You’ve heard it many times before… they try to scare you away… if you don’t eat meat you can’t get B12.
Don’t worry, you CAN survive and thrive without meat.
Can we get real for a minute?
No fungi, plants, or animals (including humans) are capable of producing vitamin B12. Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes needed to synthesize it.
Let’s repeat that again. Animals do not produce it, they get their B12 from other sources. Animals obtain vitamin B12 by eating foods that are covered in bacteria or from the bacteria that already line their own guts (absorbing B12 from gut-lining bacteria is not possible for humans).
So you’re really just using them as a middle man; meat isn’t a necessity.
How to get B12 in a gluten-free plant-based vegan diet?
It’s honestly pretty simple. It is said to be from a mix of fortified foods and supplements (either daily or weekly supplements, or injections), but you can’t always be certain the quantities you are getting from food, nor how your body is digesting and using it. Many fortified foods also come with added sugars, oils, food additives, and more that could affect other aspects of your health or possible absorption issues. Focusing on a supplement (or injection) can be a smart option.
One common source to check out for B12 is nutritional yeast. It has been called a superfood because it is high-protein, low-fat and filled with nutrients including many vitamins and minerals beyond just B12.
Make sure you check the label as not all brands frotify their nutritional yes. It should say “fortified”.
But why do you need B12?
Everyone must have it to be truly healthy. Here are a few reasons you should pay attention to the B12 in your diet.
- Keeps our blood, nervous system, and heart-healthy
- Make DNA — the genetic makeup of our bodies
- Fuels the brain and metabolism
- Helps digestion and how we absorb food
- Prevents a type of anemia that can cause fatigue and overall low energy
Symptoms might you see if you are lacking in B12
- Excessive tiredness or fatigue
- Lack of energy
- Consistent loss of breath
- Feeling faint
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Loss of appetite
- Change in sense of touch
- Joint pain
- Walking problems
- Vision problems
- Mood changes, irritability, depression or psychosis
How much B12 do I need?
The amount you need goes up with age and, unlike iron and other nutrients, the amount doesn’t vary by sex. If you are nursing or expecting, your body will need more B12. It’s important to know that your body only absorbs about 10mcg of a 500mcg supplement. Here is what the NIH recommends:
For a healthy woman, your doctor may suggest 2,500 mcg around 3 days per week, but it could be different for everyone so it is recommended to get checked.
Last but not least, don’t wait until it’s too late. Depending on how much B12 is in your system, it could take years to see a deficiency so don’t want to see signs.