Vitamin B12 is required for the proper function and development of the brain, nerves, blood cells, and many other parts of the body. It can be found in foods such as meat, fish, and dairy products. As a vegetarian, however, finding reliable sources of vitamin B12 can be challenging. Reputable vitamin B12 supplements or fortified foods are also necessary, especially for those older than age 50—no matter their diet. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause unpleasant side effects such as anemia, nerve damage, heart disease, or pregnancy complications—so it’s not worth taking any chances!
Vitamin B12 is also used to treat memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, boosting mood, energy, concentration and the immune system, and slowing aging. It is also used for treating heart disease, lowering high homocysteine levels (which may contribute to heart disease), male infertility, diabetes, sleep disorders, depression, mental disorders, osteoporosis, swollen tendons, AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, allergies, skin diseases, preventing cervical and other cancers, and skin infections.
So what are some sources for vitamin B12, particularly for vegetarians like myself?
Look for plant milks, yogurts, breakfast cereals, spreads, yeast extracts, and nutritional yeast products that are fortified with vitamin B12. For example, taking 300 ml of fortified plant milk plus 30 g of a fortified breakfast cereal is a good meal to supply vitamin B12 (1.5 micrograms). Alternatively, chew a reliable vitamin B12 supplement to enable you to absorb as much as possible.
The only reliable sources of vitamin B12 on a plant-based diet are fortified foods and supplements. Your body prefers a little vitamin B12 taken often. However, if you find that it is a challenge to get vitamin B12 frequently, a weekly generous vitamin B12 supplement can also protect your health.
Still not sure?
To enjoy the full benefit of your vegetarian diet, either:
- Eat fortified foods with every meal to obtain 3 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day
- OR take one supplement containing at least 10 micrograms of vitamin B12 every day
- OR take one supplement containing at least 2000 micrograms of vitamin B12 every week
Use these helpful tables to learn more about foods that provide calcium, protein, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.
Check food nutrition labels and supplement details to see how many micrograms (also written μg or mcg) of vitamin B12 you are receiving. Make sure B12 is on your radar!