After reading this article by Reed Mangels, Ph.D about vitamin B12, I realized that I don't know hardly enough about it. Research time!
What is it?
B12 is a vitamin that is only produced in bacteria and through synthetic means. It plays a key role in energy production, brain and nervous functions. B12 occurs naturally in animals from bacteria in their gut that is then processed through the rest of their body. A small deficiency in B12 can lead to fatigue, depression, and poor memory. In the worst cases it leads to anemia and severe nerve damage. From my own experience, it can help take the edge off a hangover (but that's another blog topic!).
What does it have to do with staying vegan?
For omnivores, getting B12 is as easy as eating meat. It occurs in high concentration in animal flesh. Vegans, on the other hand, need to supplement their diets to achieve the recommended daily amount (RDA). The RDA for adults is 2.4 micrograms per day.
How do I get my hands on B12?
This is the easy part. Take a multivitamin! Your bodies absorption rate of B12 is pretty low when it comes to taking vitamins. For example, my vitamin is Whole Foods brand daily multivitamin, it contains 25 micrograms. That's more than ten times the RDA! They supply the extra amount to cover for lost absorption. Fortified cereal, soymilk, and nutritional yeast are also great vegan sources, read the label to make sure it covers what you need.
And the funny part...
A quote from the article linked above says, "Although some vegans may get vitamin B12 from inadequate hand washing, this is not a reliable vitamin B12 source." Dammit.
Vitamin B12 plays a role in overall health, and is easy to overlook in a vegan diet. As always, if you don't feel right, talk to your doctor.
Stay vegan! Stay healthy!
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