Eating smart is your key to a successful healthy vegetarian diet. It can be tricky when you get down to a vegan diet but have you ever wondered if you are meeting your daily requirements for vitamin B12?
Can you guess how much vitamin B12 there is in the bowl of vegetables above?
Anyone following a vegan diet will benefit from a B12 supplement or drinks enriched in this B vitamin. This is because plant foods contain minimal amounts or practically no vitamin B12. Animal foods and fortified products are the predominant sources for this vitamin.
Inadequate intake or malabsorption of food cobalamin whereby vitamin B12 cannot be dissociated from its carrier proteins can lead to increased risk of pernicious anaemia. However, deficiency is only likely in strict vegans or in older adults with reduced absorption.
Do you know your requirements?
The UK Department of Health recommends 1.2-1.5μg/day of dietary vitamin B12 for adults. This is the RNI or dietary reference nutrient intake that is deemed safe for at least 97% of the general population.
But what is B12?
Vitamin B12 contributes to the optimal function of the human nervous system through their role as cofactors in numerous catalytic reactions in the human body. The best sources of these foods are meat, fish and dairy products.
For vegans out there, your beacon of hope is fortified foods such as breakfast cereals. So to answer your question above – there is practically no vitamin B12 in that bowl of sweet potato and capsicum.
YOUR ACTION PLAN
Vegetarians who eat fish
A sandwich filled with tuna, sardines or herring will contain at least 3.7 – 18μg depending on portion sizes. If your requirements as a female are 1.2 μg/day, then you can see that meeting your vitamin B12 dietary requirements are effortless. Fish fingers contain a smaller amount of vitamin B12, but chances are that if you eat fish, then you probably also include dairy on your vegetarian diet.
Vegetarians who eat dairy
A glass of milk contains approximately 1.9μg of vitamin B12. A 30g portion of cheese consists of at least 0.7μg. This illustrates that after a few tweaks to your diet, it is incredibly easy to meet your requirements for this vitamin.
If you are following a strict vegan diet or also need to follow a milk free diet as part of your vegetarian diet, then no problem. Simply choose fortified rice or soy milks and you will find that a 200ml glass will contain around 0.8μg. Soy yoghurts are also another useful way of increasing intake.
Here is an example of how you can tweak your diet to increase vitamin B12 intake.
Toast with margarine and jam
Black tea to drink
Salad sandwich or salad with nuts
Roasted vegetables with potato and herbs
Vitamin B12 friendly meal plan
Special K or instant oats and vitamin B12 fortified soy milk (250ml)
Cup of tea with fortified milk free milk
As above but consider including a soy yoghurt that is B12 fortified or a soy milkshake (200ml)
As above but consider making a pesto sauce by adding fortified rice milk or yoghurt
How do you try to meet your vitamin B12 requirements? Do comment below, I love hearing from you!
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