If you’ve been vegan for more than 5 minutes, you’ll already know that getting enough protein really does not need to be a chore on a plant-based diet, no matter the misguided info you might get from your meat-eating friends. I don’t know about you but I’ve never heard of anyone dying from a protein deficiency! Vegans really do not need to worry about protein as long as you’re eating a varied and balanced diet. On the other hand, you should make sure you know how to get enough vitamin B12 on a plant-based diet, as well as understand which foods provide your body with all the important vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy.
If you are thinking about cutting out animal products, I advise you to “geek up” a little to inform yourself how to make sure you’re getting the right level of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals in your new, cruelty-free diet.
Luckily, if that’s what you’re doing, you’re in the right place! This post series will give you the low-down on the most important nutrients to pay attention to, with some easy-to-follow tips from my own experience on how you can include them in your daily routine. First up in this post is the infamous vitamin B12. If you’re wondering where else you can get your B12 from other than meat, eggs and scary dairy, then read on my friends.
What is B12 anyway and where does it come from?
It’s probably THE vitamin you’ve heard the most about if you’ve already done a little bit of reading. Carnivores love pointing out the fact that the only way to get B12 naturally is by eating animal products. What they usually don’t know is that B12 isn’t actually produced by animals themselves. Yep, that’s right, it’s plant-based! It is made by bacteria living in soil which animals consume as they eat grass and grain from the ground. B12 is absorbed into their bodies and then their flesh, milk or eggs (including a good ol’ dose of B12) is consumed by humans.
Why is Vitamin B12 so important to health?
B12 is not naturally present in any plant foods which is perhaps why it’s the most talked-about vitamin in relation to plant-based diets. This vitamin is essential in very small quantities for healthy bodily functions.
- Converting food into energy
- Nervous system function
- Red blood cell formation
Our bodies are not efficient at storing it and can only store small amounts at a time, so it’s necessary to regularly top up either through taking a supplement once per week, or daily through fortified foods. It can take years for symptoms of a B12 deficiency to develop, and if left unchecked, the health implications can be life-threatening.
To avoid any potential health consequences, the best option is to ensure you use a B12 supplement regularly. In fact, even meat-eaters can suffer deficiencies if they don’t eat a balanced diet so supplementing is a good idea for everyone.
Tips for daily vitamin B12 intake
The good news is that there are many plant-based products that are fortified with B12 such as plant milks and nutritional yeast. If you prefer, you can simply buy supplements in the form of drops, tablets or capsules.
Beware that not all B12 supplements will be vegan (some capsules might include animal-derived coatings, for example). I recommend the Veg1 supplement which is produced by the Vegan Society and comes in different flavours. For drops, there are plenty of vegan-approved brands on the market such as Natural Elements available on Amazon and other online stores.
Here are some easy ways to keep your B12 vitamin levels topped up daily:
- Add a few B12 drops to your morning cereal, a glass of water or breakfast smoothie
- Sprinkle fortified nutritional yeast on salads, soups or pasta
- Buy plant-based milk that is fortified with B12
Regardless of whether you want to follow a plant-based diet or not, I think it’s important to educate yourself about the essential vitamins and minerals the human body needs, to make sure you’re getting enough of them. Plant-based eating means that you have the opportunity to be just a little more conscious about eating the right nutritious foods regularly, giving you full control of keeping those essential nutrient levels topped up.
There is a minefield of confusing information out there so I hope that this article helped give you a clear idea of the essentials to get your started with your B12 know-how. Let me know your favourite way to include B12 in your diet in the comments below.