What is vitamin B12 and why is it so important?
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential water-soluble B vitamin, meaning the body cannot synthesize it on its own and it must be obtained through the diet. Vitamin B12 is a vital co-enzyme that participates in maintaining the body’s homeostasis and plays a crucial role in blood and neurological functioning. Individuals with inadequate vitamin B12 intake are at risk of a deficiency in cobalamin, which may lead to megaloblastic anemia, reduced neurological functioning, and rapid decline of cognitive function. Common symptoms for individuals with a B12 deficiency include low energy, reduced ability to exercise, fatigue, shortness of breath, and more.
What foods are rich in vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 synthesis is limited to anaerobic bacteria i.e. bacteria that do not require oxygen to live. Animals ingest these bacteria, which then remain in their gastrointestinal tracts and become part of their ruminal and intestinal microflora. Therefore, cobalamin is mainly prevalent in animal-based food products such as meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, cheese, and milk. However, the increase in individuals adhering to a vegetarian or vegan diet has led to an increase in the availability of cobalamin supplements as well as food fortification. For instance, soy milk, meatless burger patties, soy-based meat alternatives, etc. are all examples of foods that are commonly fortified with vitamin B12.
The B12 superfood: cricket!
There is one important dietary source of vitamin B12 which we don’t talk about enough here in North America: insects, and more specifically crickets. Crickets are a great source of many important nutrients, including vitamin B12. In fact, crickets contain more cobalamin than lots of animals and animal by-products such as eggs and milk. For instance, crickets contain approximately 7X more vitamin B12 than salmon! In addition, 1 serving (2 tbsp) of Näak cricket powder provides 190% of the vitamin B12 you need each day. Now rest assured, when it comes to cobalamin you don't have to worry about a vitamin "overdose". Hence, crickets are a perfect source of vitamin B12!