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Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis in the human body. Deficiency can result in weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, anemia, and neurological symptoms such as tingling in the hands or feet.

Needs and Sources

The recommended daily intake of Vitamin B12 for healthy adult men and women is 2.4 mcg.

In natural foods, vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products. But that doesn’t mean animal products are necessarily the best source of this essential vitamin.

Although it is not found naturally in most plant foods, some brands of nutritional yeast contain vitamin B12, and it is widely added to many breakfast cereals.

However, despite its relative absence in plant foods, vitamin B12 supplementation is not just a vegan issue. Even among animal products, only a few relatively obscure foods contain truly significant concentrations of the vitamin. Aside from fortified foods, cooked clams, beef liver, and wild rainbow trout contain the highest concentrations of vitamin B12. When is the last time you ate one of those foods?

Thus, adequate B12 intake often comes down to consumption of fortified foods and/or supplementation. If you limit your intake of processed foods or just aren’t a breakfast cereal eater, you may want to consider getting your blood levels tested and/or adding a supplement to your daily regimen.

If you think you might be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, the best way to be sure is to get your blood levels tested. While recommended intake values are a useful starting place, it’s always smart to be proactive about your health.

Vegan Supplements

If you do find that your B12 levels are low, there are lots of vegan supplement options on the market in varying strengths and delivery formats.

If you’re interested in taking your B12 in traditional capsule format, Vitamin Code sells a raw, vegan, 1,000 mcg capsule. This highly-regarded brand option is also gluten-free and contains live probiotics and beneficial enzymes.

Sublingual tablets are also a popular delivery format for this supplement. Look for options from DEVA and Source Naturals. The citrus-flavored DEVA tablets are certified vegan and gluten-free, and also contain vitamin B6 and folic acid. The Source Naturals tablets come in a kid- (and adult-) friendly cherry flavor!

If you prefer a B12 lozenge, NOW and Jarrow both make popular supplements. The Jarrow Formulas option is a cherry-flavored, 5,000 mcg lozenge, while the NOW Foods lozenge contains 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12.

Finally, if a liquid or spray delivery is more your style, try NOW Foods liquid B12 complex or Pure Vegan B12 spray. The NOW complex contains several other B vitamins, with a mixture of vanilla and herbs for flavor. The Pure Vegan spray is a quick, simple, unflavored delivery system for pure vitamin B12.

Did we miss your favorite vitamin B12 supplement? Add it to the list via the comments section below!

Image Credit: e-magineArt/Flickr