Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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Vitamin B12 deficiency can leave you feeling tired and flat. But, if you eat better, you’ll start feeling better. What foods should you eat to reduce your risk of symptoms? These are four healthy breakfast swaps you can make to start your day with your B12 levels topped up.
What is B12?
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that keeps your nerves healthy, helps your brain to function and assists in producing red blood cells.
Your body doesn’t create B12 on its own, so you need to get this essential vitamin through your diet or from supplements.
B12 is found naturally in meat, dairy and fish products. But if you eat plant-based, or don’t often eat animal products, don’t worry: there are plenty of foods that are fortified with extra B12.
What are the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency?
Many people aren’t eating enough B12 – NICE estimates 20 percent of over-60s are vitamin B12 deficient.
NICE also estimates 11 percent of people who follow vegan diets are B12 deficient.
Not getting enough vitamin B12 can leave you feeling weak and deflated, but sometimes it can take years for the symptoms to present themselves.
Four of the main symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency are:
- Pale and jaundiced skin: This is due to B12’s role in producing red blood cells, not getting enough B12 can leave you looking pale or jaundiced.
- Tiredness: This is also because B12 helps produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body. The inefficient transporting of oxygen leaves you feeling fatigued.
- Pins and needles: A long-term B12 deficiency can cause nerve damage, giving you numb and tingling sensations.
- Feeling breathless and dizzy: B12 deficiency can lead to anaemia as a result of the lower production of red blood cells.
How can I eat more B12 at breakfast?
Breakfast has a well-deserved reputation as ‘the most important meal of the day.’
Well, if you have a B12 deficiency, or if you’d like to avoid developing one, breakfast will become all the more important if you make some swaps for these B12-rich foods.
Here are four breakfast swaps for a B12-rich diet
Swap a bacon sandwich for a smoked salmon bagel
Salmon is not only a delicious breakfast food but is also a super healthy way to start the day.
Salmon is rich in B vitamins as well as omega 3. This high-protein breakfast will also keep you full throughout the morning.
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Swap your regular cereal for a B12 fortified one
This swap couldn’t be easier. Check your chosen brand of cereal to see whether it contains any added B12.
If your cereal doesn’t contain any extra B12, next time you’re in the supermarket pick up a box with added B12.
The milk you have with your cereal will also contain B12, with some studies even suggesting that people absorb B12 better from dairy products.
For those that don’t drink dairy products, many plant-based milk alternatives add vitamin B12 to their milk too. Soy milk is particularly high in B12, so fortified cereal with soy milk can also be a vegan-friendly breakfast swap.
Swap plain buttered toast for Marmite
Whether you love it or you hate it, yeast extracts like Marmite are a great source of vitamins and nutrients.
Vitamin B12 is added to most yeast extracts, check the label to ensure yours contains B12. This is another swap that can work for dairy-free diets too, as long as you use vegan butter.
Swap sausages on toast for eggs on toast
Eggs are another fantastic way to get more B12 in your diet, as well as being really high in protein, keeping you fuller for longer.
Eggs also are one of the few foods that contain vitamin D too, so they’re even more nutritious.
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