Light on B-12

What is B-12 and why do you need it?

The fear of not consuming enough B12 is a common concern for people who are thinking about making the switch to a plant-based diet.  The collective misconception is that B12 can only be obtained by consuming animal-based products, which, needless to say, puts vegetarians and vegans at a disadvantage. Alas, that is only a misconception and you will be happy to know that both carnivores and herbivores can enjoy an adequate supply of B12 from their food.

Here’s the scoop: neither plants nor animals are capable of producing B12. Bacteria, yup that’s right, microorganisms are responsible for the production of B12. Plants are only a source of B12 if they are inhabited by these microorganisms or are grown in soil that is fortified with vitamin B12.  Alternately, when animals ingest plants contaminated by microorganisms, the bacterium spreads and then grows freely in the guts of the animal thus making their bodies a source of B12.

What is B-12 and why do you need it?

B12 is essential for optimal health as it aids in cell division, blood formation, DNA synthesis, neurological communication and proper nervous system functionality. It also plays a vital role in the growth and development of children.

On the flip side, all kinds of things can go awry when the body experiences a deficiency of B12. Symptoms of deficiency include numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, poor muscular coordination, nerve damage, mental slowness, loss of menstruation, impotence and mild depression. There are a slew of other symptoms, but I think you get the point.  

A Little B12 Goes a Long Way

The human body is capable of storing between 2 and 5 milligrams of vitamin B12 as it excretes very little each day. So in essence, stores of B12 can last for several years in the liver.  Even still, deficiency can occur if B12 is not replenished.  If you are not concerned about a deficiency, doctors recommend a sublingual, chewable, or liquid B12 methylcobalamin supplement with at least 2,500 mcg once or twice per week to maintain required levels in the body. You don’t have to worry about taking too much because, like other vitamins, you will simply excrete any extra amounts. If you are concerned about vitamin B12 deficiency it’s best to make an appointment with your physician.

Sources of B12

As previously stated, minimal quantities of B12 is needed to avoid deficiency. While meat, fish eggs, and dairy products are sources of B12, one need not be a carnivore to enjoy the benefits of B12. Nutritional yeast is yellow in color and has a flavor reminiscent of cheese. The best part is that it contains 7.8 mcg per serving; that’s 136% of the recommended daily value. As a side note, nutritional yeast also contains 9.6 mg of B6, 240 mcg of Foliate, and 56.0 mcg of Niacin! Nutritional yeast is grown on a molasses solution and differs from brewer’s yeast and torula yeast- both of which I have intolerances to. I am happy to report that I have noted no reaction to nutritional yeast and enjoy sprinkling this cheesy flavored goodness on salads and anything else I deem worthy. So if you are not currently using it, I recommend purchasing some pronto. You can find nutritional yeast at stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods.  Onto plant power. There is evidence to support that organically grown plants contain higher levels of B12 than plants grown in non-organic soil. That’s not all; the roots of plants can absorb the vitamins produced by microorganisms in the soil making the leaves of the plants rich in B12 as well as other nutritious vitamins. Other options for including this important B vitamin in your diet are fortified non-dairy milks and cereals containing B12.

Tempeh, miso, and sea vegetables have also been shown to contain small amounts of B12.  Last but not least a B12 vitamin supplement is an easy way to put deficiency worries to rest.

Increasing your awareness about your health and the foods, vitamins, and minerals that promote health is the beginning of a new lease on life. Meeting your daily nutrient needs can be easy and more importantly, tasty. Stay tuned for more insights and recipes as you embark on your journey to vitality.

Go Nuts for your Health!