Vital to the production of blood and to the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system, cobalamin, or vitamin B12, must be obtained from a healthy diet, as our bodies are unable to make this vitamin from other nutrients.
Because food sources of B12 are mainly meats, fish, and seafood, it is very difficult for vegetarian and vegan diets to include enough vitamin B12. Those who choose to exclude animal foods should supplement their diets with vitamin B12 for optimal health.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
For most people, though, vitamin B12 deficiency is not a problem. If you eat meat, fish, and other animal products like eggs, yogurt, and cheese, you’re easily able to get all that you need from your diet.
If you don’t eat animal foods, it’s a different story. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a very serious matter, and can cause irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system. Early symptoms include poor memory, tiredness, and depression. Mania and even psychosis will occur if left untreated.
In rare cases, vitamin B12 absorption is hindered by a condition called pernicious anemia. For those suffering from this disease, vitamin B12 supplementation is a life saver.
As with some of the other vitamins, B12 becomes more difficult to absorb from foods as we get older. For those over age 50, taking a multi-vitamin supplement could be a good idea.
Food Sources of Vitamin B12
Salmon, tuna, and other fish are excellent sources of vitamin B12 along with scallops and shrimp. If you love to eat seafood, you will never be in danger of getting too little vitamin B12 in your diet.
Red meats, like lamb and beef, are also excellent sources, with pork, turkey, eggs, and chicken making respectable contributions as well. Liver is especially high in vitamin B12. Some vitamin B12 is also found in cheese.
Possible vegetable sources of vitamin B12 are all open to debate. Very small amounts can be obtained from mushrooms and certain types of fermented foods, but these just can’t supply enough to keep someone healthy.
Supplementation is necessary for anyone following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet.
Want a fast easy serving of vitamin B12? Open a can of sardines. If you enjoy them, sardines provide an excellent source of vitamin B12. For those who aren’t so fond of this fishy treat, a cup of yogurt will supply about one third of the recommended dietary intake of vitamin B12.
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