The Top Vitamin B12 Rich Foods + Recipes
Why is Vitamin B12 important? How much do you need each day? What do deficiencies look like? Which foods and recipes contain it?
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 (also known as Cobalamin due to its cobalt content) prevents pernicious anemia. This was discovered in 1926 by Drs. George. R. Minot and William. P. Murphy. It was first isolated from liver extract in 1948 and was identified as a bright red, cobalt-rich crystalline compound. It is the most structurally complex of all the vitamins. Cobalamin is one of the most important B vitamins. It works with folic acid (Vitamin B9) in many body processes. Vitamin B12 works to reactivate folic acid, so if B12 is deficient then it is likely that B9 will also be deficient. It occurs in two main forms – hydroxocobalamin and cyanocobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is converted in the body to methylcobalamin or adensoylcobalamin by the removal of the cyanide molecule. Methylcobalamin is the most active form.
Administering vitamin B12, in the form of injections, is often reported in the press as being the most effective method. In fact this is not essential. Oral administration of vitamin B12, even in the absence of intrinsic factor (an important protein that enables the absorption of vitamin B12) results in effective elevations of the blood level of B12.
Vitamin B12 mainly occurs in animal products. Since this is so, deficiencies in the diet of vegans and strict vegetarians may cause them to develop pernicious anemia. Vitamin B12 (unlike other B vitamins) is stored in the liver, kidneys and other body tissues and therefore deficiency symptoms may not appear for months, or years, until its reservoirs in the body are depleted.
Why is Vitamin B12 important and what does it do in the body?
Vitamin B12 or cobalamin is essential for the body’s healthy metabolism and the function of all cells. It helps form red blood cells in the bone marrow and promotes growth and appetite in children. It is vital for the maintenance of a healthy nervous system and for brain function including memory, learning ability and balance. It assists in the function of iron, vitamin C, vitamin B5, folic acid and choline. It can also support regular menstruation and prevents postnatal depression. It is used in supporting the synthesis of DNA and the myelin sheath surrounding each nerve cell and fibre. The myelin sheath is similar to the plastic surround on an electrical wire and it allows the nerve signal to move along its electrical circuit.
Both vitamin B12 and folic acid are what are known as “methyl donors” which support the body in many positive ways especially in reducing homocysteine (an amino acid linked to possible cardiovascular disease), increasing energy metabolism and immune and nerve function. It has also been used to improve asthma and reduce sulfite sensitivity as well as to help symptoms of depression, diabetic neuropathy, low sperm counts, multiple sclerosis and tinnitus. It is also involved in increasing the secretion of melatonin which supports our sleep patterns.
What amount of Vitamin B12 do you need each day?
Vitamin B12 or cobalamin can be found in multivitamins and B complex vitamins, or sold separately. It is available via injections but oral administration of 100-250mcg results in approximately 1.2-3.0 mcg being absorbed (approx 1%). Studies showing oral intake of 500mcg led to the lowest level absorbed as 1.8mcg (0.3%). To improve absorption it should be taken with calcium. Normal thyroid function helps with the absorption of B12.
The DRI (Daily Recommended Intake) /RDA (Recommended DailyAllowance) of dietary vitamin B12 are listed below:
Please Note: By definition, theDRI/RDA recommendations apply only to 98% of healthy individuals and are not sufficient for those with higher nutrient requirements based upon their biochemical individuality, genetics, health status, medications, deficiencies, lifestyle, and toxic exposures.
Daily intakes ofdietary vitamin B12 are listed below;
- Newborns - 6 months: 0.4 mcg (adequate intake)
- Infants 6 months - 1 year: 0.5 mcg (adequate intake)
- Children 1 - 3 years: 0.9 mcg (RDA)
- Children 4 - 8 years: 1.2 mcg (RDA)
- Children 9 - 13 years: 1.8 mcg (RDA)
- Teens 14 - 18 years: 2.4 mcg (RDA)
- 19 years and older: 2.4 mcg (RDA)*
- Pregnant women: 2.6 mcg (RDA)
- Breastfeeding women: 2.8 mcg (RDA)
*Because 10 - 30% of older people may not absorb B12 from food very well, people over 50 should meet their daily requirement through either foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a supplement containing B12.
Recommended Daily Allowance: 2mcg/Day
Optimal Daily Allowance: 25mcg/Day
What are possible Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) deficiency conditions and symptoms?
Pernicious anemia – where the body cannot make enough red blood cells
Homocysteinemia - elevated homocysteine levels may be associated with coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis (increased fatty deposits in blood vessels)
Macular degeneration – severe vision loss
Diabetic neuropathy – this may present as numbness oraltered sensation to the fingers/toes feet and hands or as visual and kidney problems
Low monocytes (a form of white blood cell)
Red Blood Cell hemolysis
Low sperm counts
Loss of co-ordination, poor balance (Ataxia)
Sharp mood swings
Ringing in ears (Tinnitis)
Sleep/Wake disorder and insomnia
Sore tongue or mouth
What are possible Vitamin B12 excess symptoms?
No side effects have been identified even on mega dose regimens.
What steals or depletes Vitamin B12 from the body?
Anti-Hyperlipidemia drugs such as bile acid sequestrants such as Cholestyramine (Questran) and Colestipol (Colestid).
Anti-seizure drugs such as Phenytoin (Dilantin), Carbazepine (Tegratol), Primidone(Mysoline)
Anti-rheumatic drugs such as Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)
The use of broad spectrum antibiotics such as Amoxicillin,Vancomycin and Augmentin.
Anti Diabetic drugs such as Metformin (Glucophage)
Antacid drugs such as H-2 Receptor antagonists such as Cimetidine (Tagamet), Famotidine (Pepcid), Nizatidine (Axid) and Ranitidine (Zantac) and proton pump inhibitors such as Omeprazole (Prilosec), Lansoprazole (Prevacid)and Rabeprazole (Aciphex).
Note: The use of Potassium chloride may alter the acidity of the intestine which may decrease absorption.
What tests can be used to assess Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin levels?
Elevated Homocysteine in plasma (>9.8nmol/ml suggests B12 deficiency)
Homocysteine in urine (>25ug/mg creatinine suggests deficiency)
B12 in serum (<150pg/ml suggests deficiency)
Methylmalonic acid in blood (>0.4umol/ml suggests deficiency)
Methylmalonic acid in urine (>3ug/mg creatinine suggests deficiency)
What foods contain the highest amounts of Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin?
Top 10 Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) rich foods are:
1. Cooked clams 98.9mcg/100g
Recipe: Steamed Garlic Clams
2. Liver 83.1mcg/100g
3. Rice bran 20mcg/100g
Recipe: Gluten-Free Rice Bran Muffins
4. Mackerel 19mcg/100g
Recipe: Paleo Pan Fried Mackerel
5. Herring 10mcg/100g
Recipe: Homemade Pickled Herring
6. Sardines 8 mcg/100g
7. Egg yolk 2.0mcg/100g
8. Beef 6.0mcg/100g
Recipe: Beef Shawarma Bowls
9. Lamb 5.2mcg/100g
10. Eggs 2.0mcg/100g
Recipe: Deviled Eggs
What are the best Vitamin B12 products?
(Avoid cyanocobalamin as a supplement as it has to be converted to methylcobalamin or adensoylcobalamin by the removal of the cyanide molecule).
Beef Bulgogi Bowls
Makes 2 Large Bowls
1 lb. grass-fed rib eye or sirloin steak
2 tablespoons cooking oil of choice
2 tablespoons coconut aminos
2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic
1 tablespoon raw honey or sweetener of choice
2 stems of green onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
4 cups dark leafy greens
2 cups roasted broccoli
3 large carrots, roasted
3 cups cauliflower rice
+ hot sauce (to taste)
= spicy mayo!
1) To make the roasted vegetables, throw frozen broccoli and carrots onto a baking sheet, drizzle in cooking oil of choice, salt and pepper, and roast in the oven at 375F for 30 minutes or so. Remove and set aside.
2) Place the steaks in a large bowl with coconut aminos, minced garlic, raw honey, salt and pepper. Let marinate for 10-30 minutes.
3) In a large skillet, add cooking oil and saute the steaks (along with sauce) over medium high heat or until the steak is medium-well done.
4) Set the beef aside and slice into thin pieces.
5) Using the same pan, heat up your cauliflower rice in the skillet until piping hot.
5) To each bowl, add 2 cups of greens. Top greens with 1-2 carrots, 1 cup roasted broccoli, 1 1/2 cups cauliflower rice, 1/2 lb of steak and chopped green onion. Add a dollop of spicy mayo on the side, sprinkle with sesame seeds and enjoy!
Isabella Grace is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner focusing on toxin-free, natural living to its fullest extent. Her mission is to provide personalized integrative health solutions to create sustainable, lifelong change and enable you to live, love, and serve at your fullest health potential.
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