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Building Blocks of Good Health: Vitamin B12

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Vitamin B12 is important to the support of our immune system, the health of our nervous system and in the production of DNA and red blood cells.  When we are deficient in B12 we experience fatigue, light headedness, heart palpitations and pale skin.  There are two ways we can get Vitamin B12.  The first is from a bacteria in the soil that produces a B12 analogue.  The way most of us ingests this form of B12 is through the animal products we ingest.  When the animal eats vegetation it also ingests the soil and therefore B12.  When we eat that animal we also ingest the B12.  However, the animal comes packaged with lots of things we don't want like saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones and possibly antibiotics.  We could go right to the source and eat plants like the animals do and skip the bad stuff but unfortunately this does not work.  We sterilize our food so much these days that there is a negigible amount of B12 that remains on our plants when we eat them.  The second source is in the intestinal tract.  Good bacteria that live in our large intestines produce B12.  However, we absorb B12 in the small intestines and our digestive tract only works in one direction so this is not a good source of B12 for us either. To further complicate the matter, as we age we secrete less of the intrinsic factor that helps us absorb B12. So how do we get adequate levels of Vitamin B12 and how much is necessary to avoid deficiency?

Top sources of vegan B12 include:nutritional yeast, fortified breakfast cereal, fortified plant milk, fortified rice, fermented foods and mushrooms. We should aim to get 3 servings of fortified foods everyday. However if you are unsure of whether you are getting enough supplementation is recommended in the form of 1000-2500 micrograms 3x/week for most people and everyday for seniors since they are less efficient at absorbing the vitamin.

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