You need vitamin B12 for a healthy body and mind, but how can you up your intake?
When speaking about having a well-rounded, balanced diet, more often than not macronutrients like protein, fibre and carbohydrates will come up, as well as essential minerals such as iron and vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin D. 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 absolutely essential to the healthy functioning of our bodies, responsible as it is for the creation of red blood cells and the maintenance of our nervous systems. It also plays a huge role in our psychological health. In fact, its strong links to positive mental health were unpicked by food psychologist and member of the Strong Women Collective Kimberley Wilson, and it is definitely worth revisiting.
“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 transport,” says Catherine Rabess, registered dietician and specialist in gastro and nutrition support.
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, but with this, they are more at risk of a B12 deficiency.
Luckily, there are foods we can eat to boost our levels.
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
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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