Plant-Based Vitamin B12
There are 13 known vitamins, which are considered essential nutrients. They perform hundreds of essential functions and keep you nourished and revitalized. Each vitamin has a crucial role to play in keeping you healthier.
One such critical nutrient is vitamin B12. It impacts not just your physical health but also keeps your brain healthier and agile.
Let’s get to know this essential nutrient better and its plant-based sources including its benefits and ways to include it in your routine.
What is Vitamin B12?
Also known as Cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that supports the optimal functioning of your body. The human body cannot make vitamin B12 on its own, so you need to consume foods and drinks that contain this vitamin.
Animal foods are the richest sources of vitamin B12. It does not naturally occur in plant foods unless they are fortified with it. According to the Nutrients Journal, here are some of the best sources of vitamin B12:
|Food||Approx. Daily Value for Vitamin B12 (in %)|
Some plant-based foods rich in vitamin B12 include:
· Fortified nutritional yeast, which contains almost 733% of the vitamin’s DV.
· Fortified cereal offers almost 62% of DV of vitamin B12.
· Non-dairy milk options such as rice, almond, and soy.
· Milk and dairy products are decent sources of vitamin B12. For instance, cheese contains 28% of DV of this vitamin.
· Eggs supply almost 46% of the DV of vitamin B12.
What Are The Signs of a Vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 powers your central nervous system and fulfills the energy needs of your body. Even though you may be consuming this nutrient through your diet, you may be at an increased risk of developing its deficiency. Up to 80% of vegetarians/vegans have b12 deficiency.
People at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
· People on vegan/vegetarian diets
· Adults over 60 years
· Those who have Celiac disease
· Pregnant and breastfeeding women
A deficiency of vitamin B12 causes several discomforting symptoms such as:
· Since the deficiency of vitamin B12 leads to inadequate levels of red blood cells, it leads to poorer oxygen delivery. This in turn causes excessive daytime fatigue.
· Low levels of vitamin B12 lead to a condition known as megaloblastic anemia. This not just leads to large and abnormal red blood cells but also pale and yellow skin.
· Vitamin B12-related anemia may also cause symptoms such as shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat.
· A sore mouth or tongue is also a common symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency.
· You may experience more frequent headaches.
· Depression, panic, and low moods are also common symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
· Low levels of vitamin B12 may also cause gastrointestinal issues like nausea, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
· A sensation of pins and needles in the hands and feet.
· Difficulties in concentration and inability to complete tasks.
· Weakness in the muscles and cramps.
· Problems while balancing your body, especially while walking and standing.
· You may experience problems with your vision due to a vitamin B12 deficiency.
· Men with low levels of vitamin B12 may cause erectile dysfunction.
· Women may experience menstrual issues.
Why Should You Include Vitamin B12 in Your Diet?
Many pieces of research and studies have proved that optimum levels of vitamin B12 in the body reduce your risk of getting several chronic diseases and birth defects. One such study, published in the Canadian Family Physician Journal cites several important reasons why you should include vitamin B12 in your diet:
Helps in the Formation of Red Blood Cells and DNA
Your red blood cells are responsible for transferring oxygen into your body. When healthy, these cells are small and round. When there is a vitamin B12 deficiency, they tend to become abnormally large and oval-shaped. Due to this change in shape, they are unable to move properly through the bone marrow, resulting in megaloblastic anemia.
Optimum levels of vitamin B12 help in producing healthy red blood cells and proper transfer of oxygen throughout your body. This helps keep you energized and allows your body to function well. Vitamin B12 also helps in preventing anemia and its harmful effects on your heart and brain.
Promotes Optimal Brain Function
A deficiency of vitamin B12 may lead to memory loss. It has a direct impact on the neurons in your brain that play a major role in putting you at risk of conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, especially in the case of older adults.
Optimum levels of this nutrient promote healthy brain function and prevent memory-related problems.
Reduced Risk of Macular Degeneration
Taking appropriate levels of vitamin B12 leads to a lowering of homocysteine levels, which lowers your risk of this condition and keeps your eyes healthier for a longer time.
Improves Mood and Prevents Depression
Low levels of vitamin B12 are associated with unregulated serotonin. This chemical has a major impact on your mood and prevents the risk of depression and stress.
When you consume adequate levels of vitamin B12, the serotonin in your body also gets synthesized. This helps prevent mood swings, irritability, and chronic stress. Consuming vitamin B12 is also said to improve treatment outcomes of MDD (major depressive disorder).
Improves Your Cardiac Health
If your body has poor levels of vitamin B12, the levels of amino acid homocysteine may increase. This compound is directly linked to the risk of heart diseases mostly related to circulatory problems. This may lead to fatal and non-fatal heart conditions such as stroke, myocardial infarction, etc.
Improving your levels of vitamin B12 prevents these conditions and keeps your cardiac system stronger for longer.
Makes Your Skin and Nails Healthier
Since vitamin B12 is responsible for cell generation, it helps get you healthier skin, nails, and hair. In the absence of adequate levels of this nutrient, you may experience a host of problems. These may include cracked lips, wrinkles, acne, rashes, and more. Your skin may also feel more sensitive to sunlight or personal care products.
Taking vitamin B12 reduces acne, dryness, and inflammation and prevents signs of premature aging.
Reduces the Risk of Birth Defects
Proper levels of vitamin B12 are essential for not just a healthy pregnancy but also the development of the nervous system of the fetus. Lack of this vitamin may cause premature birth, miscarriage, or birth defects such as neural tube defects.
As verified by the Nutrients Journal, low levels of vitamin B12 influence your bone health. It affects the structure of your bones including the bone mass, quality, and the risk of fracture, particularly due to osteoporosis.
Vitamin B12, by regulating the levels of homocysteine, makes your bones stronger and prevents the risk of fractures, especially in older people.
What Is The Appropriate Dosage of Vitamin B12?
Now that you know the benefits of vitamin B12, let’s understand the dosage of this nutrient.
For people over 14 years, the recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg. However, this dosage depends on several factors. These may include your age, lifestyle, and health conditions.
For instance, the needs for vitamin B12 in pregnant women are substantially higher, with the RDI being 2.6 mcg. For breastfeeding women, this RDI increases to 2.8 mcg.
Adults over 50 are more susceptible to vitamin B12 deficiencies and its symptoms. This is where supplementation comes in that can normalize their deficiency.
Vegans, or people who follow a plant-based diet, find it harder to meet their vitamin B12 requirements. They may require almost 6 mcg of this vitamin per day to meet their RDI.
What is the Best Way To Include Vitamin B12 in Your Routine?
When you consume vitamin B12, it binds itself to the proteins in the foods you eat. Here, it combines with a protein known as the intrinsic factor and gets further absorbed in the small intestine.
Foods that are fortified with vitamin B12 and supplements are more easily absorbed than natural food sources.
What Kind of Vitamin B12 Supplements You Should Take?
If you are looking for vitamin B12 supplements, you will likely come across two kinds of supplements. These include:
· Cyanocobalamin: This supplement contains a cyanide molecule and is a synthetic form of vitamin B12. It is only found in supplements.
· Methylcobalamin: This supplement contains a methyl group and is a naturally-occurring form of this vitamin. In addition to supplements, it is also found in food sources like eggs, milk, fish, and meat.
. Cobalamin: This supplement is perfect for vegetarians who miss out on vitamin B12 due to their dietary preferences. It is a blend of superfoods such as wheatgrass, amla, moringa, amla, and beetroot. You can easily find supplements that are 100% vegan and natural without the use of any chemicals, artificial colors, or preservatives.
The main difference between Cyanocobalamin & Methylcobalamin is the way in which they are absorbed and retained in your body. Cyanocobalamin at 49% is said to be absorbed better than methylcobalamin, the absorption of which is around 44%.
However, this absorption depends on factors such as genetics and age.
How Can You Choose The Best vitamin B12 Supplement?
Vitamin B12 supplements can be purchased over the counter and are found in different forms. This includes tablets, pills, and even liquids or sprays.
Here is how you can choose the best vitamin B12 supplement for yourself:
· Ensure that the dosage is according to your needs. Most of the supplements are available in a dosage of 500-10,000 mcg. Talk to your physician about your RDO and buy the appropriate supplement.
· While standard capsules or tablets are available, you may want to consider sprays, sublingual, or liquids. They absorb faster and give better benefits.
· They should be manufactured by a credible seller whose processes have been verified by independent third-party testing organizations.
What Should You Keep In Mind While Taking Vitamin B12?
Here are some things that you need to keep in mind while taking vitamin B12 supplements:
· Never start taking a vitamin B12 supplement before talking to your doctor.
· Talk to your doctor about how to take the supplement to increase its bioavailability. For instance, you may be advised to take it with or without food depending on your needs.
· If you are taking vitamin B12 tablets, don’t crush or chew them. Swallow the tablets whole to gain maximum benefits.
Are There Any Side Effects of Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is water-soluble, which means that any excess amount of this vitamin gets expelled from your body. That’s why its supplements rarely have harmful effects. However, it’s good to know some adverse reactions that these supplements may cause. These include:
· Mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, cramps, or diarrhea.
· Swelling in hands and feet
· Anaphylaxis or swelling of the throat, face, and tongue accompanied by difficulty in breathing.
In case you happen to see any of these side effects, seek emergency medical care immediately.
The Bottom Line
Vitamin B12 is a critical nutrient that prevents several diseases and deficiencies and helps you lead a wholesome and productive life. Keep a check on your symptoms of deficiency of this nutrient and consult your doctor before starting its supplementation.