Being On Top Of Your B-12 Intake
Posted by Kate W on Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
When I was in middle school, I decided to be a vegetarian for ethical reasons. Against her better judgment, my mom allowed it. Unfortunately, no one else in the family was willing to change their eating habits, so dinners in our home remained meat-heavy. And since I was twelve and didn’t really know how to cook, I had to improvise. I ate a lot of salads and even more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This got boring fast. Worse, because I had such a limited diet, my nutrition suffered. Lots of vitamins that occur naturally in foods weren’t making it to me, because I had such a small scope of foods I could eat. I began to get sick more frequently, and after two years, my doctor insisted that I needed to return to my carnivorous ways.
Now that I’m older and I have become a pretty good cook, I feel more confident in my ability to provide meat-free entrees that still provide most of the nutrition my family needs. However, there are some nutrients that are difficult to get in even the most well-planned vegetarian diets, particularly if those diets also exclude eggs or dairy products. One such vitamin is B-12.Vitamin B-12 serves many purposes. For one, it partners with other B vitamins to help you maintain a healthy metabolism. For people concerned with losing weight, this is integral. Additionally, B-12 deficiency can also affect the nervous system, and cause anemia.
Even if you’re not eating a strictly vegetarian diet, you could be at risk for Vitamin B-12 deficiency. People over the age of fifty often lose the ability to absorb B-12 through food sources, as do people who have had gastrointestinal surgery including gastric bypass (like TV anchor Star Jones) or other weight loss procedures. People afflicted with digestive disorders (including celiac disease and Crohn’s disease) may also have difficulty in absorbing the vitamin. If you suffer general weakness, loss of balance,or numbness and tingling in the arms or legs, you may not be getting enough B-12 in your diet.
So what can you do? If you’re a vegetarian, or if you’re still eating foods rich in B-12 like, meat, dairy, eggs, poultry, shellfish, and fortified foods, such as soymilk, you may want to explore vitamin supplements. Because B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin, your body will take what it needs, and expel the rest. I know now what I didn’t know at age twelve; that eating a balanced diet is important for good health. More importantly, I’ve also learned that supplements can be a great way to fill in the gaps when diet is not enough.
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