By Alinda Boyd, Naturopath
The popularity of vegan diets has seemed to explode over the last few years, with people making the switch to plant-based eating for health and/or ethical reasons. While a vegan diet done right can provide the majority of your nutritional needs there is one vitamin that vegans need to keep an extra close eye on – vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 helps us to keep our nervous system healthy, ensures a healthy cardiovascular system, and helps build our red blood cells plus other cells of the body. It also helps metabolise the food we eat, and plays a role in keeping our immune system strong.
While a diet rich in leafy greens, legumes, nuts and whole grains can provide vegans with a plentiful supply of the other types of B vitamins (folate, B1, B2 for example), vitamin B12 is only found in adequate amounts in animal products. Trace amounts of B12 may be found in fermented foods such as tempeh, some types of seaweed, and may be found in some types of mushrooms, but these food sources can’t be relied upon to provide a sufficient amount of B12 for vegans, due to the small amounts of B12 that they contain.
With this in mind, it is important that vegans keep an eye on foods that are fortified with B12 (check the label!), or consider taking a B12 supplement.
SIGNS YOU MAY BE LACKING IN B12
Have you experienced memory loss, depression, irritability, fatigue, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, blurred vision, glossitis (a bright red, smooth tongue), loss of appetite, nausea, weakness or clumsiness? These are just some of the symptoms that may indicate a B12 deficiency – have a chat to your healthcare practitioner if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms especially if you are vegan.
TYPES OF SUPPLEMENTS
A relatively new arrival on the Australian vitamin market is the methylcobalamin form of vitamin B12. This ‘bioactive’ form of vitamin B12 means that it is readily absorbed, and ready to be used by the body. A wide range of B12 supplements are available including this bioactive form – speak to one of our qualified Flannery’s naturopaths or nutritionists instore about which B12 supplement may be the best fit for you.
This article is for educational purposes only. Always seek health advice from your healthcare professional.