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Shopping List: 5 New Ingredients with Vitamin B12

Posted Oct 25 2012 7:30am

While I had an incredibly awesome weekend of pumpkin picking, relatively longer runs, and ample sleep , there was one thing that was bothering me all day on Sunday — and it wasn’t the fact that the weekend was about to come to an end. As I wandered the Gap in search of their Pure line of tanks and sweaters for fall, my right knee buckled. The shooting pains were back.

Most nutritionists will confirm that, although vitamins serve their purpose, our bodies tend to absorb nutrients more efficiently when they come from real foods. For a pescatarian with low vitamin b12 counts and little access to fish (or at least a bank account that’s conducive to mussels, shrimp and scallops on the reg), this can become a problem.

One defining feature of Scott Jurek’s that I’ve really come to appreciate as I’ve read more and more of his book is his health-oriented inquisitiveness. As a devout vegan, he is constantly hunting for ways to maximize his efficiency both on and off the race course in a manner that’s equally environmentally sound.

Jurek demonstrates this unique ability to question his surroundings – everything he’s come to know — and to then pursue the answers he is looking for. This attribute is something I have always lacked. Call me lazy. Call me apathetic. But when I’m faced with a personal issue, like shooting pains in my legs, I’m pretty quick to gloss over it and move on to the next ailment that plagues me.

It’s been a similar story with my new-found vitamin b12 deficiency. It’s as though I heard the words come out of my doctor’s mouth, but because it’s not exactly a physically pressing issue (besides shooting pains and whatnot, NBD), I simply resorted to a vitamin bottle and an extra serving of fish once a week. To be honest, before today, I never even looked up which kinds of fish contain the most vitamin b12. Bad blogger. Uninformed blogger! There, a verbal slap on the wrist.

The return of physical discomfort on Sunday served as a bit of a wake-up call.

Stop messing around, I thought to myself, clutching the banister at the Gap. This is your body; this is your health.

Heeding these internal cues, I’ve resolved to spend this weekend shopping for five ingredients that contain high levels of vitamin b12. I’m not saying that I’ll add them to my diet all at once; that’d be aggressive. But if I start small, and focus on simply getting them into my apartment or even the front of my mind, then maybe I can work on actually using them all on a consistent basis.

Here’s what I came up with.

Nutritional Yeast. I know I mentioned briefly last week that I wanted to try cooking with nutritional yeast, but did I actually go out and do it? Absolutely not. Like I said, I’m not exactly proactive when it comes to these things.

After channeling my inner Jurek and reading up on the value of nutritional yeast a bit more, I learned that not all nutritional yeast contains ample doses of vitamin b12 – or any at all, at that. That said, it’ll be especially important to read the labels on different brands of nutritional yeast when adding this ingredient to my cart.

Mozzarella cheese. Five years ago, this would have been a huge issue. Something you should know about me: I grew up hating cheese. But as I got older, my tastes have evolved, and although my parents – the people who tricked me into thinking I hated cheese in the first place – still shy away from anything with even a mild stench, I love this milky product unconditionally. The smellier, the better.

(These guys hate cheese. I love cheese. They still love me. I think.)

Mozzarella cheese, on the other hand, is one of the few kinds of cheese my parents not only tolerate but actually love and served to me as a child. Because of this, I’ve been spoiled all my life with only the best, and so I rarely buy it on my own, knowing that it’ll be so much better when I go back home.

It’s time to reintroduce this delicious, creamy cheese into my diet. One good way will be to use mozzarella on my salads instead of Parmesan (though, apparently Parmesan has low levels of b12 too). Other good sources of vitamin b12-enriched fromage? Feta and Swiss.

Egg Yolks. As a child, I used to steal all of the egg yolks at Passover dinner. (Passover is a Jewish holiday in which hard boiled eggs are served during the pre-meal ritual.) As a health-conscious adult, I’ve trained myself to toss the yellow because it like, clogs your heart or something. (I have a promising future in science.)

Like most non-vegans, I tend to have a carton of eggs sitting in the back of my fridge at any given moment. Now that I’m aware of the value of the yellow center, I plan on actually consuming it much more often – even if it’s a mere 6% of the daily value per yolk. Solution: a massive omelet or bust.

More milk! Maybe I’m lazy, or maybe I’ve just read one too many articles on the detriments of dairy. But when I bring my cereal into the office, I tend to eat it plain; and when I drink my coffee at home, I tend to add in almond milk.

What I didn’t know is that non-fat dairy (and non-fat yogurt) have between 22 and 25% of your daily value of vitamin b12. That’s a lot! Fatty dairy has vitamin b12 too (though not as much). Either way, if I can combine my fortified b12 cereal (which I purchased as soon as I found out about my deficiency) with milk or yogurt a few times a week, I may be able to up my levels without totally offsetting my typically Jewish, dairy-hating stomach. This one will need some experimentation.

One fish, two fish. Among some of the best sources of vitamin b12 are: salmon, shrimp, scallops and mussels. Fortunately, I love fish.

I’m patting myself on the back as we speak for having eaten salmon on Saturday for dinner and Sunday for lunch; apparently, this is one of the best non-meat sources for vitamin b12, and can contain more than 100-percent in a serving.

The problem is that I rarely cook or consume fish outside of my parent’s house, even if I happen to love each of the aforementioned kinds. Yet, while I probably won’t be steaming any shelled aquatic creatures anytime soon in my small Manhattan apartment, simply knowing that mussels are rich in vitamin b12 is enough motivation to make a better effort to order them when dining out.

Noah, one of us is going to need a raise.

  • What vitamin b12-rich foods would you add to my grocery list?
  • Have you ever had a vitamin deficiency that manifested itself as physical pain?

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