Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is found naturally in animal products, making it a nutrient that can be hard for vegetarians and vegans to get enough of. (However, some fortified foods contain added vitamin B12, as well as available from vitamin B12 supplements.) This vitamin is bound to protein in food and requires gastric acid and enzymes in the stomach to release it into its free form. Intrinsic factor, released by cells in the gut, attaches to the free vitamin B12 to allow for absorption! Individuals who have gastrointestinal diseases, gastrointestinal surgeries, or are elderly may have reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12.
Benefits of Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B12 is used along with other B vitamins in important cell processes like making DNA and important body proteins.
- Is involved in making red blood cells. Without enough Vitamin B 12 over time, one can develop anemia, fatigue and weakness.
- Adequate vitamin B12 is needed for a healthy nervous system.
- Vitamin B12 is also important during pregnancy for healthy brain and nervous system development of the baby.
Food Sources of Vitamin B12
- Milk and alternative dairy products like fluid milk, cheeses like Swiss or cottage cheese
- Meat and alternative products like beef and chicken, especially organ meats like liver
- Fish and seafood like mackerel, herring, clams, or oysters
- Fortified products such as vitamin B12-fortified soy or almond milk
Did You Know?
Since individuals following a strict vegan diet do not consume animal products, they can can have trouble getting enough vitamin B12. Not to worry as many milk alternative beverages, breakfast cereals, as well as nutrition yeast and yeast extracts are fortified with vitamin B12.