The Importance of B12 In Your Diet: Vegans, Vegetarians, Omnivores Take Note!
Veganism and Vitamin B12: What Are My Options?
One of the biggest challenges with going vegan is reaching the recommended intake of vitamin B12. This is because vitamin B12 can only be formed as a result of a transformation that occurs within animal products.
Why is B12 intake so important?
1. Nerve function
2. Blood cell health and formation
3. DNA formation
4. Prevention of anemia (less oxygen carried by the blood causing fatigue & weakness)
5. Neurological function
Vegans can be tested for Vitamin B12 status/deficiency by their doctor. But if you have been vegan for a while and have not been taking a B12 supplement, it is likely that your B12 intake is inadequate.
While you may not show “clinical deficiency” in test results, you can ask your doctor to monitor your homocysteine levels, as they should not be elevated.
There are only a few FORTIFIED sources of vegan B12:
1. Nutritional yeast
2. Breakfast cereals
3. Meat analogues (i.e. tempeh)
4. Soy milk
You will have to check to make sure the brand you choose is fortified with B12. Unfortunately, vegan food sources may not be consumed often enough.
Additionally, the food sources may not be ‘bioavailable’ enough to meet your personal needs of B12. Bioavailability refers to the body’s ability to absorb the nutrient.
We all need a consistent B12 intake. So, even if you do opt for a supplement, you need to ensure you aretaking it as directed.
According to the VNDPG (Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group), all vegans should take 250mcg of B12 per day in supplemental form.
Overall, dietitians normally recommend trying to get most vitamin/mineral intake from food sources, but this is one situation where a supplement is highly recommended.