Get enough Vitamin B12 on a plant-based diet
My family and I have recently adopted a mainly plant-based way of eating. This new way of eating has challenged me to try out new recipes that my family will gladly eat and keep my husband satisfied. My aim was to decrease our animal protein consumption, but to also see how many different types of vegetables I can add to our meals. You can check some of my delicious plant-based recipes on my Instagram page for inspiration.
While eating a plant-based diet certainly has many benefits, it is quite hard to get the right amount of Vitamin B12 without any meat or meat products. In this blog, I will show you how to get the most out of your plant-based diet and ensure that you get all the Vitamin B12 your body needs.
Why is Vitamin B12 so important?
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that helps keep the body’s blood cells and nerve cells healthy and helps make DNA- the genetic material present in all cells. Sufficient Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anaemia called megaloblastic anaemia which makes people feel weak and tired. Some other positive changes include increased energy, better quality of sleep and increased mental clarity.
Vitamin B12 Deficiencies
Often Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms develop gradually over several months to a year before being recognised as being due to B12 deficiency. Deficiencies are usually reversible by consuming more B12. The only way to know for sure if you are deficient is to get a blood test to determine your B12 levels.
Typical deficiency symptoms include:
- Weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness
- Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- A smooth tongue
- Numbness or tingling
- Muscle weakness
- Problems walking
- Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas
- Vision loss or blurred vision
- Mental problems such as depression or behavioural changes
- Memory loss
Here are some ways you can get enough Vitamin B12 in your plant-based diet:
Get Vitamin B12 from the right food sources
If you follow a plant-based diet, the best food to get enough Vitamin B12 from is fortified foods. Luckily, fortified foods are very easy to find at your local grocery shop.
Did you know that fortified cereals can significantly improve macronutrient intake, including B12? At the same time, fortified cereals generally include other essential Vitamins and minerals.
It is important to note that fortified foods may contain a lot more ingredients than a supplement would. This could mean more calories, carbs, and sugars. To avoid this pitfall, be sure to check the labels very carefully before purchasing.
Some great sources of fortified foods for vegans:
- Certain non-animal milk substitutes
- Nutritional yeast
- Meat substitutes
- fortified cereals
- Vegan spreads
Some great sources of fortified foods for vegetarians:
- Low-fat Milk
- Fortified Plant-based Milk
- Fortified Cereals
- Nutritional Yeast
Take a B12 supplement
Taking B12 supplements is an effective and easy way to make sure that your body is getting the right amounts of this nutrient, and you won’t have to make any drastic changes to your plant-based diet. Essentially, you’ll be taking a tablet once or twice per day or per week (depending on the amounts you’re taking).
Of course, all it takes is a quick look at the health aisle of your grocery store to see that there are a wide variety of options when it comes to choosing a Vitamin B12 supplement. Do not be tempted to just grab the first bottle you find; take the time to consider which supplement is the best for you based on your specific needs.
Not all Vitamin B12 supplements are the same. For instance, some may include animal-based filler materials, making them not suitable for vegans. The B12 Vitamin itself is completely free from animal-products; it’s made from fermentation and bacteria. The issue is that some supplements may have other things added to it, so check nutrition labels and do proper research.
Some final thoughts
Many people believe that following a plant-based diet means Vitamin B12 is absent from the diet. As I have expressed above, this is nothing but a myth. Although choosing a plant-based diet narrows your spectrum of foods to choose from, it can truly work to your advantage. Adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet allows us to be more mindful about the food we are consuming, and helps us become proactive about our health, and what food sources our nutrients are coming from.
If you believe that you may have a Vitamin B12 deficiency, feel free to contact me. I offer testing to see if you are Vitamin B12 deficient. In addition, as a qualified dietician, I will help create a customised diet plan so you can get sufficient Vitamin B12 and maintain your energy levels.