Updated May 13, 2020, 3:20 p.m.
Vitamin B12 is an all-round talent among vitamins: it is used for all metabolic processes in the body. However, it occurs almost exclusively in animal foods. Here you can find out how you can meet your vitamin B12 requirements through diet and what vegans should consider.
Vitamin B12: function, effects and needs
Function and effects of vitamin B12
The organism needs vitamin B12 for:
- the energy metabolism
- the function of the nervous system
- the psychic function
- the formation of red blood cells
- the function of the immune system
- reducing tiredness and fatigue
- the cell division
For children, vitamin B12 is essential for the growth and development of the brain and cognitive skills. Zinc and folic acid increase the effects of vitamin B12 in the body, and vice versa, B12 is important so that iron is properly metabolized.
However, the vital nutrient, which is also known as cobalamin, is almost exclusively found in animal products. Those who eat vegan inevitably have an increased need for vitamin B12. But also vegetarian can be deficient in vitamin B12 if they do not eat enough eggs and dairy products from their diet. A one-sided or vegan diet is one of the typical causes of a vitamin B12 deficiency. But also age, pregnancy, chronic illnesses, taking medication, stress, alcohol consumption and Smoke affect the vitamin B12 balance.
Vitamin B12 deficiency and daily requirement
These symptoms can indicate an undersupply:
- pale skin
- torn corners of the mouth
- neurological disorders, e.g. Visual disturbances, problems speaking
- changed body odor
- increased susceptibility to infections
To clarify your needs, you should have your vitamin B12 values checked by a doctor. Using the blood values or a urine test, he can determine whether it is necessary to take high-dose vitamin B12 supplements. The doctor then usually treats the cause of the vitamin B12 deficiency, for example a disturbed B12 uptake due to an intestinal disease. According to current knowledge, taking vitamin B12 does not cause any side effects.
According to the DGE (German Nutrition Society), the daily vitamin B12 requirement is 1 to 4 micrograms. The amount is very small and is easily covered by a balanced diet with foods containing vitamin B12. If there is an undersupply, a vitamin B12 cure can replenish the stores.
Food with a high vitamin B12 content
The easiest way to make up for a vitamin B12 deficiency is through diet. Almost all animal foods contain vitamin B12 in larger or smaller amounts. Vitamin B12 is only found in very small quantities in plants, which is why fruits and vegetables are not sufficient as sources of vitamin B12 – even if they are otherwise considered to be the ideal suppliers of many other vitamins.
Vitamin B12 can be stored in the liver for up to five years. An undersupply therefore often only becomes noticeable after a long time. Whether animal or vegan – build vitamins that contain B12 Food ideally in your meals every day, then you are well equipped with the essential vitamin:
Vitamin B12 in fish
The vitamin B12 requirement can be covered well by fish and seafood, above all
Just 150 grams of herring or a serving of crab salad provide the optimal amount of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 in meat
Vitamin B12 is also mainly found in animal muscle meat and offal:
- pork meat
With food, you can cover your daily needs with, for example, 100 grams of beef, 100 grams of chicken or 20 grams of chicken liver.
Vitamin B12 sources for vegetarians and vegans
Vegetarians can cover their vitamin B-12 needs perfectly through their diet, without having to eat meat and fish against any conviction. Because vitamin B12 is also contained in eggs and dairy products such as cheese, curd cheese and milk, which vegetarians should ideally include several times a week in the menu. One egg, ½ l milk or 2 slices of Emmental cheese a day are usually sufficient.
Even vegans can rely on a few non-animal vitamin B12 suppliers because cobalamin is also in
- Algae like chlorella and spirulina
- Brewer’s yeast
- Grain sprouts, e.g. in quinoa seedlings
- fermented soy products such as miso or tempeh
Unfortunately, the vegan foods are usually not enough to replenish the B12 stores. Here it offers Supplementation through vitamin B12 products, which should best be taken after consulting your doctor. (Tsch)
- Münzing-Ruef, Ingeborg (2000). Course book healthy eating (20th ed.). Munich: Heyne.
- Vitamine.com: “Vitamin B12 – the problematic substance for vegans?”
- Vitamin-B12.de: “Vitamin B12 food”
- My health: “Vitamin B12 deficiency”
Documentation reveals how easy it is to get nutritional supplements on the market. Some of them are not tested, so that even a drug that contains toxic substances would have made it. Preview: Getty Images / iStock