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Why Every Vegan Needs Vitamin B12
While veganism can be a healthy lifestyle, it’s not without its challenges. Since you’re not getting vitamins and nutrients from the usual sources, you have to be aware of what you could be lacking and how to compensate for it. For example, many vegans find it difficult to consume enough vitamin B12. To get the best results from veganism, vitamin B12 deficiency is a common problem among vegans, (and even a problem in some non-vegans,) that is worth solving.
What does Vitamin B12 Do?
Your blood cells need help reproducing and forming themselves correctly, which also keeps your nervous system functioning. You also need your DNA to synthesize properly to avoid developing mutations. While your body is busy taking care of itself in all these ways, you still need energy to get through your day.
Vitamin B12, a water-based vitamin composed of cobalt, helps with all of this. It enables your blood cells to divide and form normally and stabilizes your homocysteine levels so that they don’t clog your plasma. Your blood can efficiently carry oxygen throughout your body and provide you with energy while protecting and strengthening your nerves. In short, vitamin B12 is indispensable for a healthy body.
As one of the most complex vitamins, it can only be broken down and absorbed into your body with the bacteria in your digestive system. Adults in the U.S. are expected to consume at least 2.4 micrograms of it every day, possibly more for pregnant women. However, some experts suggest that everyone should get even more of it because it’s simply so vital.
Why is Vitamin B12 So Important?
Low levels of vitamin B12 can weaken your nervous system and make you more susceptible to anemia. Without vitamin B12, you could find yourself feeling fatigue, dizziness, having trouble with quality sleep, and maintaining a positive mood.
Along with the possibility of these issues, you may experience more immediately noticeable ailments as well, including the following:
A red, sore tongue
Loss of appetite
Numbness or tingling, especially in the hands and feet
No other vitamins or nutrients can substitute for vitamin B12. Vegans need it as much as anyone else in order to have a healthy body. In fact, there’s little point in the other health benefits that veganism promises if you’re not getting enough vitamin B12. However, it remains one of the most challenging aspects of living a vegan lifestyle.
How Do Vegans Miss Out on Vitamin B12?
Most people get their vitamin B12 from animal products, such as meat, dairy, and eggs. Those who follow a vegan diet, of course, avoid such products. They may not know where to find other sources of B12, and they might not even be aware that they’re lacking it in the first place. It doesn’t help that the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency are not always obvious and could also be symptoms stemming from other health-related issues. Basically, many vegans tend to lack vitamin B12 because they lack information.
In the case of other vegans, it’s more a matter of volume. They may know what to include in a submenu of foods containing vitamin B12, but perhaps they’re not consuming enough of it. After all, although foods like meat substitutes, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, and breakfast cereals all contain vitamin B12, it may be more difficult to get the amount you need with those foods than it is with meat and other animal products. Additionally, some foods that you may assume are fortified with vitamin B12--such as plant-based milk and cereal--aren’t necessarily so. You would need to check the label to know for sure.
What Can Be Done About It?
Besides ensuring that you follow a diet rich in foods fortified with vitamin B12, consider taking oral supplements, such as those offered by Sun Chlorella, because chlorella naturally contains a non-synthetic form of B12. Chlorella is one of the only known plant sources of Active B12, a highly absorbable form. Depending on the supplement that you take, you could get all or most of the vitamin B12 that experts recommend for daily consumption. If you end up getting more vitamin B12 than you actually need, your body will safely remove the surplus through your urine, although you may initially feel dizzy.
What’s the Takeaway? Veganism means being extra diligent in your dietary choices. However, that diligence goes beyond finding sustainable ways to support your health and the health of everyone around you without animal products. It also includes being informed of what your body needs and how to make sure you’re getting it without eating animal products. You’re not meant to sacrifice your own health for your ideals, but to promote it while living in better harmony with the planet.
In other words, successful veganism requires being thoughtful and prepared. Among many things, this means you need to be aware of how veganism affects your vitamin B12 intake, what could happen if you ignore it, and how you can take care of yourself by making conscious efforts to include it in your diet.
Further reading for vegan health and nutrition:
Author: Marisela Corrado