Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient, which means that the body needs it to stay healthy, and it needs to be consumed through food because the body cannot produce it.
The human body uses vitamin B12 in many processes. These include making red blood cells (carrying oxygen throughout the body) and DNA (genetic material), producing energy, and keeping brain and nerve cells healthy.
If you don’t get enough vitamin B12 in your diet, you may develop a nutritional deficiency. Signs and symptoms of B12 deficiency include headache, confusion, weakness, fatigue, and anemia.
Read on to learn more about vitamin B12 and food sources for any diet.
What is vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is one of the water-soluble vitamins.it is also called cobalamin. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are more easily absorbed and utilized by the body.
Normally, these vitamins are not stored in the body, unlike fat-soluble vitamins, which are stored in adipose tissue. However, vitamin B12 can be stored in the liver until cells need it. Even if it can be stored, vitamin B12 deficiency is possible if there is not enough vitamin B12 in the diet.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
Why is it so important?
Vitamin B12 is essential for many functions in the body, including:
- Maintain the health of nerves and brain cells
- Improve concentration and cognitive function (thinking and memory)
- Helps make healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia
- for energy production
- protect eye health
- Helps replicate and regulate DNA
- May help prevent congenital anomalies (present at birth)
Signs and symptoms of B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency is uncommon. It is estimated to affect as many as 6 percent of Americans. It is more common for people to have a slight depletion of B12.In the U.S., about 15% of 20- to 59-year-olds and more than 20% of people over 60 have depleted B12 levels
Symptoms and side effects of B12 deficiency include:
- poor cognitive ability
- memory loss
- mood changes
- inability to concentrate
- Weakness and nerve problems
- Increased risk of neural tube defects (defects in the development of the brain, spine, or spinal cord) and cognitive delays (children not exhibiting the thinking and memory abilities expected for their age)
recommended daily intake
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms per day. During pregnancy, the RDA increases to 2.6 micrograms per day, and while breastfeeding, it is 2.8 micrograms per day. This can be consumed through food or dietary supplements.
No toxic effects of vitamin B12 have been found so far. This may be because any excess water-soluble vitamins can be excreted from the body through the urine.
However, please consult your healthcare provider before starting any new dietary supplement. It may be beneficial to try to meet your nutritional needs with whole foods, as they provide a variety of nutrients.
Animal Sources of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal foods and animal products. Good sources of vitamin B12 include:
Red meats such as beef and pork are excellent sources of vitamin B12.
Four ounces of 80 percent lean ground beef provides about 2.42 micrograms of vitamin B12, just over 100 percent of the B12 RDA. Beef is also a good source of other nutrients like folate, niacin, iron, zinc, potassium, and protein.
However, red meat can be high in saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends that people trying to lower cholesterol make saturated fat less than 6 percent of their daily calorie intake. Try buying leaner red meat, which is lower in saturated fat.
Fatty fish is best known as an excellent source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But they’re also a good source of other vitamins, like B12. Examples of fatty fish include sardines, tuna, salmon, and trout.
Half a slice of salmon (198 grams) provides 6.3 mcg of vitamin B12, which is 260% of your daily requirement.
Most of the vitamins and minerals found in eggs are located in the yolk. A whole egg provides about 0.5 micrograms of vitamin B12, which is about 20% of the RDA.
One egg also provides 6 grams (g) of protein, 92 milligrams (mg) of potassium, 24 mg of calcium, 155 mg of choline, 90 micrograms of vitamin A, and 50 international units (IU) of vitamin D.
Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are good sources of many vitamins and minerals.
A 158-gram can of nonfat Greek yogurt provides 1.09 mcg of B12 (about 50% of your daily requirement), 212 mg of phosphorus, 220 mg of potassium, 173 mg of calcium and 16 grams of protein.
Shellfish, such as clams, lobster, and mussels, are an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
For example, 3 ounces of lobster provides 1.22 micrograms of vitamin B12, 16 grams of protein, 62 micrograms of selenium, 9 micrograms of folic acid, and 68 micrograms of choline.
Animal organ meats, such as liver and kidneys, are packed with nutrients, even if they’re not as popular as they once were. Because B12 can be stored in the liver, these meats are often the foods with the highest levels of vitamin B12.
Three ounces of beef liver provides 60 mcg of vitamin B12, which is about 2,500% of the daily recommended intake. In addition, 3 ounces of liver provides 25 grams of protein, 5 mg of iron, 422 mg of phosphorus, 299 mg of potassium, 215 mcg of folic acid, 26,900 IU of vitamin A, and 42 IU of vitamin D.
Plant-Based B12 Sources
Vitamin B12 does not occur naturally in plant foods. However, some foods are fortified with vitamin B12 to help meet the nutritional needs of people, especially those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Here are some non-animal foods rich in vitamin B12:
Nutritional yeast is a popular food ingredient and cooking ingredient for vegan meal plans. It is a type of yeast used as food to provide the salty taste to food. However, yeast cannot make vitamin B12, so it must be fortified if it is to be used as a dietary source.
Nutritional yeast is manufactured to provide protein, vitamins and minerals. A 16-gram serving of fortified nutritional yeast provides 24 mcg of vitamin B12, 12 mg of vitamin B6, 56 mg of niacin, 9 mg of thiamine and 8 grams of protein.
Non-dairy milks, such as almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, or cashew milk, are naturally free of vitamin B12. They are usually fortified to provide a variety of vitamins and minerals.
For example, 8 ounces of fortified almond milk provides 3 micrograms of vitamin B12.
Grains are often fortified during processing to provide additional vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid and vitamin B12.
One and a half cups of fortified instant cereals contain about 1.5 mcg of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient for health and well-being. It aids in the production of energy, red blood cells, nerve cells and DNA. If you don’t get enough vitamin B12 in your diet, you may develop a deficiency and experience symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, headaches, and difficulty concentrating.
Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in animal foods such as red meat, liver, eggs, fish and dairy products. It is also found in fortified plant-based foods such as nutritional yeast and fortified non-dairy milk and cereals.
Vitamin B12 is a key nutrient for your body to function. It is present in a wide variety of foods. Consult your healthcare provider if you are concerned that you are not getting enough vitamin B12 or think you are deficient.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins?
Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and B-complex vitamins, dissolve in water and are not normally stored in the body, and any excess is excreted by the kidneys.
Fat-soluble vitamins, namely vitamins A, E, D and K, are only absorbed when eaten with fat and stored in body fat when needed.
Does vitamin B12 only come from animals?
Naturally occurring vitamin B12 is only found in animal products such as meat, eggs or dairy. However, to meet the needs of people on plant-based and vegan diets, vitamin B12 is added to some non-animal products, such as fortified nutritional yeast, fortified non-dairy products, and fortified grains.
How do you know if you need a B12 supplement?
If you have symptoms of B12 deficiency, you may need a supplement. Consult your doctor if you have symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, fatigue, weakness, headaches, or depressive symptoms. It is important to diagnose these symptoms correctly and not to assume that they are due to deficiency as they can have many different causes.