If you follow a strict vegan nutrition diet, then it’s essential that you supplement with vitamin B12, in order to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency. Even vegetarians, as you will see, benefit greatly from this essential nutrient.
Vitamin B12 is crucial for developing healthy red blood cells, protecting your nervous system, and increasing energy. One of the vitamin B complex nutrients, vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is involved in many vital biochemical reactions throughout your body. Without it, you may experience symptoms such as extreme fatigue, memory loss, nerve pain, and numbness in the extremities.
Vitamin B12 only occurs naturally in animal-based products, such as lean beef, turkey, organ meats, seafood (notably shellfish), eggs, milk, and cheeses. It’s important to note that very few vegetarian or vegan nutrition foods contain vitamin B12, and only in scarce amounts, not enough to guarantee good neurological health.
That is because people don’t produce vitamin B12, and neither do animals. Only one-celled organisms like algae and bacteria are able to generate vitamin B12. Basically, animals consume cobalamin in dirt (yes, dirt!). Whenever you eat a hamburger, tuna sandwich, or even a slice of pizza, you benefit from that soil-based vitamin B12 digested previously by cows, fish, and chickens.
Obviously, for followers of vegan nutrition, maintaining healthy levels of vitamin B12 can be challenging. Nori, a type of seaweed, is the only natural source of vegetarian vitamin B12, but how much toasted seaweed can you eat in one day? Certain healthy vegan nutritional products are fortified with vitamin B12, but not in sufficient amounts.
Bottom-line, the richest, most available sources of vitamin B12 occur in beef, chicken, and shellfish. Vegetarians and vegan nutrition followers alike are urged to supplement with extra vitamin B12 on a daily basis for optimum health.
Good options for vegetarians are vitamin B12 pills, sublingual vitamin B12 tablets, or other forms of over-the-counter (OTC) vitamin B12 available without a prescription at low cost.