Okay, so you made the leap, jumped the carnivore ship for the herbivore sail. You’ve said goodbye to all animal products (meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, honey, etc.). Congratulations! You’ve made a healthy lifestyle choice that will leave you feeling energetic and youthful. That is if you’re truly getting enough protein, minerals, and vitamin, especially vitamin B12, which is one of the most problematic vitamins. Found only in animal-based products, vegans have to take special care to augment their diets.
Benefits of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin critical in the healthy maintenance of body processes. Specifically, vitamin B12 called the “energy vitamin,” is necessary for energy production. It is also a building block necessary for the creation of DNA and RNA. It promotes a healthy immune system protecting the body against harmful stress factors and maintains a healthy nervous system. Thus, vitamin B12 is necessary for:
- Fueling the body – Converts carbohydrates into glucose for energy
- Promotes a healthy nervous system
- Reduces depression
- Reduces stress
- Reduces brain shrinkage
- Maintains a healthy digestive system
- Lowers cholesterol levels thereby protecting against heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure
- Promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails through the constant regeneration of skin cells
- Protects against cancers (breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer)
Are you experiencing sluggishness or prolonged fatigue even though you maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine? A visit to the doctor should help explain you malaise. Ask to have your B12 levels checked, but not through a blood test. Blood homocysteine testing is more reliable. B12 deficiency may show no symptoms for a while but over time, can progress to more severe symptoms such as:
- Fatigue (weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness)
- Confusion (fuzziness)
- Diminished sleep
- Heart palpitations
- Digestive Problems
- Nerve problems (Tingling in numbness in extremities, muscle weakness)
- Vision and hearing loss
- Depression, irritability, mood swings, behavioral changes
- Memory loss
- Weak Immunity
Supplementing a Vegan’s Diet
Okay vegans, don’t despair. There are several ways to enhance your plant-based diet with vitamin B12.
- Multivitamins, B12 Supplements (Preferably Methylcobalamin over Cyanocobalamin which is made from cyanide)
- Fortified Foods
- Fortified Breakfast Cereal
- Plant milk (Soy, Almond, Coconut)
- Nutritional yeast
- Vegan Mayonnaise
Photo: Courtesy of www.onegreenplanet.org
Yeast, hmmm . . . it doesn’t sound or look too appealing, but it’s rather tasty. Nutritional yeast, yellow powdery and flaky in consistency, is vitamin-fortified inactive yeast produced from cane or beet molasses. It’s gluten free and loaded with B vitamins – B12, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, and folic acid as well as protein.
Photo: Courtesy of www.foodandwine.com
The taste is similar to Parmesan cheese and can be added to a number of dishes. It’s become a regular staple in my diet and a great source of vitamin B12. I use it in everything from salads, pasta, soup, smoothies, sauces, sprinkled on my popcorn and more. I also use in my pesto sauce.
Vegan Pesto Sauce
Photo: Courtesy of vegetarian.lovetoknow.com
2 Cups Basil (tightly packed)
½ Cup Pine Nuts
3 Cloves Garlic
½ Cup Olive Oil
¼ Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon Salt
Pepper (to taste)
- Toast pine nuts in a skillet for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Make sure to flip consistently.
- Add the pine nuts, garlic, nutritional yeast, and basil to a food processor. Blend on low speed until smooth.
- Add olive oil and pulse until creamy.
- Add lemon juice and pulse again.
- Add pepper to taste.
Serve pesto with your favorite dishes – pasta, pizza, vegetables, and sandwich, any way you like it.