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Everything You Want to Know About B12

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Why is everyone up in arms about vegans and the necessity of b12? Well, ignorance is a good answer. Propaganda, another. It’s become the new “how do you get your protein” defense, so read on and bulk up your nutritional knowledge.

What is b12?

One of eight of the family of b vitamins, b12 or cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin. It’s role is in the formation of red blood cells, and maintaining the normal functioning of our brains and nervous systems (read: important). Plants, animals, and humans are not capable of producing the vitamin, only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes that allow it. Some foods are speculated (seaweeds) to be a natural sources of B12, others have been produced industrially to include it.

Why should people be concerned about it?

Other than the whole brain and nervous system upkeep part? Well, it can affect your mood. Many people who are b12 deficient describe a “cloudy” or “fuzzy” fog to their mind when dipping low. Other studies link the deficiency to symptoms of depression, or memory loss. You’re not going to drop dead without it, but you might not feel as good as you possibility could if you avoid it. A combination of having difficult digestion from inadequate stomach acid and not ingesting enough b12 is often the recipe for problems.

Do vegans need more b12 than meat-eaters?

Of course vegans don’t need more! There’s just a huge emphasis on vegans needing b12 because without seeking it out, it’s not a part of our diets. You see, meat eaters get it from eating animal products (meat, eggs, and dairy), where the bacteria comes from the animal’s intestines or from their diet. Vegans, obviously, have it find it elsewhere.

Okay, how much do we need and how do we get it?

Obvious disclaimer: speak to a medical professional to understand what you personally need, but the recommended daily amount of b12 for adults without deficiency is 2.4 micrograms. Some folks, like The Vegan RD, believe 4-7mcg is a stronger figure. That’s approximately two servings of foods that are fortified with b12 daily, with each serving at 2-3.5mcg. When recommended, some people will take one 1,000mcg sublingual or chewable tablet twice a week, or one 25mcg tablet a day. Just be sure to find a brand that is vegan – some supplements have sneaky animal ingredients. Check out these brand recommendations.

Which foods are typically fortified with b12?

Fortified foods include; faux meats, non-dairy milks, cereals, and much more.  The easiest way to get b12? Nutritional yeast! You shouldn’t need a reason to sprinkle that goodness on everything and anything. Start looking at nutrition labelling, you’ll end up spotting it in all sorts of processed vegan foods. 

How can I find out if I’m deficient?

See your favourite health care practitioner; a GP, a naturopath, or a dietician. Tests can be done to monitor your b12 levels, and test your digestion and liver function (where b12 is stored). This goes for vegans and meat-eaters, who are both susceptible to deficiency. A staggering 40% of the world is already deficient. It might be a matter of not efficiently absorbing b12 rather than just not getting enough, or a combination of the two. This is when a sublingual tablet or injection (of 100 -1,000mcg of b12) could be recommended to you.

As a vegan, you get a lot of people’s two cents on your health. I recommend taking the time to learn about your own body, and your own needs. Don’t take supplements because you know another vegan who does, or because a meat-eater has told you that you need to. Just like not getting enough calcium or vitamin c, b12 is one in a list of many, many things we humans have to work hard to balance in our complex systems. When someone says “where do you get your b12,” blow a little nutritional yeast in their eyes and run away. Oh, and try to remember all the good a healthy vegan diet does.

Want to keep learning about b12? Vegan Health is a great resource.

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