Contrary to popular belief. A vegan diet is a very complete and nutritious diet. We get our protein, iron, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, calcium (I blogged about calcium in a vegan diet. You can find it here). However, as with any diet, there is a stickler. This would be vitamin B12.
Before the carnists jump at the chance to say “HA! I told you so!”. I could say the stickler in your diet is cardiovascular diseases that are attributed to the fatty deposits that build up in your blood vessels from the saturated fat in all the meat you eat. You can read more about that here…
Vitamin B12 isn’t made by either animals or plants. It is produced by microbes in the soil. In this day and age, it is hard for us to get this vitamin in our diet. The same applies to meat eaters. This is because millions of years ago, we sourced our diet the same way animals did. We would drink from streams or pull vegetables out the ground and it never occurred to us to wash them. Therefore, we got this vitamin from literally eating dirt.
Now, animals do still get this vitamin from the grass they eat and whatnot. One may assume that as they are eating from the ground and that they are getting this nutrient that it would, therefore, occur in their flesh. Nope, they’re not eating enough to give you your vitamin B12 recommended dosage and most of it is sizzled out of your steak when you fried it. Oops…
So vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, carnists… we’re all subject to a vitamin B12 deficiency.
What happens if you don’t get enough?
Vitamin B12 is primarily supplementing your immune system. Without enough B12, your body won’t be producing enough red blood cells and the red blood cells you do have will be abnormally large and not very efficient. This can lead to some forms of anaemia. This could lead to the following:
- Problems with the nervous system
- Temporary infertility
- Heart conditions
- Pregnancy complications
Pretty scary right? So these are the symptoms you need to watch out for:
- Extreme tiredness
- Pins and needles
- Mouth ulcers
- A sore, red tongue
- Muscle weakness
- Disturbed vision
- Depression or confusion
- Problems with memory, understanding or judgement
I apologise to the hypochondriacs out there. Although tiredness, confusion, memory loss, lack of understanding and judgement is all just part of a regular day for me! I’m taking supplements so those are just character traits, unfortunately…
How to get vitamin B12
The reference nutrient intake per day of vitamin B12 is 1.5 micrograms per day.
You will find that some foods are fortified with vitamin B12 such as yeast extract, breakfast cereals and soya products.
However, experts such as Michael Greger and Michael Klaper say that the cleanest, safest, cheapest and most reliable source of vitamin B12 is in supplements. There is a stigma surrounding supplements that they are “unnatural” and if we’re having to take them, we’re obviously not doing something right.
This isn’t the case. It’s a sad situation that current agricultural practices are wiping out our natural sources of this through sanitation. We could consider this unnatural in itself. This doesn’t just come down to a vegan diet, everyone should be taking a B12 supplement to get their recommended intake.
Which do I use
This is the supplement I take. It says that it “is suitable for vegetarians” but it also applies to vegans as it is free from dairy (and conveniently gluten – if you are gluten-free). This bottle will keep you going with a six month supply and contains 1,000 micrograms of vitamin B12. There’s even an option to have it gift wrapped if that’s what tickles your pickle?
You can find the link to this product here, this is an affiliate link which means we do get a commission from the sale if you were to buy it. But it in no way affects the price of the product: https://amzn.to/2HvHxKb
If You’re Worried About All Your Other Vitamins
You should check out my post on Buddha Bowls! I was curious as to what they actually are. It turns out that they are loaded with vitamins because of all the different fruits and vegetables you use to add colour!
If you’re really, REALLY looking to get a great start to the day, why not check out Amy’s blog on Healthy Vegan Granola too! She has also written a post on where vegans get their calcium. If that’s something you are worried about you should definitely have a look there too.