When it comes to optimising your health, fitness and nutrition, understanding what vitamins and minerals your body needs in order to function well is paramount to success, so here is everything you need to know about Vitamin B12, and why it should be important in your diet.
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin.
How does Vitamin B12 affect the human body?
The important vitamin helps the human body to:
- Form red blood cells and prevent anemia
- Improve moods and depression
- Support bone health
- Prevent Osteoporosis
- Reduce the risk of Macular Degeneration
- Boost energy
- Support healthy nails, skin and hair
According to Harvard Medical School, “low levels of B12 can cause fatigue, nervousness, dizziness, numbness, and tingling in the fingers and toes. Severe, long-term deficiency may lead to loss of mobility, problems walking, or memory loss. A blood test from your doctor can measure B12 levels, and a serious deficiency can be corrected with B12 shots or high-dose supplements.”
What effects does Vitamin B12 deficiency cause?
Harvard Medical School also reported that “A severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to deep depression, paranoia and delusions, memory loss, incontinence, loss of taste and smell, and more.”
What are the daily recommended amounts of vitamin B12?
The table below provides the daily recommended amounts of B12 for a variety of different age groups.
|Age (years)||Daily amount of B12 (micrograms)|
|14 and older||2.4 mcg|
|Pregnant women||2.6 mcg|
|Breast–feeding women||2.8 mcg|
According to studies, “no toxic effects of B12 have been identified, even when it is administered intramuscularly at 300–3000 times the recommended dietary allowance. For this reason, no upper tolerable level for the vitamin has been established.”
This means that you really don’t need to worry about consuming too much B12 in your diet.
What foods contain high amounts of Vitamin B12?
|Dietary sources of vitamin B12|
|Vitamin B12 Food||Serving size||B12 (mcg)|
|Fortified cereal||1 cup||6|
|Tuna, canned||3 ounces||2.5|
|Non-fat plain Greek yogurt||6 ounces||1.3|
|Low-fat milk||1 cup||1.2|
|Chicken breast||3 ounces||0.3|
|Source: National Institutes of Health.|
From the foods listed above you can see how easy it is to construct a diet that is rich in vitamin B12.
Sources of B12 for vegetarians
The following foods are all excellent sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians:
- fortified plant-based milk
- low-fat milk, fortified cereals, nutritional yeast, eggs and cheese
Fortified cereals have high levels of bioavailability, meaning that the available nutrients are easily absorbed by the human body.
To recap nutritional values, these types of foods contain:
- 8 ounces (oz) of yogurt contains about 1.1 mcg of vitamin B-12
- 1 cup of low-fat milk can provide 1.2 mcg of vitamin B-12
- 1 oz of Swiss cheese can contain 0.95 mcg of vitamin B-12
- 1 large egg contains 0.6 mcg of vitamin B-12
Sources of B12 for vegans
Plant foods do not contain vitamin B-12, so it is essential for vegans to think consciously about making sure they get enough vitamin B-12 in their nutrition. Foods such as fortified cereals, fortified non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast and vegan spreads such as Marmite are all good sources.
What exactly is nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a is a species of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Popular in vegan cooking it is a rich and healthy food with a cheesy, nutty flavour. It also contains a relatively high level of protein and when fortified, is especially rich in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6.
Nutritional yeast can be used creatively in many different ways, try the following to add variety to your diet.
- Sprinkle it on popcorn
- Mix it into cheese sauces
- Sprinkle over scrambled eggs or tofu
- Put it on salads
- Stir into a creamy soup
- Mix it into mashed potatoes
- Add it to pasta dishes
Vitamin B12 is important for your general health and athletic performance. Make sure that you have sufficient amounts in your diet.