What is B12
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement and a prescription medication. Vitamin B12 contains the mineral cobalt and exists in several forms.
Importance of Vitamin B12 for the body
Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis.
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps in keeping the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps in making DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent megaloblastic anemia ,a type of anemia that makes people tired and weak.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms
- Pale or jaundiced skin
- Weakness and Fatigue
- Sensation of pins and needles
- Changes to mobility
- Inflamed tongue and mouth ulcers
- Breathlessness and dizziness
- Disturbed Vision
- Mood changes
- High body temperature
Effects of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
1. Cognitive Impairment
B12 deficiency has been linked to cognitive impairment and dementia in the elderly people. This deficiency has also been linked to other neurodegenerative disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
Low levels of Vitamin B12 can lead to depression, hypertension, seizures and hallucinations. Adding B12 has helped in quick recovery.
3. Melancholic Depression
Depression caused by physical rather than psychological factors have showed a direct relation between levels of vitamin B12 and depression
Deficiency of Vitamin B12 can lead to strokes as vitamin B12 is very important for keeping red blood cells and nervous system healthy.
5. Alzheimer’s Disease
Research is going on what are the causes of Alzheimer’s diseases, but a recent study shows an improvement in patients who have been treated with folic acid, B6 and B12
6. Cardiovascular Disease
Low levels of vitamin B12 can lead to several cardiovascular diseases as body cannot convert homocysteine which leads to higher levels of homocysteine levels leading to increased risk of cardiovascular mortality.
Deficiency of Vitamin B12 hinders the production of red blood cells that can lead to anemia and also sometimes can develop into fever.
Testing B12 status
Levels of B12 in body can be tested by blood tests. During a routine complete blood count (CBC)the anemia and large red blood cells (RBCs) associated with a vitamin B12 or folate deficiency are often initially detected. Additional lab testing is performed as follow up to identify the specific deficiency. More reliable is Blood homocysteine testing, with levels less than 10 micromol/litre being desirable. Methylmalonic acid (MMA) test for B12 status is most specific testing. Normal range in blood (<370 nmol/L) or urine (less than 4 mcg /mg creatinine) is desirable, if so then your body has enough B12. Many doctors still rely on blood B12 levels and blood counts. These are not adequate, especially in vegans.
Which foods are high in Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. Vitamin B12 is generally absent in plant foods, but fortified breakfast cereals are easily available source of vitamin B12 with high bioavailability for vegetarians.
Vegetarians and vegans are at risk
Animal products are natural sources of Vitamin B12. So, if your diet consists of plant-based foods such as fruits, veggies, beans, and soy, you’re at risk for deficiency. Vegetarians who consume eggs and dairy should try to include at least one source a day from both of these food groups. Vegans—who by definition consume no animal products—need to take a supplement or consume vitamin B12–fortified foods, such as breakfast cereal and grains. Nondairy milk and some meat substitutes are other foods fortified with B12, not all so check the label first.
Top Vitamin B12 food choices for vegetarian and vegans
1. Dairy products and Soy Products
Consuming diary products is the simplest and easiest way to have adequate vitamin B12 in your daily diet.
- Eight ounces of yogurt can provide 1.1 micrograms of B-12.
- One cup of low-fat milk yields 1.2 micrograms of B-12.
- One ounce of Swiss cheese provides .9 micrograms of B-12.
These foods are readily available and can be consumed at any time of the day. Having yogurt with your breakfast, milk as a midday drink or with your cereal, and a few slices of cheese for a snack in a day.
Vegans who do not consume dairy products can take soya products like soymilk or tofu. Soymilk is a natural source of iron and usually is fortified with ample amounts of B12 for a complete blood boosting formula.
Eggs is another source of B-12 for vegetarians who eat eggs. You will have to have several eggs to meet your daily requirement. This may be difficult but try having hard boiled or scramble eggs for breakfast.
3. Fortified cereals
Fortifies cereals are one great way of fulfilling the daily requirement of vitamin B12. The range of Vitamin B12 added to cereals are different so before picking your favorite cereal please read the packaging carefully.
Cereals are an option of healthy breakfast, readily available and easy for the body to digest as they do not have to be broken down by our body before absorption. They are used right away giving more vitamin B12 to the body.
4. Nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is another fortified food that contains vitamin B-12. This a good option for vegetarians and vegans. It is added to food to give depth in flavor and cheese like flavor to foods. One tablespoon of nutritional yeast approx. provides 4 micrograms of vitamin B-12. Sprinkle nutritional yeast on popcorn for a tasty snack or in a vegetarian- or vegan-friendly recipe.
Studies links purple laver, or nori, as a good source of vitamin B-12. This is an algae product and commonly eaten in Asian countries. It is recommended to eat 4 grams of dried purple laver to meet the daily requirements for vitamin B-12 intake. This product is generally found in Asian food markets. It is used in sushi and may be a healthy and simple snack on its own.
Mushroom is a fungi and like nori, some mushrooms like shitake contain vitamin B-12, which is rare in plant-based foods. Mushrooms cannot supply your entire B-12 dietary needs each day, but it may be a good source sometimes.
Mushrooms can be used into cooking for a tasty soup, starter, lunch or dinner. You would need to consume 50 grams of dried shitake mushrooms to meet your daily requirements of vitamin B-12.
7. Nuts and Grains
Nuts are also said to be a good source of Vitamin B12.Iron and vitamin B12 can be found in a variety of common foods. Eggs contain both nutrients. Grains such as breads, pastas and rice that are high in iron often have added vitamin B12. Egg yolks contain both iron and B12 vitamins, as do various nuts such as almonds and peanuts.
8. Dark Leafy Vegetables
Leafy vegetables are also a said to be a good source of iron n vitamin B12. Dark green leafy vegetables is rich in iron that can be difficult for the body to digest. Having the greens with vegetables and fruit that are high in vitamin C helps with iron absorption. B12 also is evident in most dark green leafy vegetables, such as
- Mustard greens.
9. Vitamin B-12 fruits
Vitamin B-12 is not found in fruits, but that’s no reason to leave fruit off your plate. Most fruit is high in folic acid, another B vitamin your body may lack. Fruit is also high in fiber. Risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes is reduced by consuming high-fiber diet.
So far we have discussed that what is vitamin B12, its importance for the proper functioning of our body, the sources form where we can get vitamin B12 and how vegetarian and vegans are at risk and what food should they consume to have an adequate level of vitamin B12 in their body.
Make sure you get your levels checked regularly and discuss ways to add B-12 into your diet with your doctor. Doctor may decide that a supplement is necessary to ensure you get enough vitamin B-12 into your system.