Vitamin B-12, Vitamin B-12 deficiency, Vegan diet, sourcing B-12 on a vegan diet, sourcing vitamin B-12, vitamin b-12 and vegan diet

Vitamin B-12 Deficiency (Signs and Symptoms): Sourcing Vitamin B-12 on a Vegan Diet

The greater majority of vegans and vegetarians, those that eat a strictly plant-based diet, omitting all animal products including eggs and milk has a significantly higher chance of having a vitamin B-12 deficiency. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports, 92% of vegans are at risk of developing a vitamin B-12 deficiency.

The main source of vitamin B-12 in our diets is animal-derived products. It was reported in the same journal in comparison to the 92% of vegans who were at risk of developing a vitamin B-12 deficiency, only 5% of meat-eaters were at risk. The massive difference in percentage is due to the fact that animal-derived products stand as the most reliable means of naturally acquiring vitamin B-12 from a diet. 

Vegetarians have it easy, they usually consume dairy and eggs, even though they don’t consume meat, which still stands as a reliable source for vitamin B-12. Diary and eggs are loaded with vitamin B-12 and is considered one of the simplest ways to acquire vitamin B-12 on a vegetarian diet. 

However, when it comes to vegans, they don’t consume any animal-derived products, which includes eggs and dairy. This significantly increases the chances of developing a vitamin B-12 deficiency; as observed with the whopping 92% of the vegan population. Usually, the amounts of vitamin B-12 are in trace quantities in plant-based food in comparison to an animal-derived diet, which is why many vegans opt to take a vitamin B-12 supplementation. We will look at the various sources of vitamin B-12 on a vegan diet, and consider whether as a vegan, would a vitamin B-12 supplementation be recommended. However, before we go into understanding the sources of vitamin B-12 on a vegan diet, it is better to get a clear understanding of what are the various signs and symptoms of a vitamin B-12 deficiency. 

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Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency

There are various health conditions brought about by a vitamin B-12 deficiency. One of the more prominent symptoms of a vitamin B-12 deficiency is anaemia. This usually follows signs of fatigue, constipation, nausea and most importantly weakness. If you have recently realised that you are starting to feel week, or that you are fatigued and nauseated, this may be due to the fact that you are developing anaemia. If you are developing anaemia, it should be resolved as promptly as possible to prevent long term damage to your body. 

When left unattended, a long term vitamin B-12 deficiency could lead to nerve changes. This can lead to various signs that accompany a long term vitamin B-12 deficiency. You could be experiencing numbness in various parts of your body. This could include the tingling in your hands and feet or frequent occurrences of pins and needles. If you been struggling with memory problems and have trouble remembering things, this could be a sign that you are suffering from a long term vitamin B-12 deficiency. A vitamin B-12 deficiency could also affect your cerebellum in your brain, which is responsible for ensuring good balance. If you are finding yourself stumbling or slipping or simply losing balance frequently, then this could be a sign of vitamin B-12 deficiency. 

One of the more serious signs that you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency is depression. People with a long term vitamin B-12 deficiency are twice as more likely to develop depression. Research has confidently associated vitamin B-12 and depression. An article published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology states these findings as conclusive; the lower the amounts of vitamin B-12 in your body, the greater the chance of developing depression. In fact, the same study identified the role of vitamin B-12 in treating people with depression. 

If you have a rapid heart rate without exercise, suffer from exhaustion, have foggy thoughts and concentration or are generally weak, then these could be tell-tell signs that you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency. 

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Importance of Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is responsible for maintaining healthy nerves. It is also responsible for ensuring good levels of red blood cells in your body. Both these things are essentially needed to make DNA, which is why vitamin B-12 is especially important for women who are pregnant or are breastfeeding. 

As mentioned prior, vitamin B-12 reduces the chances of developing anaemia by promoting the production of red blood cells. It can also help women prevent miscarriages or premature birth. In fact, one study illustrated that a woman on a low vitamin B-12 diet was three to five times more likely to give birth to a child with birth defects. This can be a very scary thought! 

Vitamin B-12 has also been linked to bone density and bone health. People with a vitamin B-12 deficiency have lower than normal bone density, which can lead to an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. It is also as important for your eyes as it is for your bones. Vitamin B-12 reduces your risk of developing macular degeneration. The risk of age-related vision loss is common, and a diet rich in vitamin B-12 is considered an essential tool in reducing the risk of age-related vision loss due to macular degeneration. 

Further to improving your mood, vitamin B-12 is known to suppress depression as mentioned above. It is also an integral component in healthy brain chemistry, thereby preventing instances of memory loss and confusion; it is important for your focus and concentration. It further works to decrease levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. A study illustrated how, vitamin B-12 helps reduce homocysteine levels in your body, thereby reducing your risk of developing a heart condition.

It is also important for healthy skin, hair and nails. This is because vitamin B-12 plays an integral role in cell production. If you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency, adding vitamin B-12 by way of supplementation or improved diet could drastically improve the appearance of your skin, hair and nails. 

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Sourcing Vitamin B-12 on a Vegan Diet

Considered an essential nutrient, as mentioned above, the importance of vitamin B-12 should not be sidestepped. With a greater portion of people assuming that vitamin B-12 can only be acquired through an animal-derived diet, it is important to note the various sources of vitamin B-12 on a plant-based diet. It is most certainly possible to acquire vitamin B-12 on a vegan diet, however, you should work to include as many of the components of this small list, as much as possible. 

It is important to keep in mind the daily recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin B-12 when you consider the various sources. This way, you know exactly how much to consume, in order to get the right amount of this vitamin from your diet. Though women who are pregnant or are breastfeeding require a larger amount, an average adult requires about 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 every day. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sets the Daily Value (DV) at 6 micrograms for vitamin B-12. We will consider the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) as guidance for the daily required amount of vitamin B-12.

1. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a good source of vitamin B-12 when on a vegan diet. In a 100-gram serving of mushrooms, you can find anywhere between 1.3 to 12.7 micrograms of vitamin B-12.
 
 
Though it isn’t entirely possible to know which mushrooms contain the exact amount of vitamin B-12, eating a 100-gram serving of mushrooms every day could be a good start to ensuring you get the right amount of vitamin B-12 from your diet. Obvious to state, with the range starting at 1.3 micrograms, this simply isn’t enough as it doesn’t cover your daily requirements as stated above. Hence it is important to include mushrooms, alongside other components as on this list. 
 

2. Dried Purple Laver

This is a reliable source of vitamin B-12 on a vegan diet. Laver is a form of edible seaweed which is dried and comes in the form of neat square or rectangular sheets. 
 
 
There is a wholesome amount of vitamin B-12 in a 100-gram serving of dried purple laver. With about 54.5 to 58.6 micrograms of vitamin B-12 in a 100-gram serving, you are sure to get your daily required value of vitamin B-12 if you incorporate dried purple laver in your diet. That being the case, you don’t necessarily have to consume 100-grams of dried purple laver every day. Simply getting anything between 5 to 10 grams of this good stuff should provide sufficient vitamin B-12 to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 
 
 
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3. Fortified Breakfast Cereals

When you consider sourcing vitamin B-12, your fortified breakfast cereal is your best bet to ensure that you get sufficient amounts of vitamin B-12 through your diet. 
 
 
There are various brands on the market that provide the necessary amount of vitamin B-12. Total Corn Flakes, Malt-O-Meal Bran Flakes, Rice Chex, Kellogg’s All-Bran and many varieties from General Mills all contain good amounts of vitamin B-12. 
 
 
Kashi Heart to Heart Instant Oatmeal provides 100 per cent of your daily vitamin B-12 requirement in one serving! That is right, in one serving. In one serving of General Mills, Whole Grain Total, there are 2.82 micrograms of vitamin B-12, which is higher than the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 2.4 micrograms. 

4. Tempeh

Tempeh is made from soybeans and various other grains and beans. It has no cholesterol and is a good way to source vitamin B-12. However, tempeh cannot be considered as a stand-alone source, unlike the fortified breakfast cereal mentioned above. 
 
 
In a 100-gram serving of tempeh, you can look to gain anything between 0.7 to 8.0 micrograms of vitamin B-12. Hence it isn’t the most reliable means to ensure that you are getting the right amount of vitamin B-12. This is because as you may have observed, the lower end of the range falls well below the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 2.4 micrograms. Hence, much like mushrooms, it is important to include tempeh alongside other vitamin B-12 sources. 
 
 
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5. Fortified Plant Milk

Fortified plant milk can be another reliable means to ensuring that you are getting the right amount of vitamin B-12. This is because the amount of vitamin B-12 per serving is usually mentioned on the label. This way, if a single serving has 1 microgram of vitamin B-12, you know that having three servings will suffice your recommended dietary allowance (RDA). 
 
 
Fortified almond and soy milk have about 1 microgram of vitamin B-12 per serving, making it a reliable means of acquiring all your daily vitamin B-12 requirements. There are various brands of plant milk on the market that you can choose from, Silk Soy Milk, EdenSoy and Oatly Oat Milk to name a few.
 
 

6.  Nutritional Yeast

If you love making vegan cheese, then you know that you are on the right path to getting the right amount of vitamin B-12. Considered one of the easiest means to acquire vitamin B-12, nutritional yeast, which is used in making vegan cheese has a good amount of vitamin B-12.
 
 
Each tablespoon of nutritional yeast has about 5 micrograms of vitamin B-12, which is twice the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 2.4 micrograms. If you are vegan and are looking to add nutritional yeast to your diet, it is best to ensure that you look for fortified varieties of nutritional yeast which should contain adequate amounts of vitamin B-12.
 
 
A reliable brand of nutritional yeast for vegans is Bragg Premium Nutritional Yeast, which is a perfect seasoning for your main dishes, sides and snacks.
 
 
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Do I Need Vitamin B-12 Supplementation?

If you have trouble sourcing the food that has been mentioned in this article and is finding it difficult to ensure that you are getting the right amount of vitamin B-12 in your diet, then it is wise to consider supplementing your daily requirement of vitamin B-12. You would simply be taking a pill or two every day to ensure that you are getting the correct amounts of vitamin B-12 which as you know is an essential nutrient for your overall wellbeing. 

That being the case, if you are able to get your hands on a fortified cereal and some fortified plant milk, then chances are you should be able to get the right amount of vitamin B-12 from your breakfast alone. Hence the question as to whether you require vitamin B-12 supplementation is up to you. 

However, when you do consider a vitamin B-12 supplement, especially if you are on a vegan diet, it is important to ensure that the supplement doesn’t contain any animal-based filler materials. Though the supplement is made from fermentation and bacteria, what is troubling is the other things that are added to the supplement.

If you are at risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency or have noticed signs and symptoms of deficiency, then supplementation of B-12 is highly recommended. It would enable you to restore damage caused by the deficiency and regain control over your life. 

There are various forms of vitamin B-12 supplementation, some are placed under the tongue, others swallowed, some drunk and a few chewable too. Vitamin B-12 supplements are recommended for people on a plant-based diet who refrain from animal products. Found in various dosages, you could look to take two pills a day or two a week depending on the dose of the supplement. Vitamin B-12 supplements when taken in the appropriate amounts are generally considered safe. Hence you should not be worried about using a supplement. If you consume more than the 2.4 micrograms which is the recommended dietary allowance (RDA), then your body simply absorbs everything it needs and expels the excess through your urine. 

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Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is an important component of your overall wellbeing, and should not be something that is taken lightly. If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency, it is best to try to address that immediately. If after trying to address it, the signs and symptoms do no go away, it would be best to consult a healthcare professional to seek advice and guidance. 
 
 
If you suffer from anaemia, you know that you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency. This could be due to the fact that you aren’t consuming enough vitamin B-12, or simply because your body is not absorbing enough vitamin-B12; which could be a more serious issue. Hence if you are consuming wholesome amounts of vitamin B-12, however, are still experiencing signs and symptoms of deficiency, it is best to consult a healthcare professional to address any absorption issue that you may have. 
 
 
Remember, when on a vegan diet, it isn’t always very simple to ensure that you are getting enough vitamin B-12. Hence it is important to measure your intake and ensure that you are getting sufficient amounts of vitamin B-12 in your diet. If you have trouble keeping a track of this, you always have the option of taking vitamin B-12 supplementation. 
 
 
We hope reading this word to word has helped you better understand vitamin B-12 deficiency and are aware of the various means to protect yourself from deficiency on a vegan diet. We hope you do everything that you can to ensure that you safeguard your health and acquire the necessary amounts of vitamin B-12 either through diet or supplementation in order to live a happy and healthy life. 

Happy Living!
 

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