Are You Getting Enough Vitamin B12? Here’s How to Tell

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Feeling tired and low on energy? You might be deficient in vitamin B12. Because this important vitamin can’t be produced by the human body, it must be ingested via food or other supplements. But sometimes it can be a challenge to get the amount you need to maintain optimal health.

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin essential for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. It helps with many functions of a healthy body:

  • Maintaining healthy nerve cells
  • Producing DNA and RNA
  • Producing red blood cells

As well as these important functions, it is one of the eight B-complex vitamins which help the body use fats and protein. It’s needed for healthy skin, hair, nails and eyes. It can even affect immune function and mood: B12 helps produce the mood-affecting substance SAMe, and depression can actually be a sign of B12 deficiency.

Could You Have a B12 Deficiency?

The recommended amount of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms a day for healthy adults. Deficiency is most common among those over 50 and those following a restrictive diet. Here are some signs you might notice if you are low on vitamin B12:

  • Feeling tired, weak; lacking energy
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands, legs or feet
  • Balance problems/difficulty walking
  • A swollen, inflamed tongue
  • Diminished sense of taste or smell

If you are experiencing these symptoms, see your physician. Blood tests will be needed to confirm the condition and to determine appropriate treatment. If you are diagnosed, you will likely be prescribed high-dose B12 pills or supplements, though in mild cases you may just need to make some changes to your diet.

How to Consume More Vitamin B12

Foods that can prevent Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 comes predominantly from animal-based foods such as seafood, meat, eggs and dairy. For this reason, a deficiency can be common among those who follow vegan or vegetarian diets. However, there are other ways to get this important nutrient. Many breads, breakfast cereals or other grains are fortified with vitamin B12. There is even B12-fortified nutritional yeast on the market!

Seafood is a great source of vitamin B12. One serving of Tilapia has up to 31% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12. As well, shellfish like oysters, mussels and clams pack in a good amount of this important vitamin.

Eating a diverse and varied diet is the best way to avoid vitamin deficiencies. While you’re thinking about it, why not check out some quick and easy recipes featuring vitamin B12-rich Tilapia to incorporate into your meals this week?

Photo credits: Soloviova Liudmyla / Shutterstock, Africa Studio / Shuttertock