Recent studies show that around 40% of Americans are vitamin B12 deficient. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that helps maintain the health of the nerves and brain. A vitamin B12 deficiency causes long-term effects in nerve damage and may even lead to paralysis.
Even a mild vitamin B12 deficiency can result in impaired mental function and low energy. Vitamin B12 also plays a role in the formation of red blood cells, so a deficiency can lead to the production of large, immature cells that are unable to properly carry oxygen.
The benefits of vitamin B12 are vast and include:
- Boosting energy
- Reducing depression
- Decrease sugar cravings
- Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure
- Protecting against cancer
- Reducing neurological and brain degeneration
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms
According to a study from a Harvard hospital published in the New England Journal of Medicine, vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms include:
- Low Sperm Count
- Low Libido
- Weakness and Anemia
B12 deficiency can by masked by adequate levels of folate. Vegans and vegetarians are at risk for B12 deficiency as vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal foods. Also, those with leaky gut and digestive malabsorption may be at risk of a deficiency.
Other serious risk factors that can lead to a lack of vitamin B12 are taking prescription medications like antibiotics, metformin—a diabetes drug—those who take esomeprazole (Nexium)—an acid reflux medication—and those who have had lap-band surgery (weight loss surgery).
Top 10 Vitamin B12 Foods
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg/day. The daily value is 6 mcg/day.Try to consume two servings daily from the following foods in this list:
1. Beef liver
3 oz: 18 mcg (over 100% DV)
3 oz: 7.6 mcg (over 100% DV)
3. Beef (grass-fed)
3 oz: 1.5 mcg (25% DV)
3 oz: 2.5 mcg (41% DV)
5. Raw cheese
1.5 oz: 1.5 mcg (25% DV)
6. Cottage cheese
1 cup: 1.4 mcg (23% DV)
3 oz: 2.07 mcg (35% DV)
8. Raw Milk
1 cup: 1.1 mcg (18% DV)
1 large: 0.44 mcg (7% DV)
3 oz: 1.1 mcg (18% DV)
Top Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
Cancer Prevention: A deficiency in vitamin B12 prevents folate from being converted into its active form, therefore DNA is not able to be properly replicated and can become damaged. It is thought that cancer results from damaged DNA. A study of middle-aged women found that those with low levels of vitamin B12 had double the risk of developing breast cancer than those with normal levels.
Brain Health: Low levels of vitamin B12 have been shown to double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in elderly men and women. Vitamin B12 helps maintain low levels of homocystiene, which may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin B12 is also crucial for the ability to focus and can help reduce symptoms of ADHD and poor memory.
Depression: Over 30% of patients hospitalized for depression are deficient in vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is required for the synthesis of a neurotransmitter related to regulating mood. This is why supplementing with vitamin B12–rich foods can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and chronic fatigue.
Vitamin B12 Foods for Vegan Diet
Witamin B12 is critical to overall health and quality of life. But there are no foods high in vitamin B12 for vegan diets. In that case, you can try using a fortified yeast extract, which has a very small amount of 1% daily value or it’s best to supplement with a quality vitamin B12 supplement.
One other thing to note is that digestive tract health is crucial when it comes to your B12 levels because your gut is actually able to produce some vitamin B12 on its own. So in addition to taking a vitamin B12 supplement, you may also consider consuming probiotic-rich foods and taking a probiotic supplement to increase your levels of vitamin B12.