As one of the most important vitamins for healthy nervous system function, energy, and positive neurological function, vitamin B12 is pretty much vital. Most of us don’t give vitamin B12 a second thought, however. Sure we know it’s one of the essentials, but it’s rare that we see B12 in the spotlight like we do some other nutrients like vitamins C and E, or calcium and magnesium. This is too bad because vitamin B12 is an essential organic compound that is vital for our overall health and well-being and is definitely not one of the fundamental nutrients you want to go without.
B12 exists in many forms in the body and without enough of it we risk serious detriment to our health and well-being. The primary source of this essential vitamin is found primarily in animal sources. Certain cheeses, meats, and fish all contain vitamin B12 so, for many, getting enough of this elemental nutrient is easy. Strict vegans and some vegetarians, however, may have a more difficult time getting the B12 they need.
It’s important to know what sources contain the most amount of B12 so you can remain healthy and full of the energy your body needs. Also, it is an extremely important nutrient to supplement if you know you’re not getting it from food sources. Before we look to the various means of giving your body the B12 it requires, let’s see just how important this vitamin is to your overall health and well-being.
Just How Important is Vitamin B12
It turns out that B12 is extremely important. Feeling fatigued? It could very well be a lack of B12. Depressed? Anxious? These could also have to do with a shortage of B12 in your body. Other things associated with a deficiency of B12 include: memory loss, balance problems, and constipation. Hyperpigmentation, hair and nail changes, and oral changes, including inflammation of the tongue, are all things that can occur when you don’t get enough B12.
B12 is also a huge defining factor in the production of red blood cells. Our red blood cells are responsible for pumping life throughout our body, bringing our tissues, cells, and organs the oxygen they need to keep us healthy and strong. With a life-expectancy of just three short months, red blood cells need to be replenished constantly and, in order to develop and grow, your blood cells are 100% dependent on vitamin B12.
Your blood cells are obviously not the only thing that needs B12. If you don’t get enough of this extremely essential nutrient you’re looking at facing some serious health problems, not to mention the emotional and mental toll not having enough of this vitamin will do. Vitamin B12 is bountiful in benefits and getting enough of it is fundamental to living your best.
5 Benefits of Vitamin 12
- Boosts Energy Levels
Are you lacking energy and general vitality? If you’re deprived of vitamin B12, you might feel weakness in your muscles, fatigue, lack of energy, mental fogginess, and have little to no motivation. B12 gives you a serious energy boost and is known for keeping you alert and invigorated.
This is precisely the reason why so many energy drinks are infused with this empowering energizer. It really does amazing things to boost your energy levels. If you’re one of the many people who depend on energy drinks or coffee to get you through the day, it may be time to rethink your drink and look at getting some more B12 instead.
- Prevents Disease
Getting the right amounts of the vitamins you need isn’t just so you can stay healthy and full of energy in the present moment. Many of these vitamins, B12 included, are excellent for preventing disease and getting what you need will keep you healthy for a lifetime.
Vitamin B12 is known to protect against certain cancers including prostate, lung, breast, and colon. Not only will the right amounts prevent these cancers from forming in the first place, but will help treat them if they’ve already managed to develop. It has also shown to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and is an excellent supplement to take if you’ve got a history of Alzheimer’s in your family.
- Beneficial to Your Brain
Mental fatigue is just as real as physical fatigue and the two are often very closely interwoven. Just as B12 works to restore your physical energy, it also works to restore your mental energy as well. Not only does B12 benefit degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, but can also be very helpful in preventing conditions such as dementia.
If you’re feeling a bit anxious or depressed, a vitamin B12 deficiency may be the reason why. According to the Global Healing Center, a lack of vitamin B12 is specifically linked to depression and anxiety. People who are diagnosed with depression often find that they are simply lacking this most vital nutrient and when they get the right amount their depressive symptoms tend to go away. If you’re feeling blue, you may need to get your vitamin B12 levels checked before you subscribe to taking any prescription medication.
- Good for Hair, Skin, and Nails
Are you looking for a vitamin that helps improve the condition of your hair, skin, and nails? Vitamin B12 is beneficial for all of these and will make you look and feel your best. It helps repair skin cells and will add shine and luster to your hair. Many products for healthy hair have B12 added to them and getting enough of this vitamin will help to make your hair gorgeous. If your nails aren’t as strong as you’d like them to be, a lack of B12 may very well have something to do with it. Just as it promotes strong and healthy hair, B12 will do the same for your nails, making you look and feel amazing from head to toe.
- Promotes Heart Health
Vitamin B12 is generally beneficial to the entire cardiovascular system. It helps by keeping cholesterol levels low and arteries clear. Getting the right amount of B12 every day will also help lower your blood pressure and has the potential to keep you free from the need to take any regulating prescription medication. By keeping your heart healthy, you also reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, which is something all of us want to avoid.
How To Tell if Your B12 Levels are Low
Certain people tend to be at a higher risk for low levels of vitamin B12. Strict vegans and the elderly are particularly susceptible, but anyone can suffer from low levels of this necessary nutrient. The older you are, the less B12 your body can absorb from food sources. Pay attention to your body and see if you suffer from any of the following symptoms.
- How are your energy levels? If you feel fatigue and are aware of a feeling of general weakness in your body, it can be a pretty good indication that you’ve got low levels of B12. You may feel dizzy or have a sense of losing your balance when you stand up too quickly. A sluggish feeling that accompanies you throughout the day is also a pretty good sign of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Responsible for a host of neurological functions, a lack of B12 may seriously lower your concentration levels and your ability to remember details. You may forget more than you usually do or have trouble remembering something that was just said to you.
- A loss of appetite and sudden weight loss could have to do with a lack of vitamin B12. If you’re eating habits have recently changed and you’re losing weight, you may not be getting enough B12. Also, if you’ve made the switch to a strictly vegan diet, you will most likely need to find B12 from supplemental sources.
- If you’re lacking this vitamin, symptoms of deficiency may show up in your mouth. Bleeding gums are an indication of B12 deficiency, as is a general soreness of the mouth and tongue. A swollen red tongue may mean you’ve become anemic.
- Abnormal tingling or numbness in the hands and feet could mean a B12 deficiency as well. Shortness of breath during or after exercise is another indication. Pay close attention to your physical symptoms, especially during exercise.
Where to Get Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products. This is why so many vegans are often deficient in this most necessary nutrient. Before we discuss how vegans may get more of this vitamin, we’ll take a look at common food sources that are plentiful in B12. If you’re not a vegan, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get ample amounts of B12 through diet alone.
7 Great Food Sources of Vitamin B12
Drinking milk could be one of the easiest ways to add more B12 to your diet. Just one cup gives you 21% of the recommended daily allowance. If you’re a big milk drinker, one quart offers almost all you need, giving you 82% of your RDV. When drinking milk, always make sure it comes from organic sources and is not pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. Drinking non-organic milk runs a whole new danger of health risks of its own.
While not all cheese is created equal, not all of it contains a healthy amount of vitamin B12. Swiss has the highest amount, with just one ounce containing 16% of your recommended daily value. Mozzarella comes in at a close second, which makes eating pizza almost feel healthy. A cup of crumbled blue cheese has a whopping 135 grams, while a cup of ricotta will give you almost twice as much with 246 grams per cup. Eating a cup of cottage cheese in the morning will start your day with 145 grams of B12. Feta cheese, popular in Mediterranean diets, will give you 150 grams per crumbled cup. As with milk, always do your best to find organic sources when choosing your cheese.
Eggs are a great source of vitamin B12 and in the yolks is where you’re going to find most of this vital nutrient. Skip the egg-white omelet and get everything your body needs when you eat the yolks as well. Goose and duck eggs also provide substantial amounts of B12, if you’re feeling daring.
Beef is one of the best sources of B12 you can possibly find. All cuts of beef are truly beneficial, with chuck varieties offering the most B12 for your buck. One pound of ground beef contains almost 454 grams of vitamin B12, making this one of the best food sources to get the B12 your body needs. Having just one 3-ounce hamburger patty will give you almost 90% of your RDV. Too much red meat can be hazardous to your health, however, so it should be eaten in moderation.
Lamb is another great source of this important vitamin and a good shoulder cut will give you more than 60% of the vitamin B12 you need in a day. Lamb liver is another good place for this nutrient as well. Just 4 ounces of roasted lamb offers 105% of the recommended daily value of B12. Lamb meat is also an excellent way to regulate blood sugar levels in diabetes patients.
Sardines, salmon, herring, tuna, and tilapia are all excellent ways to get some vitamin B12 into your diet. When choosing seafood, it is always smart to get it as fresh as possible to retain all the goodness it contains. If you live somewhere where fresh fish isn’t a possibility, you should probably buy it frozen. Octopus is another type of seafood that is high in vitamin B12 and, if you’re ready to try something different, could be an excellent way to enliven your taste buds while getting the B12 your body needs.
Clams have one of the highest B12 contents of any food you can find and would make an excellent addition to your diet if you’re suffering from a deficiency in vitamin B12. Oysters, crab, and shrimp are also good places to find this vitally necessary nutrient. The amount of B12 found in lobster makes an excellent excuse to indulge in this popular delicacy.
What to Do When You’re a Vegan
There is no doubt that vitamin B12 is one all of us need to be getting. As B12 is only found in animal food products, getting the right amounts of B12 your body needs can tend to pose more of a challenge when you’re a vegan. It is the one vitamin that has been recognized as one that is not attainable by a varied, wholefood, plant-based diet.
Needless to say, in over sixty years of research pertaining to a vegan diet, the only
way to get this essential nutrient is through B12 fortified foods and B12 supplements. If you’re a strict vegan, it is vital that you’re getting what you need through the foods that have added B12 or a high quality supplement. Without it, you now know some of the nasty side-effects that can occur. Better to fortify yourself rather than run the risk for anemia, fatigue, nerve damage, and heart disease.
Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12
It is possible to get the B12 you need and adhere to your vegan diet. Just because you won’t be getting the B12 you need from animal sources, doesn’t mean you can’t get it from other places. There are a number of different foods that are fortified with B12, so it’s completely possible to stay healthy while you stay away from animal products.
Plant milks are a great place to start when looking for food products that are fortified with vitamin B12. You can pour it on your B12 fortified cereal in the morning, add it to smoothies, or just drink it by the glassful. Vegans and vegetarians usually have a few boxes of plant milks on hand and making sure that what you’ve got on hand is packed full of B12 is a great way to take care of your health.
Nutritional yeast is another way to get the B12 your body needs and is available in most health food stores everywhere. This powder has a cheesy-like flavor and is packed with all the B vitamins your body needs, made especially with vegans in mind. Stir some into some sauce or sprinkle it on popcorn for a dose of B12 that is easy and convenient.
Contrary to popular belief that has been held for quite some time, fermented foods; such as tempeh and miso, do not give you the adequate amounts of the vitamin B12 your body needs. The same thing goes for spirulina and, while overall these foods are a great source of nutrients, vitamin B12 is not one of them.
Lucky for most vegans, adhering to a strictly plant-based diet and still getting the right amount of B12 has become a lot easier than it used to be. There is a huge variety of different foods that have B12 added to them and getting the amount you need is simpler than ever. If you don’t want to eat these fortified foods, it is vital that you look toward a good B12 supplement.
When it comes down to it, if you’re not getting the B12 you need from animal products and fortified foods, it’s pretty much non-negotiable that you find a good vitamin B12 supplement. The thing is, if you were to walk into a health food store or vitamin shop it may become completely overwhelming when you’re faced with the number of different B12 options. There are different names, different dosages, and more than a couple different forms. Powders, capsules, and liquid forms of B12 all line supplement shelves and choosing the right one can become pretty overwhelming to say the least. When shopping for a B12 supplement, be sure to keep the following things in mind.
- Make Sure It’s Vegan
When you’re going to look for a B12 supplement, make sure it’s not sourced from animal products. Believe it or not, this does happen and it is always a smart thing to read your labels. You wouldn’t think of not reading the labels on the foods you buy and the same thing should hold true when you shop for supplements.
- Choose a Spray, Liquid, or Sublingual Form
While there is nothing wrong with getting your B12 in tablet form, when you choose a spray, liquid, or sublingual form of B12, it does not have to be digested before it does the job. While you may be familiar with sprays and liquids, you may wonder what a sublingual supplement is. These are like tablets, except they are put under your tongue and left to melt away.
- Choose Supplements That Are Organic and Non-GMO
There are a lot of supplements to choose from and not all are created equal. When you’re deciding on a B12 supplement, make sure that it doesn’t contain refined sugars, artificial colors, or artificial flavors. There are countless different companies that make supplements and not all are committed to the highest quality, no matter what it says on the bottle. Read your labels carefully and always choose the highest quality you can find.
- Choose the Right Amount
Not everyone needs the same amount of B12 from a supplement. Vegans and vegetarians will need different dosages than someone who occasionally eats meat, fish, or dairy. Most supplements range from 500 micrograms to 5,000 micrograms. Just because you’re a vegan, however, doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to need the highest dose possible. Start out at a mid-range of about 1,000 micrograms and increase your daily dosage if you’re still feeling fatigued after a week or so.
Our Recommendation for Vitamin B12
No matter what kind of diet you adhere to, getting the right amounts of B12 is vital for maintaining good health and optimal energy levels. If you feel that you may be lacking this oh so necessary nutrient, look toward any of the foods we’ve mentioned or consider a high-quality B12 supplement. Needed by us all, B12 is not something you should skimp on. Make sure to benefit your body and brain by getting all the B12 you need, no matter where it’s sourced from. There are options for everyone and no one should have to go without this vitamin that is vital for your health and well-being.