Absolutely Everything Vegans Need to Know About Getting Enough B12
There are a lot of misconceptions and outright lies floating around on the Internet about how to get B12 once you go vegan, so let’s clear the air a little. It’s essential for anyone looking into trying a plant-based diet or for those who just want to eat healthier in general to get the proper information regarding the nutrients in their foods. Let’s dive right into it.
The Western World is Quite B12 Deficient
This isn’t just a vegan problem. Many people go their whole lives without checking their nutrient levels, but the truth is that a great deal of Americans are deficient in at least one essential vitamin or mineral. There is actually an official name for it, the Micronutrient Pandemic. Keep in mind: the vast majority of vitamin and mineral supplements on the market today are NOT marketed toward vegans. They are meant for average Americans who eat a typical American diet. Those B12 supplements on the shelves in your vitamin section at Wal-mart don’t say “meant for vegans” anywhere on them. They are “meant” for the average American, who are about as unhealthy per capita as you can possibly get. Just check out some of these figures:
- 9 out of 10 Americans are deficient in potassium.
- 8 out of 10 are deficient in vitamin E.
- 7 out of 10 are deficient in calcium (yet everyone gorges on dairy. How can this be??? *fake sarcasm alert*)
- More than half of the entire population is vitamin D deficient.
- Iron deficiency is rampant, nearly at 12% for women.
And yes, B12 is right up there. Upwards to 40% of the entire country is B12 deficient.
So let’s make something clear from the outset: this isn’t a vegan problem. The vast majority of Americans don’t eat enough organic produce, don’t get enough sun, eat too much meat and dairy (which takes calcium from the bones) and far too many binge on junk food which has little to no nutritional value whatsoever. Also keep in mind that most Americans cook almost all of their food, and cooked food by and large has most of its essential nutrients destroyed.
So we can conclude from the outset that new vegans that go to the doctors and have their levels tested are often at the mercy of biased doctors and poor happenstance. You were likely deficient in nutrients long before you went vegan, and your doctor is almost certainly going to exaggerate the findings and brashly tell you something like “you need meat or supplements to get your right amount of B12.”
Which of course is nonsense. Don’t buy into it. Ask your average horse or gorilla how much meat and supplements they need in order to get the right amount of B12.
Where Does B12 Really Come From?
For anyone reading this who isn’t already aware: B12 does NOT come from animals or meat. Let’s repeat that for everyone in the back: B12 DOES NOT ORIGINATE FROM MEAT. There, let’s hope that lie dies once and for all.
It’s important to note that many livestock animals that we eat have to be given B12 supplements themselves. They ordinarily get their B12 from eating grass and dirt, but since most livestock animals only ever see processed corn feed and other kinds of artificial / sterilized foods, they must be given B12 supplements in order to keep them healthy. So the idea that only people who eat meat are getting B12 is patently ludicrous.
But if B12 doesn’t come from meat, where exactly does it come from?
Well, B12 is quite simply made by certain bacteria called prokaryotes. They subsist in the soil, and can be found there as well as on the roots of plants. No animal creates it themselves. Herbivores get it from eating grass and roots, and carnivores get it from eating the herbivores. Also, these bacteria are found in abundance in feces, and eating feces is somewhat of a routine action in some carnivores, and they get it that way as well. For herbivores and frugivores like us, our primary way of getting B12 is supposed to be through the regular consumption of trace amounts of dirt.
Sound gross? Well it’s not really. Dirt is merely nutrient rich organic matter made up of minerals, plant matter, the remains of dead animals and plants, and microscopic organisms. That’s it. Most, if not all animals, eat dirt from time to time. We’re just so far removed from the natural world that to do so automatically evokes thoughts of disgust, though it shouldn’t.
I know what you may be thinking, though. If veganism is our optimal diet, how are we supposed to get B12? Eat some dirt in our yard?
Not at all. Think about it for a second. If we’re supposed to be relying on fruits and vegetables as our primary sources of sustenance, then it would make sense that they are still our go-to for every vitamin and mineral.
Getting An Optimal Amount of B12
Let’s get one thing out of the way, you DON’T need supplements. Yes, they are helpful, and yes, there really is not much harm in taking a healthy supplement. But is it necessary? Not in the slightest.
If you want to know how to get all the B12 you could ever store, look no further than organic produce. If you shop at farmer’s markets, seek out some carrots or some other kind of root vegetable, or even a veggie that grows low to the ground, and find one that blatantly has some dirt on it. Mix it into a smoothie and drink up. You won’t ever taste the dirt, and you’ll get all the B12 you need if you do this regularly. Don’t fear what is natural. All you have to do is eat some unwashed, organic produce. That’s it. No crazy supplements, no need for meat, nothing.
However, there are alternatives. There are fortified foods, such as cereals, that pack a lot of B12. This is not an optimal way of getting it, but it will suffice. Lastly, if you deem it absolutely necessary (you may live in a food desert and not have access to fresh organic produce) a supplement might be right for you. There are many solid varieties on the market, and we have a couple stocked here at Digital Sages. We personally recommend going with a certified vegan variety, such as this.
Why Relying on Supplements is Not Always Best
Supplements are nice, but remember, for many people, it’s not that they aren’t getting at least a minimal amount of nutrition. It’s that they can’t absorb anything because they are overwhelmed with toxins and plaque. Before going out to buy a truckload of supplements or organic produce, I would consider a detox. You don’t want to get into the habit of believing you need to “supplement” your diet with pills, because like all animals, we have evolved to get every last bit of our nutrition from nature. Period. It doesn’t matter what kinds of diseases, allergies, or dietary needs you may have: nutrition begins and ends with nature. Period.
Without the right cofactors and phytonutrients, it is hard for our bodies to absorb the nutrients in multivitamins and supplements.
So while supplements for B12 are an option, I would attempt to find vegan foods any way possible that contain B12, even if you have to grab fortified cereals off of the Internet and get them delivered. There are always options.
Advice For Anyone Starting a Plant-Based Diet
Getting optimal nutrition is important, but we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that without meat and dairy, our health could suffer if we don’t watch what we’re doing. The reality is actually more so the case. If you eat just about what you’ve always eaten, but cut out all meat and dairy, your health is likely to flourish. Vegans sometimes report lethargy and weakness when they first start their new diets, because we’ve grown so accustomed to filling our bodies with empty carbs and tons of processed crap. The result is that upon going vegan, people are simply eating less. It doesn’t strike a person to eat three bananas in a sitting but they’ll do that for pizza or wings. Why? It’s because of how we are all raised and manipulated to act.
Don’t feel pressured to rush out to the nearest doctor and have your levels checked. If you ate a normal American diet, there is a good likelihood the results are going to come back spotty at best. It takes years to reverse all of the problems associated with a lifetime of poor eating. Save yourself the money and just start eating healthy.
Keep this in mind: our cells are made out of what we eat. Literally. Every so many days, all of our cells are replaced by new ones. What do you think they make the new ones out of, thin air? Nope, the building blocks of our cells consist of what we put into our mouths. So if you have been eating garbage (meat, dairy, processed foods) for 20, 25, 30 years, then your cells have had to reconstruct your entire body multiple times using the pittance of poor nutrients extracted from pork chops and pop tarts. And you wonder why you have aches, pains, acne, IBS, mental fatigue, migraines, and have to take a multi-vitamin, an iron supplement, and an aspirin just to make it through the day?
Once you go vegan, you’re starting the construction process of your cells from the ground up, and it’s a long process. Your average family doctor has not been trained to understand these things. Just because they have a “PhD” next to their names doesn’t mean they know the first thing about cellular nutrition. They are literally trained in college to memorize big words and administer pills properly. This isn’t an attack on doctors as much as it is on the system. Our medical industry is steeped in what is called allopathy, which is the belief that a disease or condition can only be treated by suppression or forceful removal. No healing the original problem, no healing with diet or nature, no natural processes to be found.
Well, guess what? Your family doctor has in all likelihood 100% allopathic training, and 0% naturopathic training. That split, if your lucky, might be upwards to 90% to 10% if you have a loving, aware doctor that went out of the normal channels to educate his or herself, and to develop a deep understanding between the relationship of diet and disease. But even then, you’re still not going to be getting a clear picture.
Thus, while visiting your doctor for advice on starting or maintaining a vegan diet might be somewhat useful, this isn’t anywhere near their realm of understanding. Remember: they work for the same industry that has to peddle billions of dollars in vitamins to the same people who they are giving advice to. In other words, allopathy is the definition of abject failure. Every heart disease, cancer, and chronic illness doctor that isn’t telling their patients to go vegan immediately is basically killing them. Might be hard words to hear, but it’s the truth. The raging pandemic of nutritional deficiency in this country is evidence that doctors aren’t really doing much to solve the problem. A multi-vitamin isn’t going to help in most cases, because we don’t readily absorb nutrients when they aren’t connected to their corresponding phytonutrients found in their plant sources. And then you have to figure that most Americans aren’t even absorbing the nutrients they do intake because of how run-down and clogged up their digestive tracts are.
Do yourself and your body a favor and try to get your B12 from organic produce. Take a supplement if you have to, but absolutely don’t let anyone make you think that you’re going to acquire some kind of B12 issue because you’re not eating meat. Most B12 supplements on the market are designed for the typical American: i.e. the ones chowing down on steak and chicken every day.
Have any questions about B12 and getting the right amounts? Want to share your experiences with us? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!