Vitamin B12 may not be so easy to come by for vegans. It is an important vitamin that should be a part of your diet. So, it’s best to get vitamin B12 sources for vegans from fortified foods.
Why don’t Vegans Get B12 in Their Diet?
B12 is found in the soil. Animals graze and ingest much of that soil, thus taking in this important vitamin. Meateaters then get the vitamin from the animal, so the animal is like the middleman here.
Interesting fact: a vitamin B12 deficiency is found not only among vegans, but also among non-vegans.
Well, here’s the thing about cows and other animals used for human consumption; I mentioned grazing as the method for them to ingest vitamin B12, but … animals at factory farms don’t eat grass and they certainly do not go outside to graze. The majority never even see the sun until the day they are loaded on the truck that drives them to the slaughterhouse.
Factory farm animals are fed corn, wheat, and soy that comes from intensive industrial farming where lots of pesticides are used. The animals eat those pesticides too, and pass them on to the humans who eat them. So, they do not ingest any B12, nada …
This is why the middleman does not deliver the expected vitamins.
Going Back in Time
Nowadays most of the soil is ridden with fertilizers and pesticides, killing off all nutrients, including vitamin B12. In past times, before the Industrial Revolution, the soil did not suffer from so many human made poisons, so even people who ate little to no meat got a good intake of vitamin B12.
- The vegetables they farmed had soil on the roots or stems when they were pulled out, and before preparation they were not as meticulously desinfected as they are nowadays, leaving that healthy soil on the plant ==> B12
- Water was not polluted yet. People often drank brownish water from a river or from a well – yes, I know, it looks dirty and not like something you would drink. That brown or dirty color was due to soil in there, and that soil provided ==> B12
Where to Find Vitamin B12?
There are several options. You can find B12 in fortified plant-based milks, such as almond, rice, soy, nut milk, and others. It is important to note that not all plant-based milks have this vitamin. Always read the ingredients on the box to make sure that it is included.
Some meat substitutes can also provide this vitamin, but please check the labels on the package to make sure it is there.
Nutritional yeast is an excellent (and delicious) source of vitamin B12. It’s actually not like the yeast that you use for baking. It’s used for cooking and frying (and salty bakes). It adds flavor to many dishes, and it is great for pasta sauces, pizza, and cheese sauces. Nutritional yeast has a yummy cheesy flavor.
Vegan spreads and breakfast cereals can also have vitamins B12 in their ingredient lists, but just make sure to doublecheck.
And beer is another great source for vitamin B12. I know, I just gave you another excuse to open a bottle of beer 😉 Not every beer will have vitamin B12, but many do, and even if they don’t, they are still a rich source of B vitamins. Vitamin B2, for example, increases during the brewing process.
Supplements are another good way to get B12.
Why is Vitamin B12 Important?
It is essential for many reasons. A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause the following symptoms:
- nerve damage
- weakness, fatigue
- blurred vision
- difficulty walking
- problems with the digestive system
- a sore tongue or mouth ulcers
- feeling faint or dizzy
- mood swings
- a decline in memory, judgment, and understanding
- pale skin
- loss of appetite
- ringing or buzzing in the ears
It is best to see a doctor when you’re having some of these symptoms, so that he or she can determine if this is caused by a lack of vitamin B12 or if there is another reason. These symptoms could also be linked to other causes, so that is why it is recommended to see a professional. Remember, the doctor knows best. 😉
Including a healthy amount of vitamin B12 in your diet can bring the following benefits:
- formation and division of red blood cells, and anemia prevention
- it gives you an energy boost
- protecting the nervous system
- may benefit your brain by preventing the loss of neurons
- may improve mood
- may prevent major birth defects
- may support bone health and prevent osteoroposis
- may reduce the risk of macular degeneration
- may improve heart health by decreasing homocysteine
- supports healthy hair, skin, and nails
Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that is necessary for your health. Fortunately, there are several ways to obtain it, also in a plant-based diet. If you are not vegan, please make sure you still get a healthy intake of vitamin B12, since meat isn’t always a guaranteed way to obtain it. In fact, why not cut out the middleman and get straight to the natural source? 🙂
Let me know in the comments below if you have any more questions.