The Power Of Plants

Only a decade ago, vegans and those adopting plant-based diets were few and far between. Nowadays, researchers estimate about 1 in 10 Americans eat plant-based. There are several reasons to opt for a diet free of animal products. Some may choose a plant-based diet to reverse illness or improve nutrition, while others go vegan purely for ethical beliefs. Whatever the reason, there are many benefits to a vegan diet. However, people on this diet need to be aware of possible deficiencies, such as vitamin B12.

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Why do we need B12?

Cobalamin, or B12, is one of the 8 essential B vitamins the body needs for optimal health. This vitamin is crucial for the development of red blood cells and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) maintenance. B12 also helps to absorb essential nutrients from food and convert food to energy. The body does not make B12, so the vitamin must be consumed via diet. Red meat, fish, eggs, and dairy are the most significant source of B12. There are also foods fortified with this vitamin, including grains, cereals, and milk. A B12 deficiency can lead to anemia, fatigue, nerve damage, and depression.

Deficiencies in plant-based eaters

A B12 deficiency is not expected for most Americans as most diets contain meat, and many foods are fortified with the vitamin. Furthermore, the liver can store vitamins like B12 for several years. However, studies show that up to 86% of adult vegetarians may be B12 deficient. Vegans and pregnant women are likely even more at risk of not getting enough of this important vitamin. Since B12 deficiencies can take a long time to develop, people who have been vegans for several years can also become deficient. Switching to a vegan diet without the proper plan can pose a risk for B12 deficiency.

Should vegans supplement?

The body only requires a small amount of B12. Eating or drinking a few servings of fortified foods daily is enough. However, doctors still recommend that vegans and plant-based eaters supplement from sources other than diet alone. A daily supplement will contain enough B12 that the body can absorb. Over time, the supplement will reduce the symptoms or complications associated with low B12.

Eat plant-based safely

The plant-based population shows no signs of slowing down. The benefits of plant-based eating include lower cholesterol and weight management. Some medical specialists even use these diets to manage diabetes and heart disease. However, the drawback is a vitamin deficiency, which can affect overall health if not corrected. Vegans need a high-quality supplement that can compensate. A doctor or pharmacist can recommend the best plant-based brand with the right amount of B12. Vegans should also test vitamin levels via a blood test yearly. Knowing the dangers can help with early intervention.


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