Vitamin B12 is important for our mental and physical health – but how do you get enough in your diet?
We all know that eating a balanced and varied diet is essential to get all of your nutrients in and have optimal health. But there are some people who might need to consider their vitamin source more than others. For example, in the UK, we struggle to get enough vitamin D in because of low levels of sunlight, so we need to think about spending a little bit more time outside or using supplements.
It’s also important to consider where we’re getting our B12 from, especially if you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. “There are a number of people who are trying to have a more sustainable diet, be flexitarian, eat less meat and dairy,” says Catherine Rabess, registered dietician and specialist in gastro and nutrition support. But with this, they are more at risk of a B12 deficiency, she says.
As B12 is crucial for making red blood cells, keeping the nervous system healthy and releasing the energy from our food, we need to make sure that we eat enough of it for our bodies to function properly. “If you are low in vitamin B12 you can get something called megaloblastic anaemia. That does have a huge role to play in terms of blood and cellular and transport,” says Catherine.
What are the best sources of B12?
We should be aiming for an intake of 1.5mg of B12 a day, Catherine explains. “However it’s only actually found naturally in meat, eggs and dairy products,” Catherine says. According to the NHS, some of the best sources of natural B12 include:
- Kidney – lamb kidney contains around 70 mg per 100g
- Liver – chicken liver contains around 49 mg per 100g, whereas ox liver contains 110 mg
- Red meat – can contain up to 3mg per 100g
- Sardines – 14mg per 100g
- Cod – around 2mg per 100g
- Milk – 200ml contains around 0.8mg
- Eggs – one egg contains 0.6mg
However, that’s not to say that vegans and vegetarians can’t get B12 in their diet. “Plant foods can be fortified with vitamins,” says Catherine. “If you were to have, for example, a breakfast cereal and a milk alternative which were fortified with B12, that would give you a good amount of the vitamin.”
Other plant sources include yeast products: “Marmite and nutritional yeast, which delivers that nutty, cheesy flavour that vegans often miss, are great sources too.”
Some examples of the amount of B12 you can get from vegan and vegetarian diets include:
- Bran flakes – 0.7mg per 50g
- Instant porridge with milk – 1mg per 210g
- Marmite – 0.1mg per 10g
- Fortified nutritional yeast – 2.2mg per 20g
- Fortified soya milk – 0.38mg per 100ml
If you are worried about not getting enough B12 in your diet, talk to your doctor.
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