B12 is a super important vitamin to our bodies. It’s necessary for red blood cell formation, brain function, and DNA synthesis, according to the National Institutes of Health. If you don't get enough vitamin B12, however, the side effects can range from mild to severe.
According to Harvard Health, it starts off mild—such as weakness or fatigue—but eventually intensifies into symptoms like anemia; difficulty walking; numbness or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet; difficulty thinking and reasoning; a swollen, inflamed tongue; nerve damage, and more. Insufficient B12 over time may also lead to dementia, heart disease, and other serious illnesses.
The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults consume 2.4mcg of vitamin B12 every day. B12 is most common in clams, fish, poultry, and red meat. You're especially at risk of a B12 deficiency if you’re vegetarian, if you’ve had weight loss surgery, or if you have a condition (such as Crohn’s or celiac) that interferes with your B12 absorption.
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If you're a vegetarian, vegan, or if you follow a plant-based diet—and you want to up your B12 intake, you can do it without eating meat. Try working these 5 foods high in B12 into your diet to pull it off:
One cup of milk or 8 ounces of yogurt both pack 1.2mcg, or 18 percent of your DV, and an ounce of Swiss cheese has .9mcg or 15 percent of your DV. Snack strategically throughout the day for sustainable energy, and don’t forget to choose unsweetened yogurts for the best health benefits.
A single egg packs .6mcg, or 10 percent of your DV. Whip up an egg-based dish (like our Shirred Eggs With Marinara and Feta or Vegetable Hash With Poached Eggs) once a day for a delicious boost of B12.
Not eating any animal products? You still have options. One of the easiest plant-based sources is actually breakfast cereal fortified with B12 (such as Kashi’s Heart to Heart, Cheerios, or Kellog’s Corn Flakes). They pack 6mcg, or 100 percent of your DV.
This magical powder is a plant-based eater’s dream come true: It’s packed with B vitamins (you’ll get 2.4mcg in a tablespoon—that’s 100% of your DV). Bonus: It tastes like cheese—but it’s made without any animal products. We like to sprinkle it onto popcorn! Just make sure to double-check the label to make sure your nutritional yeast is fortified with B12.
A B12 Supplement
At Cooking Light, we try to encourage people to get vitamins and minerals from whole foods, but sometimes that isn’t always possible. Whether you have a condition that won’t allow you to absorb B12, or you’re following a plant-based diet, popping a supplement is sometimes necessary. You can find B12 supplements online or at your local drug store—just talk to your doctor before starting a new medication (even if it’s OTC), since interactions with other medications can occur.