You need vitamin B12 for a healthy body and mind, and these foods will give you a good dose of it.
People often wonder how macronutrients such as protein, fibre and carbohydrates contribute to a well-rounded, balanced diet. You might also take essential minerals such as iron and vitamin C into consideration. But there is another, often-overlooked nutrient that we need to be sure we get enough of: vitamin B.
Vitamin B, and particularly vitamin B12, is essential to the healthy functioning of our bodies, being responsible for the creation of red blood cells, the maintenance of our nervous systems and extracting energy from the food we eat. That’s why it’s nicknamed the ‘energy vitamin’.
If you’re feeling a little fatigued right now (and really, who isn’t?), topping up on vitamin B foods are a great way to go. “Low levels of vitamin B12 can lead to extreme tiredness, a lack of energy and breathlessness, due to the fact that the red blood cells can’t transport oxygen around the body in the right way,” says Catherine Rabess, registered dietician and specialist in digestive health.
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. “While this is great news, they are more at risk of a B12 deficiency.”
Luckily, there are foods we can eat to boost our levels – even if you are plant-based.
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 70mg per 100g
- Liver – chicken liver contains around 49mg 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
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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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).