Eating a plant-based diet has so many benefits for your health. It is void of cholesterol, saturated fat, and many other harmful compounds that are found in meat and dairy products.
However, when eating a vegan diet, it’s important to know which vitamins you will need to pay closer attention to. Perhaps the most important vitamin that vegans need to consciously consume is vitamin B12.
Is It Necessary?
When I first went vegan, I didn’t like the idea of getting vitamins artificially. I thought, “If I need to artificially get B12, then this obviously isn’t the ideal/natural diet.”
However, I knew I wanted to stick with a plant-based diet and I knew the necessity that B12 plays in our bodies. In fact, not getting enough vitamin B12 can lead to severe health consequences such as anemia, neurologic problems, and blood diseases.
So, it’s pretty important.
I learned in all of my nutrition classes that vitamin B12 was only found in animal products.
Turns out, that’s not so true.
Humans actually do make B12 in the gut, but it is so far down our intestinal tract, that we’re not able to actually absorb it.
Yes, B12 is primarily found in meat and dairy, but that’s not because animals naturally make B12.
Where Does B12 Actually Come From?
Vitamin B12 is actually made by bacteria in soil. When, for instance, a cow, starts munching on some grass (and soil), the bacteria start to ruminate in their gut.
However, most animals are factory farmed and don’t have access to grass. Animal farmers instead fortify the grain that they are feeding their animals.
When I first learned about this my mind was blown. Here I was thinking I had to eat animals because I didn’t want to consume artificial B12, yet all the animals were getting fortified food with artificial B12!
Of course some may still think that getting this vitamin from animals is better, but it comes with a lot of other negative consequences such as high levels of cholesterol and saturated fat.
Consuming B12 from a supplement or fortified food is healthier and more effective, since humans are able to absorb more of the vitamin from a supplement.
Supplement vs. Fortified Foods
You can get vitamin B12 from a supplement or fortified foods. However, if only relying on fortified foods, you must ensure that you are consuming enough. Most foods fortified with B12 contains around 25% per serving. So if you are consuming a fortified food for every meal, then you will most likely reach your recommended daily intake, which is 4-7 mcg per day.
Some foods fortified with vitamin B12 are:
- Non-dairy milk
- Nutritional Yeast
- Breakfast cereal
- Vegan “meats”
I personally recommend getting B12 via supplement because it is more effective, efficient, and ensures that you are getting the proper amount.
Humans needs about 4-7 mcg of vitamin B12 per day.
You can either take a 2,500-5,000 mcg supplement once a week or… you can take a 250 mcg supplement every day (if you want to make a daily habit out of it).
That is why people are able to take a 2,500 mcg supplement once a week. The excess is stored away and used up for future use.
If you want to know more about the science behind vitamin B12 absorption and how it works, then I suggest watching Dr. Greger’s short and informative videos on the subject.
As you can see, getting vitamin B12 is safe, easy, and effective. It doesn’t come with any negative nutritional consequences like animal products do and it is pretty cost effective (costing you just pennies per day).
I personally like taking the 2500mcg B12 once a week. Sometimes I forget, but I always try to get back on track when I can. Eating a vegan diet is so good for your health, but this is one aspect of the diet that can’t be ignored and can easily be supplemented.
Let me know if you have any success taking B12 supplements! Do you prefer the supplement or fortified foods? Everyone is different, so it’s important to find a way that works best for you.