriptions and they’re budget-friendly when compared to vitamin B12 injections.
Cons: A great part of vitamin B12 is lost during the whole absorption process. This may affect the way you take the pills and how long you should take them. Oftentimes, it can take more than a month to see any positive results. Since it’s easy to forget to take the pills, you can see no results at all.
Vitamin B12 injections
Pros: You don’t need a daily dose of it. You may need only one injection a week. When injected, vitamin B12 is directly administered into the bloodstream, skipping the digestion process. This means that 100% of the vitamin is utilized by your body.
Vitamin B injections are suitable for people with celiac disease and other digestion issues.
Cons: Injections are expensive and they must be done by a professional only. If you have low pain threshold or dread the needles, injections might be extremely painful for you. The injections require a special prescription.
Perhaps, you’re a little bit overwhelmed with the information you’ve just learned.
However, if you’re getting enough vitamin B12, adding the foods mentioned above will ensure you provide your body with the right amount of this nutrient.
If you have a difficult time getting enough vitamin B12 or you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, you may need to consider injections or take supplements so be sure to see your doctor and measure your level of vitamin B12.