Vegans have increased in their numbers around the world in recent years, and consuming a plant-based diet has been linked to a lower prevalence of diabetes, cancer, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. It is mandatory to be aware of the nutritional deficits that can occur if one neglects any important nutrient needed for the proper functioning of the body system, on a vegan diet.
Vitamin B12 is a vital micronutrient, and we as humans cannot live without it, and a shortage can lead to ill health. It is important for the functioning of the nervous system, synthesis of DNA and the production of red blood cells. A lack of B12 can cause nervous system breakdown, confusion, and in severe cases memory loss.
The U.S Food and Drug Administration sets the Daily Value for vitamin B12 at 6 micrograms. Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur when there is low level of stored B12 in the body. This can lead to:
- Blurred vision.
- Nervous breakdown.
- Anemia, sweating and difficulty in walking.
- Depression, poor memory and confusion.
- Soreness of the mouth and tongue.
- Pale skin.
- Tiredness, weakness, dizziness and lightheadedness.
- Lack of appetite and weight loss.
- Tingling in the feet and hands.
A normal range of B12 in the body is between 200-900 picograms per milliliter, so a person who experiences these symptoms should see a doctor to perform a blood test to determine whether a lack of vitamin B12 is the cause.
How to make sure you are getting enough vitamin B12
Use vitamin B12 supplements
Most vegans are always deficient in vitamin B12, and taking its supplement regularly can help prevent any associated risks listed above. There are many types of vitamin B12 supplements. They come in several forms: tablets, injection, capsules, and nasal gels.
The average recommended amounts per day varies by age and it is measured in micrograms (mcg):
(I) Infants (6 months) and Babies (7-12 months): 0.4 mcg and 0.5 mcg.
(II) Children age (1-3 years), (4-8 years) and (9-13 years): 0.9 mcg, 1.2 mcg and 1.8 mcg.
(III) Teenagers (14-18 years) & adults: 2.4 mcg
(IV) Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers: 2.6 mcg and 2.8mcg.
Nutritional yeast is a pale yellow, inactive, power house yeast that contains an abundance of protein, all the nine essential amino acids, antioxidants, zinc, copper, magnesium, manganese and B complex vitamins. It has a cheesy taste and it is often used as a nutritional supplement and flavouring by vegans due to its high protein content and selection of B-Vitamins. Many brands are fortified with essential nutrients and vitamin B-12. You can enjoy nutritional yeast in dressings, smoothies, juices, sauces, pasta or sprinkled on a bowl of popcorn for a nutty flavour. (¼ cup) per serving contains 60 calories, 0.5 grams of fat (0 gram saturated ), 5 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of protein and 25mg of sodium.
Consume more plant-based foods that are fortified with B12
Remember to check the product’s nutrition facts label, if you are looking to buy fortified vitamin B12 foods in the supermarket. Fortified breakfast cereals, vegan spread, drinks and plant-based milk such as soy, almond, rice, coconut, pumpkin and hemp seed milk, are all excellent choices.