The most controversial vitamin out among them all, quite possibly, vitamin B12 is something everyone must have and must have enough of in order to be healthy. This one vitamin keeps our blood, nervous system, and heart healthy — it even helps make DNA — the genetic makeup of our bodies. It fuels our brain, metabolism, and even affects our digestion and how we absorb food. You might also be aware that it prevents a type of anemia that can cause fatigue and overall low energy. It’s common knowledge that vitamin B12 is found in animal-based foods, primarily meat, eggs, and dairy. However, eating too much animal protein can cause significant inflammatory health problems in the body, not to mention long-term effects of an animal protein-heavy diet prove that we need another answer for our diets in helping ensure long-term health.
Vegans and vegetarians are all recommended to consume a vitamin B12 supplement. It’s non-negotiable but doesn’t signify that a plant-based diet is somehow lacking. On the contrary, due to the abundance of nutrition in the plant-based nutritional realm, the body gets overall more nutrients eating plants than it does typical diets higher in large amounts of animal products. However, vitamin B12 is a nutrient we should all stay on top of when making sure we get enough. Even meat eaters may need to consume it if they aren’t absorbing nutrients from their foods properly or have other health issues interfering with their body manufacturing the vitamin efficiently.
Signs the body is low in vitamin B12 can include:
Lack of energy
Lack of appetite
Ringing in the ears
Feeling out of breath
Why Supplementation is Smart: Absorption Factors
For various reasons, people absorb vitamins and minerals at different efficiency rates from both foods and supplements. Food pairings, malabsorption, genetics, digestive health … so many things can affect how our bodies digest and process the foods we eat and break them down into nutrients. The same goes for supplementation. A person may take many types of vitamins and minerals orally, but if their body can’t use them properly, they’re largely going to waste if they’re not being fully absorbed. This is especially true with vitamin B12 because it’s available in many different forms.
If you were to go to the store and take a look at all the vitamin B12 supplements out there, you’d likely feel a bit overwhelmed. All types of names, dosage amounts, and forms (liquids, tablets, powders) are available. So which ones should you choose and what’s the best option?
Here are 5 things to look for when purchasing your next vitamin B12 supplement:
1. First, buy a supplement, not a fortified, processed food.
Fortified foods often tout that they contain vitamin B12 on a label, but don’t just pick up the package and assume you’re safe. Consuming vitamin B12 through fortified non-dairy milk or a box of cereal may be safe — some may even be slightly effective — but overall, isn’t the smartest option for optimal reliance because these are synthetic (not authentic) sources. This means you could be taking in a less-than optimal form your body can’t absorb as much as it can from a non-synthetic supplement. You also can’t really know if your body is using these the same as authentic sources. Many fortified foods also come with added sugars, oils, food additives, and more that could affect other aspects of your health or possible absorption issues. Since vitamin B12 comes from a living bacteria species in the soil, it’s always smart to choose the best product for your health that you can by choosing a high-quality supplement over fortified, processed foods.
2. Check that it’s vegan.
Next, be sure you’re not taking in vitamin B12 from an animal-based source. Why? Because even if you’re not vegan, taking in animal ingredients within supplement form isn’t a smart choice or necessary. Most vegan brands on the market are even non-GMO, and some are even organic and allergen-free. So be sure you read the back of the label and see if it’s vegan-certified. Remember, you should view supplements the same way you do food: read labels, be smart, and be knowledgeable about what you’re spending your money on (and ensuring your health with).