Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient to our health, with numerous important roles. It enables us to release energy from our food and drink, it contributes to cell division and the production of red blood cells, it supports normal psychological functioning, and it is involved in the well-being of our nervous and immune systems. Just like vitamin B6, vitamin B12 is water-soluble, meaning our body can’t store what it doesn’t use.
Our bodies cannot produce this nutrient, which is why we need to get it from our diet. B12 is found in nearly all foods of animal origin. Adults need about 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily, so if you consume meat, fish, eggs and dairy you should get enough just from your normal diet alone. If you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you might need to supplement your intake, and will need to look for fortified food sources.
Why vitamin B12 is important and how can I tell I’m deficient?
Vitamin B12 has multiple health benefits, and people who don’t get enough vitamin B12 are at risk of developing a specific form of anaemia whereby insufficient amounts of red bloods cells are produced.
Some of the common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are:
- Feeling tired and or lacking energy all the time
- Muscles weakness
- Disturbed vision
- Memory problems, confusion or mild depression
The best way to confirm a vitamin deficiency is through a blood test, so speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Foods rich in B12
Vitamin B12 is found in animal-origin foods such as:
- Red meat
- Chicken (especially chicken breast)
- Fish, both white and oily
- Cheese, milk and yogurt
If you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can consume foods fortified with vitamin B12 such as:
- Breakfast cereals
- Non-diary milk alternatives such as soya milk
- Yeast extract, like Marmite
Remember to check the label, as not all of these kinds of products are fortified with vitamin B12.
You can also take a supplement, but always check with your doctor before.