12, an essential vitamin, is critical for your nervous system, production of red blood cells, mood—and more.

Who is the mascot for the Energizer battery? A bunny. Not a bumble bee. So what makes you think a B12 supplement is going to get your butt in gear? True, a deficiency will result in lethargy and food cravings, but so will dehydration, lack of sleep, and an apathetic attitude.

Vitamin B12 is a crucial B vitamin that our bodies cannot make so the only way we can meet our needs is to consume it. The average adult needs approximately 2.4 micrograms of B12 each day.

Vitamin B12 is the body’s power grid. It is critical for your nervous system, the production of red blood cells, digestion, mood, and brain function. If you’re not getting enough B12, you might experience “brain fog” which will make you feel like your memory is hazy and you’ll find it difficult to concentrate, but you won’t pass out, experience heart failure, or experience anything that would otherwise put you in immediate risk of death.

Because of the relatively large stores of B12 in the liver—there is enough to last several years. In fact, the onset of B12 deficiency is usually quite gradual. Other symptoms of deficiency include feeling weak or fatigued, constipated, a lack of appetite, yellow skin, anemia, and even depression.

These symptoms are the reason many people confuse vitamin B12 with iron.

Iron is an essential mineral needed by our bodies to form new red blood cells, transport oxygen to our muscles, and keep our immune systems strong.

Like vitamin B12, iron is not made by our bodies so we need to get it from the food we eat. There are two main types of iron: heme iron that comes from animal sources and non-heme iron that comes from plant-based sources. Deficiencies in iron are quite common in women, especially during menstruation or pregnancy.

Vitamin B12 is also involved in the production of red blood cells but unlike iron, it is only found in animal products and fortified foods.

Vitamin B12 is best absorbed, in animal foods. This is because B12 needs the help of protein in order to be absorbed. Beef, fish, eggs and dairy all contain at least one microgram of B12 per serving. Seafood lovers are at an advantage here—a 2.5 ounce serving of most seafood is more than enough. For example, a 2.5 ounce serving of clams contain 75 micrograms, oysters contain approximately 22 micrograms, and trout contains approximately five micrograms per serving.

Vegans are at a real disadvantage when it comes to meeting their daily needs. Foods such as mushrooms and fermented soy products may have traces of vitamin B12, but this is not sufficient to meet requirements.

Fortified breads, cereals, milks, and food products are a popular choice. These packages may claim to contain large amounts of vitamin B12; however, the prettiest packages are often the most deceptive. Fortified foods often come with added sugars, oils, food additives, and more that could affect your health.

Synthetic vitamins can pose absorption problems because the body doesn’t recognize laboratory ingredients as well as real nutrients. If you do choose to supplement, studies show that sublingual (under-the-tongue) forms of vitamin B12 are better absorbed by your bloodstream than tablets

Also, choose a methyl form of vitamin B12 because it stays in the body longer. You require fewer doses, and your body may be able to use it longer for the best benefits. So, while a vitamin B12 shot isn’t your energizer bunny, it is the best brand of battery you can get.

More Inspiration: Here’s a great article on dietary fats.

Author: Jennifer Graham is an OptiMYz writer. She enjoys exploring the relationship between people and food.

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