Sometimes, it can be hard to keep track of what vitamins and minerals we need, what we’re getting too much of, and what are more marketing ploys than nutritional powerhouses….
Sometimes, it can be hard to keep track of what vitamins and minerals we need, what we’re getting too much of, and what are more marketing ploys than nutritional powerhouses.
B12 falls into the category of the former, and definitely not the second. It’s the only vitamin that cannot be consumed by eating plants or absorbing sunshine — but it’s one of the most critical to our overall wellness. A plant-based lifestyle can mean you need to be more conscientious of your B12, an essential vitamin that keeps your red blood cells healthy and helps make DNA.
Why else should I care about B12?
For one, it’s basically critical to help govern all aspects of your health. It helps your body absorb iron, converts food to glucose so you have plenty of energy, aids in digestion, and ensures your brain is working at its highest levels to prevent depression and mania.
Where is vitamin B12 usually found?
Unfortunately, not plants. B12 is found in animal products like meat, eggs, dairy, fish, and shellfish, as well as organic soil because of the bacteria in manure and the insects that reside there. Found dirt on your organic produce? Don’t wipe it off — your body can actually absorb that residual B12, although it’s important to trust your farmer and their growing methods.
How do you know if you have a deficiency?
The biggest sign is fatigue or weakness, though it can also manifest as numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, depression, memory loss, personality changes, or dizziness. Extreme deficiencies can result in anemia or impaired brain function. Usually, these symptoms take a while to develop, not appearing for several months or a year after the deficiency has begun.
Luckily, our bodies have been found to maintain a B12 reserve that can last for several years, though you want to make sure you’re replenishing the stores.
How can I get more vitamin B12?
First, let’s discuss where not to get more B12. Some plant foods have been linked to the vitamin, including seaweed, tempeh, and spirulina. What these actually contain is something called a B12 analogue, an inactive form of B12. Some nutritionists have stated that this could impact our body’s ability to absorb B12 at all, although many other attest to their various (not B12) nutritional benefits. Whatever camp you fall into, you should not rely on them for your B12 requirements.
With a plant-based diet, the only sources of B12 are fortified foods and supplements. Everything from plant-based milks to granola to nutritional yeast can be fortified with it, meaning reaching adequate B12 levels is easily achieved. However, B12 is one of those vitamins where you shouldn’t try to overcompensate. Only small doses are necessary to stay healthy, and, since your body will only absorb what it needs and dispose of the rest, taking higher doses won’t be more effective.
Join our community and be inspired! Sign up to our newsletter for weekly advice, fun facts and info to support your plant-powered journey. We’ll share special offers and our new dishes with you too.