Vitamin B12 is a necessary part of everyone’s diet- especially on a plant based one. Here, I give the low-down on this essential vitamin.
What is vitamin B12 and what does it do?
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material thats in all of our cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anaemia called ‘megaloblastic anaemia’ that makes people tired and weak.
Two steps are required for the body to absorb vitamin B12 from food.
First, acid in the stomach separates vitamin B12 from the protein to which it’s attached to. After this, vitamin B12 combines with protein made by the stomach and is absorbed by the body.
How much vitamin B12 do I need?
The amount of vitamin B12 you need each day depends on your age. Average daily recommended amounts for different ages are listed below in micrograms* (mcg):
Life Stage Recommended Amount
Birth to 6 months 0.4 mcg
Infants 7–12 months 0.5 mcg
Children 1–3 years 0.9 mcg
Children 4–8 years 1.2 mcg
Children 9–13 years 1.8 mcg
Teens 14–18 years 2.4 mcg
Adults 2.4 mcg
Pregnant teens and women 2.6 mcg
Breastfeeding teens and women 2.8 mcg
What foods provide vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods.
Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified.
Eating the following foods will ensure you get enough vitamin B12 in your diet:
Tempeh (I enjoy tempeh once a week)
Fortified cereals and soy milks (not something that I consume regularly)
Faux meats made from wheat gluten or soy (again, not something that I consume personally)
You can also add a good quality Vit B12 supplement to your diet, which is recommended by many health professionals. Injections are also available.
Personally, I choose food sources for my B12, and have spirulina once or twice a week. I also see a TCM and take Chinese Herbs to boost my B12.
We store B12 in our bodies, but it’s a small and finite amount. If our stores are not replenished it will lead to a deficiency.
What happens if I don’t eat enough B12?
Vitamin B12 deficiency causes tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, and megaloblastic anaemia. Nerve problems, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur. Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue. Vitamin B12 deficiency can damage the nervous system even in people who don’t have anaemia, so it is important to treat a deficiency as soon as possible.*
Recipes rich in Vitamin B12
-2 cups of wholegrain rolled oats
-1 cup almonds
-1/2 cup sunflower seeds
-1/2 cup pepitas
-2 tbsp sesame seeds
-1 cup goji berries
-1/2 cup dried sour cherries
-1/2 cup dried white mulberries
-1/2 cup raw cacao nibs
-1-2 tbsp melted coconut oil
-2 tsp ground cinnamon
-Pre-heat oven to 180ºC
-Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl
-Pour on the coconut oil and cinnamon; mix well until all coated
-Spread out evenly on baking paper and tray and bake for 15-20 minutes
-Allow to cool, and store in air-tight glass jars
-Serve with almond milk and freshly sliced fruit
-Makes a perfect gift!
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*Australian Dietary Guidelines