Making sure you’re getting all the right vitamins and nutrients in your body – and that you’re getting the right amount – is essential to keep ill health well at bay. No doubt if you’re already leading a healthy and active lifestyle, you’re already eating lots of produce that is great for you and your body… but do you know if you’re getting enough vitamin B12?
It’s January 2020, which means that lots of you out there will probably be doing Veganuary, where you give up meat, egg and dairy products for four weeks.
Plant-based diets are growing in popularity and veganism has certainly become a more mainstream way of thinking over the last few years as the impact that human activity is having on the planet becomes more apparent and more people become aware of such issues.
But you also need to be aware that a plant-based diet can mean your levels of vitamin B12 drop, a vitamin you need to produce healthy red blood cells. A vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue, anaemia, weight loss, decreased appetite, constipation, memory problems, confusion, dizziness and more.
A vegan plant-based diet can mean you get less of this vitamin than usual because there are no plant-based natural sources of B12. You can get around this, however, by eating fortified foods like soy milk and cereal, but you can also take a B12 supplement if you’re worried.
You should aim to get 2.4mcg of B12 a day if you’re an adult, according to FDA guidelines, although if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, increasing your B12 levels would be a good idea.
Milk, cheese, fish, poultry and eggs are all great sources of B12 – but if you’re doing Veganuary this year, you’ll have to steer clear of all these until the end of the month.
The Vegan Society advises people to eat fortified foods up to three times a day to ensure they’re getting at least 3mcg a day. Alternatively, they could take on B12 supplement of at least 10mcg a day, or take a weekly supplement that provides them with at least 2,000mcg.
Vitamin B12 is the only one that cannot be reliably supplied if you follow a varied plant-based wholefood diet with lots of fruit and veg, and getting some sun. It can be found in plants and soil but not enough to give you what you need, so fortified foods and supplements remain the best way to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need when following this kind of diet.
Go to see your doctor if you’re worried you might have a deficiency – a simple blood test will tell you all you need to know.
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