6 Vegetarian Foods that are rich in Vitamin B12
We all have heard of the incredible importance of Vitamin B12 in the healthy functioning of several bodily functions such as the formation of red blood cells, and proper brain and nervous system development, ensuring optimal health.
Indeed, a Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to myriad physical and mental problems such as unexplained weight loss, constipation, depression, anaemia, dementia and even memory loss. Undoubtedly, Vitamin B12 plays an indispensable role in a person’s health. The daily recommended intake value for Vitamin B12 has been pegged at 2.4μg per day, and if you aren’t consuming this much of the vitamin through your daily diet, your health is indeed in jeopardy.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
B12 brings with it several health benefits. Some of the important ones include:
- It helps in the formation of red blood cells
- It helps protect the nervous system
- Vitamin B12 is an essential ingredient in the synthesis of DNA material
- It is an excellent nutrient in helping maintain a healthy brain development and thereby the memory
- they are a storehouse of energy
Unfortunately, Vitamin B12 is primarily available in animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy products, placing vegetarians in the at-risk group for a vitamin B12 deficiency. Resultant- optimal intake of Vitamin B12 is one of the significant nutritional concerns for vegetarians!
Are you wondering then, how vegetarians ensure optimal levels of this Vitamin?
Fortunately for vegetarians, nature provides the answer to their concerns!
A wide variety of plant-based foods come with fortification for this vitamin offering natural (and vegetarian) sources of Vitamin B12. Luckily, the body has an excellent capacity to maintain and store the B12 levels. (Did you know that our liver stores this essential vitamin??)
If you are diagnosed with a deficiency or want to maintain your recommended dietary intake of the vitamin, here are six vegetarian food choices that are rich in Vitamin B12 and can help vegetarians keep their B12 levels and increase their consumption in case of a known deficiency:
1. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast (or Nooch) is one of the highly regarded vegetarian sources of Vitamin B12. A quarter cup of this cheesy-flavoured food is enough to give you almost 290% of your recommended daily dietary value of B12!! What’s more, you also get about 9gm of protein and some iron as well, as a value-add when you consume a cup of nutritional yeast. Just sprinkle some of it onto your popcorn, soup or pasta or add it to your greens.
2. Fortified Cereals
Are you the ‘breakfast cereal’ type? Then, you needn’t go in search of Vitamin B12 food. Your daily bowl of hot, fortified breakfast cereal like a Kellogg’s All-Bran or Oatmeal brings you the right amount of B12 – Yes, from a 30% to a whopping 100% of your daily recommended value per serving! A ¾ cup can add as much as 1.5 mcg (equivalent to ½ cup of grape nuts) of B12 to your diet. What’s even more interesting is that these fortified cereals have high bioavailability (i.e. they needn’t be broken down to be absorbed by the body!) and are hence easy to digest for the body. More B12 power to you! Isn’t it?!
3. Fortified Dairy-Free Milk
For those who are lactose-intolerant, several dairy-free milk variants such as soy milk, coconut milk and the like are readily available in the market nowadays. Surprisingly, though soybeans themselves do not contain B12 naturally, fortified soy milk products can provide a good measure of B12 to your body.
4. Dairy Products
While fortified dairy-free milk can help meet the B12 dietary requirements the body, nothing competes with milk products when it comes to B12. If you are a milk-lover, eating dairy products such as yoghurt, low-fat milk and Swiss cheese can provide you with sufficient values of B12 (0.9 to 1.2mcg) per serving.
Nori, or otherwise known as purple laver, a favourite ingredient in Asian delicacies especially sushi, is a scientifically proven source of Vitamin B12. This algae product commonly available in Asian food markets as a purple-coloured sheet comes with fortification with Vitamin B12, with each serving of 4gm providing the recommended daily requirements of vitamin B-12.
6. Shitake mushroom
Like nori, certain varieties of mushrooms like shitake are also good sources of Vitamin B12. Though like seaweeds and algae, mushrooms too are not very reliable sources of Vitamin B12 (mainly because of the way they interact with the human body), incorporating about 50gm of dried shitake mushrooms in your cooking can help you meet your daily requirements of Vitamin B12. Just beware that do not depend on these entirely for your B12 needs as sometimes (based on your body type), these vegetarian sources of B12 may not cover the base and may still lead to deficiency!
Being a vegetarian does put you in an at-risk category, and it is indeed essential to ensure that you are adequately covered for your body’s B12 needs through a healthy and balanced diet. Remember that a B12 deficiency can lead to severe consequences. Do keep these vegetarian sources of Vitamin B12 in sight (and in your diet!) to remain healthy.