Western New York vegetarians searching for non-animal based sources of vitamin B12 often find conflicting information about vegetarians and vitamin B12 deficiencies. Let’s try to separate fact from fiction.
Fiction: Vegans don’t eat meat and the only way to get the recommended daily intake of 2 to 3 milligrams per day is by eating meat.
Fact: Vitamin B12 is a water-soluable vitamin with a very low recommended daily intake requirement, about 2 to 3 micrograms (not miligrams) per day. While it is true tht very few plant foods provide good sources of B12, but only because the source of B12 is not plants or animals; neither manufacture thier own B12. In reality, bacteria are the B12 producers on which both plants and animals rely.
All of the vitamin B12 in the world ultimately comes from bacteria. Neither plants nor animals can synthesize it. But plants can be contaminated with B12 when they come in contact with soil bacteria that produce it. Animal foods are rich in B12 only because animals eat foods that are contaminated with it or because bacteria living in an animal’s intestines make it.
- How to become a vegetarian: Resources to get you started
Fiction: it’s common for vegans to have vitamin B12 deficiencies.
Fact: a small number of people develop B12 deficiences and/or pernicious anemia, most are not vegans.
Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver, kidneys, and muscle tissue, and 65% to 75% of B12 is reabsorbed by the body instead of excreted. Vitamin B12 deficiency could take anywhere from 5 to 20 years of inadequate intake to develop.
Vitamin B12 deficiencies occur primarily when:
- Something is competing for your B12 (like parasites)
- Something is destroying your B12 (like cyanide in cigarettes)
- Something is preventing the proper absorption of B12 (like inadequate production of intrinsic factor)
It’s possible that vegans may be more susceptible to these three factors, as vegans don’t consume huge quantities of B12 to counteract such problems.
Vegans can get their recommended daily intake requirement by taking vitamin B supplements and consuming 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast every day.
Other vegetarian sources of vitamin B12:
- fortified cerals
- fortified soy milk
- vegan meat substitutes made from wheat gluten or soybeans
- Follow The Reluctant Vegan on Facebook
Rachael Monaco is a reluctant vegan, and has realized the health benefits of meatless meals. She believes in a gradual and gentle approach to veganism