Findings foods high in vitamin B12 can have major benefits for improving your mood and energy levels. Read on to learn how to pack plenty of B12 into your day!
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What is the B12 Buzz All About?
Vitamin B12 serves many extremely important functions in the body. For instance, it is involved in the most fundamental bodily processes, such as forming red blood cells and DNA and developing the cells in your brain and nerves (Smith et al., 2018).
The close ties between vitamin B12 and red blood cell formation is why B12 has been linked to energy levels (because it prevents anemia).
In addition, B12 helps your brain produce serotonin. This makes it an especially important vitamin for mental health. For this reason, people with low levels of B12 are more likely to be depressed or anxious. However, supplementing with a B12 vitamin has been scientifically shown to improve depressive symptoms (Almeida et al., 2015).
Also, Vitamin B12 has also been associated with decreased risks of dementia, macular degeneration (an eye disease), and certain pregnancy complications (e.g., low birth weight, miscarriage).
Symptoms of B12 Deficiency
Increasing the amount of B12 you consume is especially important if you are experiencing symptoms that may be caused by a B12 deficiency. This is because being deficient in B12 means that your body does not have enough of this vitamin to effectively complete the processes B12 is involved in.
Between 3-20% of individuals are at least marginally deficient in vitamin B12. However, this number is even higher for certain groups of individuals. For example, this condition impacts up to 40% of Latin American individuals and 70-80% of persons living in African or Asian countries (Allen, 2009).
Here are the main signs of B12 deficiency that you may notice:
- Changes to mood, such as irritability, apathy, or depression
- Decreases in energy levels, making it feel like it is harder to get through your tasks each day
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Pale skin
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty walking or maintaining a normal gait
- Dizziness and/or shortness of breath
In addition to the physical consequences of B12 deficiency, the potential psychological consequences on your energy and mood are particularly concerning. If you ever feel like it is difficult to follow through with tasks you have planned, including tasks related to healthy eating or activity, there may be a biological cause like B12 deficiency.
Remember, the only way to actually be diagnosed with a B12 deficiency is to speak to your doctor.
Foods High in Vitamin B12
There are many delicious foods that contain vitamin B12. So, pick one of these foods you don’t usually eat and plan a meal around it this week! Or, if there are foods on this list you already eat, you can consider increasing your portion sizes.
You’ll notice that all of the foods on this list exceed (or greatly exceed!) the recommended daily intake set by the FDA (currently 2.4 mcg). This is because these thresholds are low. But, the science shows that the optimal levels are much higher, especially if you have signs of a deficiency (Langan & Goodbred, 2017). So, don’t be afraid to consume many of the foods on this list! Plus, any extra vitamin B12 that exceeds your body’s needs is either stored in your liver for future use or simply excreted through urine.
The List: Foods High in Vitamin B12
- Clams: >7000% of your daily B12 needs in just 20 small clams! Grill them up and dip them in lemon juice for a delicious (low-calorie) appetizer!
- Animal organ meats, like liver: >3500% of your daily B12 needs per serving (if you’re hesitant, find a good chicken liver pâté recipe like this one!)
- Sardines: >500% of your daily B12 needs per serving
- Beef: >450% of your daily B12 needs per 3.5oz serving
- Tuna: >450% of your daily B12 needs per 3.5oz serving
- Trout and salmon: >200% of your daily B12 needs per 3.5oz serving
- Eggs: ~50% of your daily B12 needs per two eggs (the nutrients are in the yolks, so don’t skip out on them!)
- Milk and dairy products: ~25-50% of your daily B12 needs in a serving of whole milk or ounce of cheese
Did you know that foods can vary drastically in their vitamin content based on their source? And, this is especially true for meat and seafood. For this reason, you will get the most out of your meals by choosing grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish. My go-to recommendation for where to buy these foods is Crowd Cow. This is because they adhere to the highest standards of food quality. And, you can truly taste the difference! Learn more by clicking the banner below!
Should I Take a B12 Supplement?
If you notice the signs of B12 deficiency described above, then you may benefit from taking a B12 supplement. Again, please also speak with your doctor about any symptoms of B12 deficiency you experience.
In addition, if you are on Metformin, you have a medically increased risk for B12 deficiency. As such, you may need to take a supplement.
There are way too many supplements on the market, and they can also be expensive. So, don’t waste your money on supplements that haven’t been both science-backed and quality-tested.
Because of these standards, I have two picks for vitamin B12 supplements that I highly recommend (including the one I take every day).
Pick #1: Methyl-Guard by Thorne Research
Thorne Research makes bioavailable vitamins. In other words, these are the easiest forms of the vitamin for your body to absorb. This means you’ll always get the greatest benefit from their supplements. Importantly, the key to a high-quality B12 vitamin is to look for methylated B vitamins. This is because methylated B vitamins are ready to be absorbed and used by your tissues. So, your body doesn’t have to work hard to break down the supplement (and inevitably lose some of the nutrients in the process).
Methyl-Guard by Thorne Research contains an array of B vitamins, including the bioavailable forms of B6, folate, riboflavin, and (of course) methylated B12. It is truly the perfect B vitamin to supplement with.
Vita Living is kindly offering my readers 5% off their first purchase by clicking the banner below!
Pick #2: Methyl Balance by Klaire Labs
Similar to Thorne Research, Klaire Labs prioritizes the cleanest ingredients and bioavailable versions of vitamins. Methyl Balance by Klaire Labs has the exact same ingredients as Methyl-Guard by Thorne Research but in a slightly lower dose (e.g., 1 mg of methylated B12 compared to 1.2 mg).
I take Metformin to help with my symptoms of PCOS, and my doctor directed me to start supplementing B12 to avoid a deficiency. I personally take Methyl Balance every day and chose this slightly lower dose because my symptoms of B12 deficiency were mild. My most significant complaint was fatigue (and sometimes irritability).
I have had an incredible response to taking the Methyl Balance and plan to continue it for as long as I’m on Metformin. For example, my midday fatigue has disappeared, and I have markedly improved energy levels and patience.
Dr. Schulte’s Summary
Vitamin B12 is involved in your most essential bodily processes and can have a major impact on your mood and energy levels. So, everyone can benefit from including plenty of vitamin B12 in their meals. This is especially true if you have symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, such as irritability, fatigue, or lightheadedness. You can increase your levels of B12 by eating more foods rich with this vitamin, such as liver, fish, beef, and eggs. Supplementing with a high-quality, bioavailable source of vitamin B12 like Methyl-Guard or Methyl Balance can give you noticeable improvements in symptoms of B12 deficiency.
Which of the foods high in vitamin B12 are you going to try this week?
Allen, L. H. (2009). How common is vitamin B-12 deficiency?. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(2), 693S-696S.
Almeida, O. P., Ford, A. H., & Flicker, L. (2015). Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials of folate and vitamin B12 for depression. International psychogeriatrics, 27(5), 727-737.
Langan, R. C., & Goodbred, A. J. (2017). Vitamin B12 deficiency: recognition and management. American family physician, 96(6), 384-389.
Smith, A. D., Warren, M. J., & Refsum, H. (2018). Vitamin B12. Advances in food and nutrition research, 83, 215-279.
Disclaimer: all opinions are my own and are not affiliated with my employers. Please seek medical guidance before pursuing weight loss or making significant changes to the way you eat or your physical activity routine.