Vitamins, minerals, proteins and trace elements are the essential pillars of your food and digestive system. Think of the founding stones on which a house or a tower is built. If that’s shaky, the structure falters. Your body functions in the same way too. Whatever you feed your body and your system reflects on the way you look outside, including your immunity. Where there is immunity, there are vitamins. Vitamins, as we all know, are extremely vital for the structure, base, immunity, eyesight, wound healing, shore up bones and many more.
Out of all the vitamins, B12 is a kind that helps keep your body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and assists in making the DNA or the genetic material of the cells. While vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal-origin products, but fortified breakfast cereals also do contain a generous amount of the vitamin required to meet your bodily requirements.
Here are some foods that are rich in Vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamin and can easily be incorporated in your diets:
The richest source of vitamin B12 is animal-origin products. Dairy products like milk, buttermilk, cheese, butter are a potent source of the vitamin. However, for those who are vegans can choose plant-based alternatives to milk like soy, almond or peanut milk ensuring you strike out your allergies to these ingredients first. Among all cheeses, Swiss, elemental and cottage cheeses are an extremely rich source of vitamin B12.
The egg is a natural source of vitamin B12. If you are an eggetarian, including two eggs a day can help meet your dietary requirement. Hard-boiled or fried, add eggs to your diet the way you like either as a side in your salads or alongside your dinner. You can also add it in soups if you don’t consume standalone boiled eggs.
Another rich source of vitamin B12 and one of the fish family, shrimps are rather famous for their cocktails. However, they also stand out with their nutritional factors. The forerunner being protein. Besides being abundantly rich in proteins, shrimps are also a healthy source of vitamin B12. They are antioxidant in nature and also help in fighting damaged cells and free radicals. Astaxanthin, another antioxidant helps reduce inflammation that is a known cause and factor of ageing and disease.
Tuna is the most commonly consumed fish. It’s packed with the usual proteins, minerals and vitamin A, which is usually a rich ingredient found in all seafood. However, tuna is also abundant in its vitamin B12 constitution along with B3, selenium, and lean proteins and phosphorous. Due to its distinct package of immunity-proffering ingredients, tuna is a great choice for those seeking to improve their vitamin B12 intake.
Low-fat, high-protein are two ways one can describe clams’ nutritional standing in the food chart. However, what’s also interesting is that it’s not far behind in the solid nutrient race. With selenium, zinc, iron, magnesium and niacin, clam is a top-notch contender for vitamin and protein-rich foods. Baby clams particularly have shown to be a great source of iron, antioxidants and vitamin B12. In fact, broth of boiled clams is equally rich in vitamin. So, next time you consider throwing away the broth, think again!
Good news for vegetarians and those non-allergic to mushrooms. Shitake mushrooms do contain vitamin B12 however the levels are relatively low as compared to the non-vegetarian or dairy counterparts. While regularly consuming mushrooms may not be a very good idea, you can occasionally add shitake to your soups or rice dishes to add some flavour and spice.
Nutritional yeast and baking yeast are quite different in their properties and action and hence cannot be used interchangeably. Nutritional yeast won’t work as a leavening agent as baking yeast does. Nutritional yeast, unlike the baking or active yeast, is a deactivated form of yeast which is sold commercially to use in food preparations and also as a food product. They are usually yellow-coloured flakes, granules and fine powder. Fortified nutritional yeast can meet your vitamin B12 requirements and can also be added to food to boost protein, minerals and vitamins deficit. They are anti-oxidative in nature and work towards lowering cholesterol and boosting immunity.
Do You Need A Vitamin B12 Supplement?
Vitamin B12 also commonly known as cyanocobalamin, is an essential yet highly complex vitamin that contains the mineral cobalt (hence the name). This vitamin is produced naturally by bacteria and as we all know, is an important factor that contributes to DNA synthesis and cellular energy production. According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, vitamin B12 is used to treat conditions like pernicious anaemia and those suffering from partial or total gastrectomy, regional enteritis, gastroenterostomy among many others.
When it comes to contemplating taking vitamin B12 supplements, it is essential to seek your practitioner’s advice first, based on your body’s recommended requirement of the vitamin. Vegetarians and vegans need to specifically keep in mind that folate in their diet might mask vitamin B12’s presence in case of deficiency. Secondly, if you follow a vegan diet, you would ideally require supplements that meet 100 per cent or more of your recommended daily allowance. The Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group suggests that vegans consume much higher levels of vitamin B12 (250mcg/day for adults) to compensate for poor absorption of supplements. Regardless of diet preference, the National Institutes of Health recommends that all adults over 50 years of age receive most of their vitamin B12 through supplements and fortified foods, due to impaired absorption that occurs during ageing.
Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Weakness and Fatigue: Since cyanocobalamin is responsible for keeping up the red blood cells count, deficiency of the vitamin can cause weakness and fatigue. Due to low RBC count, oxygen is not transported to the body’s cells which makes one too tired and weak.
Parathesia: One of the most striking side effects of nerve damage. If you experience the sensation of pins and needles on your skin. Myelin, a biochemical component, surrounds nerves as a protective layer and insulation. In the absence of vitamin B12, myelin is produced differently thus affecting the optimised nervous system function.
Difficulty in Mobility: If gone undiagnosed, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause difficulty in your motor skills and movement. You might lose your sense of balance and coordination thus making you prone to falls.
Weaker Vision: Blurred or disturbed vision is another striking symptom of the deficiency as the optic nerve that leads to your eye is directly affected. This condition is known as optic neuropathy. This condition can however be reversed with regular and prompt, prescribed medication and supplementing with vitamin B12.
Glossitis: A scientific nomenclature for the inflamed tongue, this condition leads your tongue to change colour, shape, gives redness, and can lead to swelling. This makes the surface your otherwise bumpy tongue, smooth thus causing your taste buds to disappear. Additionally, it can also cause mouth ulcers, burning or itching in your oral cavity.
Q. Who is most likely to be deficient in vitamin B12?
A. Since vitamin b12 is absorbed in the stomach, those who have a compromised digestive system or have recently undergone bariatric surgery are higher risk individuals for this deficiency. Additionally, vegan or vegetarian diet followers can also experience this deficiency, if not compensated well with supplements.
Q. Are animal-origin foods the only source of vitamin B12?
A. Although animal-origin food products like milk, yoghurt, butter, eggs, beef, fish and chicken are abundant in cyanocobalamin, you can also find trace amounts of this vitamin in mushrooms or nutritional yeast. Having said that, it does not meet your daily recommended requirement. So supplementing is a good option.
Q. How is vitamin B12 deficiency treated?
A. Although alarming, deficiency of vitamin b12 can be treated over-the-counter as well. However, it is always ideal to stay away from self-medication in case you aren’t totally aware of your allergies or recommended allowance into your diet. Sometimes, your doctor might also prescribe you vitamin B12 injections.