If going plant based/vegan is so ideal for optimal health, why can?t we get vitamin B12 naturally, from plant sources?
The answer is simple – our modern day cleanliness and germaphobic habits.
Did you know B12 actually comes from bacteria produced by microorganisms in soil? We used to get B12 from drinking stream water and eating unwashed vegetables that we pulled up from the dirt, but that was 500 years ago. Nowadays, we sterilize everything.
We wash the dirt off our produce, kill off the good and bad bacteria and chlorinate our water supply. We live in a more sanitary world, which in many ways is a good thing, but may also be a consequence when it comes to how plant based eaters get their essential vitamin B12, which is required for healthy nervous system function, cell metabolism, blood formation and cognitive function (great for skin too!).
While B12 can be found in animal foods, it is not synthesized by plants or animals. The bacteria are what make biologically active vitamin B12. Animal tissues store bacteria-synthesized B12 which is passed on to people who eat meat. I touched on this in my Vegan Starter Guide but animals eat grass or whatever they graze on and end up getting their B12 needs met through the soil, that is, if they are lucky enough to eat grass grown in nutrient-rich soil. Conventional factory farm animals are not that lucky, so farmers often give the animals B12 shots…. then humans consume animals, therefore getting B12 through animal foods.
Keep in mind, consuming animal products does not mean all nutritional needs are automatically met! Even if you eat meat, you are susceptible to low levels of B12, it’s not just a “vegan” problem, but is more predominantly known in the vegan community and implied as a problem through the lack of animal products. Of course, I have to recommend just avoiding animal products altogether and taking a B12 supplement twice a month (or getting a B12 shot in your booty)… but to each their own! (Read My Vegan Story) There are B12 fortified foods too like cereals and plant milks (and also nutritional yeast) but still, it’s better to be safe than sorry and take a supplement, in my opinion.
Before you even start taking supplements though, I always recommend getting a blood work test done. They’re important because everybody is different and many factors are at play. Until you have your levels checked, how will you know if you are deficient or not?
I love to supplement with Jarrow Formulas Methylcobalamin (Methyl B12), but don’t overdo it! We only need about 2500 micrograms per week, so taking a simple B12 supplement once every other week (depending on the dosage in each tablet) is the simplest solution and solves the B12 issue. You do not need to take one everyday!! Plus, it often increases energy and clears up any brain fogginess you may be feeling. B12 is absorbed equally chewed, sublingually or swallowed. Injections are also available but personally, I would rather just take a simple supplement. This is not a sponsored by the way, just love their product!
Not all supplements are created equal – you want to make sure you are getting a supplement made from methycobalamin because its better absorbed, rather than the synthetic version – cyanocobalamin. If you have low B12 levels consider injections or taking 2000mcg daily for several weeks and retest your levels. The only downside of the shots is most of them cyanocobalamin which is the synthetic version. You can also get a B-Complex to fulfill all the B-vitamin needs!
I like Jarrow Formulas B12 because:
- it’s suitable for vegans/vegetarians and those with allergies
- has NO wheat, gluten, soybeans, dairy, fish/shellfish, peanuts/tree nuts
- tastes good and melt in your mouth
- provides enough B12 for 2 weeks (5000mcg per pill)
What do you guys take for B12? Do you take anything to supplement or are your levels fine?
I know there are liquid formula’s as well but have also heard they do not taste the best. Let me know in the comments below, would love to hear what you take!