Main sources of vitamin B12 of animal and vegetable origin

Vitamin B12 is one of the most important nutrients for the body. It fulfills a wide range of key functions for optimal health, such as energy production and the synthesis of red blood cells, which transport oxygen to the cells. In addition, this B-group vitamin also plays a leading role in the metabolism of the nervous system. This is why the cobalamin deficiency implies that several health problems are generated, such as anemia or different cardiovascular diseases. Thus, knowing which are the main sources of vitamin B12 and, of course, consuming them, becomes an essential.

In the following sections we will explain which are the main sources of vitamin B12, as well as the consequences that the deficiency of this nutrient has for the organism, both in the medium and long term.

Cyanocobalamin or B12 in foods

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We consume this vitamin by ingesting several foods and it is stored in the liver, brain, testicles and other organs, where it can have a life span of between 2 and 3 years. In this way, in simple words, the body is taking that dose of vitamin B12 that it needs at all times, with a more than ample reserve that makes it very difficult to suffer from nutrient deficiency but, at the same time, makes it take us a long time to realize if this happens.

Keeping in mind the sources of vitamin B12 that exist and consuming it responsibly should not be a problem, although it is important to do so with caution and following a varied and healthy diet at all times.

If this is not the case, or if this is not the case, it is also possible to resort to cobalamin supplements, which are nothing more than vitamin B12, created in the laboratory and designed to help in cases where we do not consume, synthesize or store the nutrient properly.

Vitamin B12 deficiency and its consequences

The deficiency of this nutrient, so important for health, is a serious pathology that, if left untreated, can imply a series of medium- and long-term disorders that, in many cases, are irreversible.

The warning signs of vitamin B12 deficiency are many and varied: fatigue and tiredness without apparent cause, increased sensitivity to cold, speech problems, frequent headache, palpitations, dizziness, respiratory difficulties. It is therefore essential to ensure that the recommended daily dose of B12 is taken to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

There are two population groups with a serious risk of vitamin B12 deficiency:

On the one hand, vegans and vegetarians. Foods rich in vitamin B12 are exclusively of animal origin; meat, eggs, dairy… Although it is true that there are some vegetable foods with this nutrient, its amount is very low and therefore does not comply with the recommended daily dose for anyone.

With reference to the data, it is estimated that:

  • 92% percent of vegans or strict vegetarians suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • In the case of lactovegetarians, the percentage is 64%.
  • 47% of the ovolactovegetarians suffer from this deficiency.
  • And 20% of Semi-Vegetarians.

These figures, of course, correspond to the deficiency of this vitamin without taking any supplements; in doing so, things change.

On the other hand, we have those people with a problem in their intestines that causes a malabsorption of vitamin B12 by the body. This is the most common case, but there are many other examples of why, despite taking cyanocobalamin in abundance, reserves are not created in the body.

In both cases, it is necessary to take supplements of this micronutrient, of which we will talk about in later sections.

Natural sources of vitamin B12

Although fortified foods and supplements of this nutrient exist, they are not natural; they are produced in laboratories. It is important to keep this in mind and, as far as possible, try to consume cobalamin naturally in our diet.

Vitamin B12 sources of animal origin

Food sources animal origin vitamin B12

Next we will list those sources of vitamin B12 of animal origin richest in this nutrient.

Meat

  • Liver: Inside meats, the liver contains a lot of cobalamin; it can be taken in the form of pâté or fried, which are the two most common forms. In addition, any animal’s liver is very rich in iron. The liver that contains the most vitamin B12 is lamb liver, 85.7 micrograms per 100-gram serving. Even so, the pork, which is the one we eat the pâté, is also very rich, with about 30-40 micrograms at 100.
  • Beef: Beef or veal is also a very rich food in this vitamin B group. It also contains minerals such as zinc, which helps the immune system’s health, as well as iron. Lean meat contains 2 micrograms per 100-gram serving. Sirloin and beef tenderloin, 13.
  • Lamb meat: One of the best options to provide the body with quality proteins, Lamb meat has a high amount of vitamin B12, vitamin B6, iron, phosphorus and zinc. Contains 3.71 micrograms of vitamin B12 per 100-gram serving.
  • Chicken: Chicken breast is the ideal choice for those who follow a low calorie diet or have heavy digestions because it also offers a great contribution of cobalamin, with 30 micrograms at 100.

Fish

Fish is an indispensable food in a healthy and balanced diet. It is also a very easy food to digest, which is a great plus, especially for older people. It should be borne in mind that from the age of 50, the body begins to assimilate vitamin B12 worse, so it is necessary to consume more food rich in this nutrient. However, older people sometimes do not feel like eating heavy foods such as beef for example. Thus, fish becomes a fabulous choice.

The fish species that contain the most vitamin B12 are fish species:

  • Mackerel: A 25-gram ration of mackerel already has 2 micrograms of cobalamin, which is almost recommended for a day.
  • Herring: Values are similar to those of mackerel.
  • Salmon: A 150-gram serving of salmon provides no less than 10 micrograms. It is also a healthy and complete food that includes the highly beneficial omega 3.
  • Tuna: Natural tuna is similar in vitamin B12 to the salon. Canned offers 3 micrograms at 100. We also emphasize that it is rich in vitamins A and D.
  • Cod: Reducing the contribution to half we have the cod.
  • Sardine: The sardine presents amounts almost equal to those of tuna if we consider the amount of vitamins in general, but if we focus on cobalamin, we find 7.6 micrograms at 85 grams of product. It is also rich in phostore, iodine, selenium and many minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids; ideal in any diet.
  • Fish eggs: Fish eggs are also rich in this vitamin and represent an interesting change so that the diet does not become monotonous.

Molluscs and shellfish

Molluscan shellfish is not a commonly consumed type of food, but it should be eaten from time to time because it has many beneficial health benefits. In addition, certain species are also high in vitamin B12, which helps to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency.

Shellfish with a higher content in this vitamin B group are:

  • Clams: With a contribution of 98.9 micrograms per 100 grams portion. They are also rich in iron, zinc and copper and can be prepared in a wide range of ways.
  • Mussels and oysters: Although with a lower contribution than clams, it maintains a good level of B12.
  • Octopus and crustaceans: They are an extra contribution of this micronutrient although not in high amounts.

Eggs

Eggs are one of the most vitamin B12-rich foods of animal origin. In addition, they contain a lot of nutrients that are essential for the body to function properly: iron, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. In addition, eggs are rich in B1, B2, B3, B9, A, D, E, and of course B12.

It is in the yolk where the eggs concentrate the greatest contribution of this nutrient. The vitamin B12 intake of eggs varies according to the animal of origin.

  • The eggs with the most vitamin B12 are goose eggs; 7.34 micrograms per 100-gram serving. However, this type of eggs are not easy to obtain in our country, and their consumption is not very common.
  • Also duck eggs, 3.78 micrograms per 100-gram serving.
  • And, of course, chicken eggs, the most consumed eggs in Europe, with a contribution of 1.95 micrograms per 100-gram portion.

Milk and dairy products

  • Milk: Milk is a type of food that is consumed almost daily. It contains a lot of calcium, which is extremely beneficial in bone health, especially in young and elderly children. It is also a very rich source of vitamin B12.
  • Cheese: cheese is one of the dairy derivatives with a higher vitamin B12 intake to the body. It is also a food rich in protein, fats, selenium, calcium. Its contribution of this vitamin group B varies depending on the variety of cheese. The one with the highest content is Swiss cheese, 3.34 micrograms per 100-gram serving. It is followed by mozzarella cheese, with a contribution of 2.24 micrograms for each 100-gram serving. Also the Parmesan cheese, 2.12 micrograms per 100 gram serving.
  • Yogurts: It is estimated as an average containing about 12 to 15 micrograms.

Vitamin B12 sources of plant origin

Tempeh source food source plant origin vitamin b12

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As we have mentioned, foods rich in vitamin B12 are only and exclusively of animal origin. There are plant foods that contain this nutrient, but in very low amounts. They are therefore insufficient to provide the body with the necessary daily dose of vitamin B12. In the case of vegetarian diets, it is therefore necessary to assess the amount of eggs and dairy products consumed on a daily basis and whether they provide a sufficient dose of vitamin B12; otherwise, supplements should be taken to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency.

As regards vegan diets, vitamin B12 supplementation is practically compulsory in order to ensure a good state of health; food of plant origin, as well as food fortified with vitamin B12, is by no means sufficient.

Algae

There are several types of algae that are edible. Although algae are not a very common food in Europe, there are certain areas of the world, generally Asian countries, where they have been consumed for thousands of years. Well, there are several types of algae that contain vitamin B12, although, as we have said, in much lower amounts than food of animal origin.

We have, for example, the algae type Laver Green, and, more specifically, the Alga Nori. Its B12 content is 63.6 micrograms per 100 grams of dry product. Also the seasoned seaweed, although they lose most of their vitamin B12 content during its preparation; in the consumption, they provide 71.7 micrograms per 100 grams of dry product.

Therefore, when it comes to taking seaweed as a vegetable source of vitamin B12, the ideal thing to do is to opt for Nori type seaweed. In addition to this nutrient, it also contains provitamin A, iron and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Vegetables

As for vegetables, there are some that contain traces of vitamin B12. Eye, they are simply traces of this nutrient, so they do not satisfy the body’s daily need for this nutrient at all. Some of these vegetables are broccoli, asparagus and soya bean sprouts.

Tempeh

A food that in recent years has gained great popularity in the West. It is fermented soybean and contains a quantity of vitamin B12 of 70 micrograms per 100 grams of product. Within the different sources of this nutrient of plant origin, tempeh is one of the most important sources of vitamin B12.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are another option to consume vitamin B12 from vegetable sources. There are several species that are very popular among vegans and vegetarians. On the one hand, the trumpet of death, with a content of 2.15 micrograms per 100 grams of dry product. On the other hand, chantarella, with a vitamin B12 intake of 2.08 micrograms per 100 grams of dry product.

Vitamin B12 sources for vegans and vegetarians

Fortified foods

Faced with the rise of vegan and vegetarian diets, some companies have opted to create and launch vitamin B12 fortified foods on the market. There is an increasing variety of them, such as soy drinks enriched with vitamin B12 or cereals enriched with this nutrient. Vitamin B12-enriched foods can supplement supplements with this nutrient from vegan or vegetarian diets, but never as a substitute for them.

In addition, when it comes to purchasing this type of food, it is worth looking closely at the ingredients. There are some brands that are being exploited and sold that are supposedly fortified with vitamin B12 that contain only traces of this nutrient and, in some cases, not even that. There have been cases of foods fortified with vitamin B12 that did not contain a single active microgram of this nutrient.

Cultivated land

One of the biggest novelties in the sector is the cultivation of food on land enriched with cobalamin. For the time being, for obvious reasons of health and safety, it is forbidden in Europe to sell food produced from these crops where the idea is to consume them without washing them so that they contain B12.

Supplements

Vitamin B12 supplements are the best solution when it comes to providing the body with the necessary amount of this nutrient. They are indicated for vegan people, who do not consume any food of animal origin; also for vegetarians, depending on the consumption of dairy products and eggs. Vitamin B12 supplements are also indicated for people whose organism does not assimilate this nutrient well, in order to avoid any lack of it. In any case, when taking vitamin B12 supplements, it is advisable to consult a doctor or a nutritionist. In this way, a professional will assess how much B12 your body needs.

Importantly, no vitamin B12 supplement contains animal ingredients.

The following vitamin B12 supplements are available on the market:

  • Pills: These are the most common form of taking vitamin B12 through supplements. Although there are some pills that are taken daily, nearly 100% of people take a single weekly vitamin B12 pill, which contains about 1000 micrograms of this nutrient. However, the pills are not suitable for people whose body does not absorb this nutrient well; patients with this pathology must rely on supplements that enter the bloodstream directly.
  • Injections: Vitamin B12 injections are also available, although they are not common. They are usually recommended for patients with absorption problems of this nutrient in their intestines.
  • Sublingual: it is a very comfortable format, especially for children and the elderly. In addition, the sublingual supplement, like injections, allows vitamin B12 to enter the body directly. Therefore, people with absorption problems of this nutrient can also take this type of supplement.
  • Nasal gels: Like injectable and sublingual supplements, nasal gels put vitamin B12 directly into the bloodstream.
  • Drops: They can be mixed with other drinks, with a dispenser we can add the drops that we need in each drink with juices, milk, water, etc.

Infography: The best foods with Vitamin B12

Infography: The best foods with Vitamin B12

Conclusion on the best sources of vitamin B12

By way of conclusion, it is worth noting that a healthy and balanced diet should take into account the consumption of all the nutrients that the body needs to function properly. Vegan and vegetarian diets are totally respectable, but it should be borne in mind that they do not respond optimally to the body’s needs. Therefore, if vitamin B12 and other vitamins and nutrients present only in foods of animal origin are not supplemented, health disorders can be very serious and in some cases even irreversible. See vitamin B12 supplementation.

We recommend that you always opt for healthy diets in which there is a variety of foods to provide the body with all the nutrients it needs. For example, if a pregnant woman on a vegan diet is deficient in vitamin B12, the consequences can be catastrophic; the chances of premature delivery and malformation of the baby are soaring. The same applies to older people; if an elderly person suffers from vitamin B12 deficiency over a long period of time, he or she runs the risk of losing brain mass and thereby developing certain degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

Therefore, it is necessary to take great care to have good levels of vitamin B12 in the body and to undergo continuous checks. Symptoms of deficiency of this nutrient usually do not appear until 2 or 3 years later. However, during this period of time, this deficiency has already caused different functional problems in the body.

Finally, stress the idea that a healthy diet should include all foods containing essential nutrients. Health is not a subject to be taken as a joke, and we must take special care of it with special care since we are small.

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