Our bodies need vitamin B12 to function correctly, as it helps our bodies to generate red blood cells as well as DNA. Vitamin B12 also help to retain a nervous system healthy. More so, our own bodies cannot produce this vitamin. The best sources of this water-soluble, essential vitamin is from animal food products.
If you have a lack vitamin B12 then you might have signs like fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, constipation, weight loss, numbness and tingling, balance problems, trouble thinking, muddled or memory problems, dementia, and sore mouth or tongue.
More so, a lack of vitamin B12 means that your blood will not be able to produce healthy red blood cells. In the end, your unhealthy cells will just die off and there will be no replacement cells. If this process is left to continue then you can develop a condition called megaloblastic anemia, also known as pernicious anemia. Megaloblastic anemia could occur if your diet lacks the foods that contain vitamin B12, alternatively if your body is unable to absorb vitamin B12.
The issue is once you develop megaloblastic anemia, eating vitamin B12 foods will not correct the condition. Instead, you will need special treatment.
However, if you consume a lot of dairy and meats then you will have enough vitamin B12 in your diet. There are groups of people that are at a higher risk for developing a lack of vitamin B12, they are:
• Vegans and people on a vegetarian diet
• Older people
• People with digestive disorders and those that struggle to digest nutrients
• Pregnant woman
• Those that have pernicious anemia
• Also people that are some medications (for instance, metformn, H2 receptor antagonists, or proteon pump inhibitors) that can impede the intake of vitamin B12
You can supplement your intake of vitamin B12. These are synthetic and the problem is that your body might struggle to absorb them correctly.
Your intake of vitamin B12 will depend on your age. Here is the breakdown of the different ages and how much vitamin B12 each age group should get daily:
• age 0 to 6 months (both sexes): 0.4 mcg
• age 7 to 12 months (both sexes): 0.5 mcg
• age 1 to 3 years (both sexes): 0.9 mcg
• age 4 to 8 years (both sexes): 1.2 mcg
• age 9 to 13 years (both sexes): 1.8 mcg
• age 14 and older (both sexes): 2.4 mcg
• pregnant women: 2.6 mcg
• breastfeeding women: 2.8 mcg
The best vitamin B12 foods
To meet your daily dose of vitamin B12, aim for these vitamin B12 rich foods:
Raw or steamed, clams are one of the riches sources of vitamin B12, with around 84.1 mcg per 3 ounces. Clams are also low in fat, a good source of iron, have many B vitamin, and high in protein.
Beef liver is also packed with vitamin B12, with around 70.7 mcg per 3 ounces. But it is also a great source of protein, iron and vitamin A. Just remember that beef liver is high in cholesterol, so it should not be your own source of vitamin B12.
Fortified breakfast cereals
Breakfast cereals can be a great source of vitamin B12, with around 6.0 mcg per 1/2 cup, more so vegans can benefit from this as well. Different brands could have different amounts, but look out for the type that provides 100 % of the DV in one serving.
Besides the omega-3 fatty acids that salmon contain, it is also loaded with vitamin B12, well around 4.8 mcg per 3 ounces.
An alternative to salmon is trout. Trout has around 3.5 mcg per 3 ounces, of your vitamin B12 requirements. This fish is also packed with protein, different minerals and several B vitamins.
One cup of milk contains 1.2 mcg of vitamin B12. But milk is also a good source of vitamin D and calcium.
Besides that yogurt contains 1.1 mcg of vitamin B12 per cup, it also contains vitamin D, calcium and good probiotics. However, do aim for sugar free varieties.
Ham has 0.6 mcg of vitamin B12 per 3 ounces. In fact, ham contains all the B vitamins, except folate. It is low in calories, fat and cholesterol. On the down side, ham is rather high in sodium.
Although eggs are not as high in vitamin B12 as meat, it does still contain 0.6 mcg per hard-boiled egg. They are also packed with protein.
Chicken has around 0.3 mcg of vitamin B12 per 3 ounces. Still, chicken is also rich in niacin, a B vitamin thought to help lower cholesterol.
Vegan vitamin B-12 foods
If you are vegan, you might struggle to find good sources of vitamin B12. Also eat fortified foods, and add in probiotics which will help you absorb vitamin B12 better. Therefore, aim for:
• breakfast cereals
• nondairy milks
• meat substitutes
• nutritional yeast
• energy bars
The closing remarks
Most people on a western style diet will get enough vitamin B12. It is the people that are on a vegan or even a vegetarian diet that do not eat dairy or eggs that might struggle to find enough vitamin B12. Luckily, vegans and vegetarians can look out for fortified foods that are packed with vitamin B12 to make sure that they can get all the vitamin B12 they need.
If you do have a vitamin B12 deficiency, you should speak to your doctor. You could have developed the condition, megaloblastic anemia. If so, then you will need special medical treatment, as no amount of added vitamin B12 will reverse that condition.