When you go vegan, you will start to get many questions concerning your nutrient levels – how do you get your iron? What about your calcium? Your magnesium? But the truth is, you don’t have to worry about any of these! Iron, calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients are found in abundance within the plant kingdom. As long as you are eating a wide variety of whole, plant-based foods, getting these micronutrients should be no problem. However, there is one nutrient that can be problematic on a vegan diet, and that nutrient is B12.
So what is B12?
B12 is a vitamin that helps with the functions of the brain and nervous system, as well as the formation of blood. Vitamin B12 originates from dirt and is usually found in animal products. Due to this, no plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, or seeds, contain a sufficient amount. This means that if you are going to become a vegan, it is a good idea to supplement with B12 to avoid becoming deficient. B12 deficiencies can have extremely detrimental health effects such as nerve damage or dementia.
Luckily, there are several ways that you can supplement for B12 on a vegan diet, which will allow you to be healthy and thriving. Some of these ways include nutritional yeast, eating vegan products that are fortified with B12, and including B12 pills or getting B12 shots on a regular basis.
-Nutritional yeast: Nutritional yeast is a yellow, powder-like substance. It is rich in a variety of vitamins, and it is a sufficient source of B12. Best of all – it tastes really good! It has a flavor that nutty and even resembles cheese – which makes it ideal for vegans! Best of all, it can be used on pretty much anything. You can sprinkle it on salads, popcorn, or even use it to make a vegan macaroni and cheese! Nutritional yeast is an ideal vitamin source to be included in any vegan diet.
-Fortified products: Another way to get an ample source of B12 on a vegan diet is to consume processed vegan foods that are fortified with vitamin B12. This means that B12 has been added to the food when it was made, so it is not an issue.
Some popular products that are vegan and are fortified with B12 include Silk soy milk, coconut milk, and almond milk, Rice Dream rice milk, tofu, tempeh, and Tofurky products
-Supplementing: The most common, and likely the easiest way to ensure that you are getting enough B12 on a vegan diet is by taking a supplement. It is important to take one regularly if you are not consuming any foods or nutritional yeast that are fortified with B12. The main ways that people would supplement for B12 are either by taking a daily pill, or by getting occasional B12 shots.
Overall, the addition of a B12 supplement on a vegan diet is important to ensure long-lasting health. The good news -- it is found in a variety of products and is easy to obtain.