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Whether you’re trying out veganism for the first time, have been vegan for years and years, or you’re just thinking about it – you’ve almost certainly heard of Vitamin B12.
A well-planned vegan diet has been approved as perfectly healthy for all stages of life by many governments and nutritional organisations around the world. But the one thing all experts agree on is that vegans should pay special attention to B12!
Vitamin B12 is found in many animal-derived foods – this is because B12 is synthesized by micro-organisms that live in the soil, which are then consumed and live in animals’ stomachs. Unfortunately, adequate levels of B12 are not naturally found in any plant-based foods, so we vegans have to include fortified foods or supplements in our diets!
Did you know? Many non-vegans may not be getting enough B12 either. It’s important for everyone over the age of 50 to take B12 supplements as it becomes harder for our bodies to break down the vitamin as we age.
So, why is B12 so important? Our bodies need Vitamin B12 to create new red blood cells, protect our nervous system, synthesise our DNA and overall to provide us with energy! It’s recommended the average adult consume 2.4 micrograms of B12 per day, though anyone who’s pregnant or breastfeeding should have up to 2.8mcg per day. Children need up to 1.8mcg per day depending on their age.
There are many vegan foods high in B12 including fortified plant milks, cereals and nutritional yeast. It’s important to check the packaging of any product you’re buying to make sure it contains extra B12. Nutritional yeast in particular is a great, versatile addition to any vegan’s kitchen – you can sprinkle it on tops of meals or snacks, stir it into soups, mix it into ‘cheese’ sauces and more!
If you’re aren’t supplementing B12 or eating fortified foods when you first go vegan, you likely will feel perfectly fine for up to 5 years. Our bodies store enough B12 to keep everything functioning properly for a very long time – but that doesn’t mean you should wait that long to start supplementing! A serious Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to dementia, hearing loss, nerve damage, anemia and more down the line.
If you’re taking a vegan B12 supplement, be mindful that the less often you take B12, the higher your dosage needs to be. Our bodies can only absorb small amounts of the vitamin at a time, which is why it’s recommended either a 1000mcg supplement be taken daily, or a 2000mcg supplement weekly to meet your body’s needs. Don’t be afraid to take too much – you can’t overdose on B12!
You can get B12 supplements in traditional tablet form, from brands like Veganicity and Together Vitamins. You can also find oral vitamin sprays, which many prefer to tablets as they’re more easily absorbed by the body and gentler on the stomach. There are also plenty of vegan multivitamins which include Vitamin B12, though since B12 is such an essential vitamin it’s recommended taking a specific B12 supplement.
What about other vitamins? Thankfully a well-planned vegan diet can provide everything else a vegan adult, child or pregnant person needs! It is important to pay attention to Vitamin D, Omega-3, Iodine, Iron, Calcium and Zinc when planning your diet. Always be sure speak to a healthcare professional before introducing new vegan vitamins to your diet.