Avoid becoming a vegan deficient in B12! The #1 question you’ll get from non-vegans is likely to be: “Where do you get your protein from?” But it should really be, “Where do you get your B12 from?”
What is B12, and why don’t vegans get it?
B12 plays a role in blood cell formation, cell metabolism, nervous system health and the production of DNA. Vegans deficient in B12 (as well as non-vegans!) may experience anemia, fatigue, weakness, moodiness, nerve damage and digestive problems.
B12 is produced naturally by a bacteria in healthy, cobalt-rich soil and in the colon of animals, and is essential nutrient for human health. Unfortunately, most soil today is quite depleted by unsustainable farming practices, so even animals that omnivores eat are also likely to have lower B12 levels (if they ever see soil, that is—most factory-farmed animals have little access to the earth they’re meant to live on).
Since most of us don’t dig our hands into cobalt-rich soil every day, and even if we did, we’d wash our hands afterwards, we’re ingesting far less B12 than our ancestors who lived off the land, and certainly less than our primate cousins who practice coprophagy—the practice of eating feces, where B12 is also found… Yikes. With B12 in the guts of animals, omnivores are able to get some B12 this way.
For those of us who inherit the myriad of health benefits that come from *not* eating animals, one small price we pay is missing out on B12 from animal guts. The good news is, there’s an easy fix that doesn’t involve animals, dirt, OR your own feces!
How to increase B12 levels
Vegans deficient in B12 fortunately have a few easy solutions to turn this problem around.
A number of foods, such as nutritional yeast and various plant-based milks and cereals, are fortified with B12. The safest way to ensure you aren’t missing this important nutrient, however, is simply to take a daily supplement! More than a third of the human population has a genetic mutation known as MTHFR which makes it harder for them to absorb unmethylated forms of B12. Look for the methylcobalamin form in a B12 supplement to avoid this potential issue.
To find supplements that you know are vegan, plant-based health practitioners, or any other vegan product or service, search on vKind: the largest U.S. vegan search platform.