When most people think of a vegan diet, they automatically assume protein is the one thing they won’t be able to consume enough of. However, the only thing that is really missing from a vegan diet is vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 also known as cobalamin, is made by bacteria and is an essential micronutrient for humans. Vitamin B12 once occurred naturally on the surface of vegetables, but the move away from natural fertilizers has caused it to disappear from our soil. In our former society when bacteria-rich soils were worked by hand, there simply wasn’t an issue with anyone getting enough vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 Remains a Topic of Endless Debate
Although there are some foods with small trace amounts of vitamin B12 such as nutritional yeast and fortified foods with vitamin B12 like orange juice or soy milk, nutritionists recommend that vegans take a multivitamin or vitamin B12 supplement.
Recommended Intake of Vitamin B12
The US recommended intake of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms a day for adults and 2.8 micrograms for nursing mothers. Although recommendations for vitamin B12 are very small, a vitamin B12 deficiency is a very serious problem that can ultimately lead to irreversible nerve damage. Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency may include: tingling in hands and feet, anemia, swollen tongue, difficulty walking, jaundice, difficulty thinking, memory loss and fatigue.
Vitamin B12 functions as a co-factor in numerous metabolic and physiologic events critical to human health. There is also some good evidence that vitamin B12 improves vascular health because of the role it plays in reducing blood homocysteine levels. High homocysteine can damage arteries, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Choosing a Vitamin B12 Supplement
When it comes to choosing a vitamin B12 supplement use caution when selecting the brand and the form that it comes in. Read labels carefully and only purchase reputable brands that are completely vegan. Cyanocobalamin is a low-grade and low-quality and slightly toxic cyanide form of vitamin B12 that’s used by many cheap vitamin manufacturers. The proper form of vitamin B12 to supplement is called methylcobalamin, it is the form found in nature. Cyanocobalamin is also up to 100 times cheaper than the higher quality methylcobalmin.
Here are some of the benefits of vitamin B12 in methylcobalamin form:
- Increases energy levels
- Improves sleep
- Reduces stress
- Aids in metabolism of carbohydrate and fats
- Protects against nerve damage
- Enhances growth and repair of all cells
- Improves immune function
- Increases mental alertness
Overall, a vegan diet is abundant with vitamins and minerals and provides superior nutrition over any kind of diet. Not only are you no longer at risk for the health problems associated with meat and dairy, you get to experience the amazing benefits of plant-based eating. Whether you are currently vegan, or thinking about going vegan, just remember to take your vitamin B12!
photo courtesy of creative commons: shannonkringen