It’s a concern that many new or aspiring vegans have: can they get B12 while eating a vegan diet?
It’s certainly a valid concern and one a reader recently asked me to discuss further.
By the end of this post you should have a much clearer idea of how to ensure you are obtaining enough B12 to avoid deficiency.
B12 is primarily responsible for health red blood cell formation and plays an important role in the health of nerve tissue and brain function. Usually when people are deficient in B12 they are fatigued and experience a very weakened immune system, meaning they are susceptible to colds, flus and other symptoms.
Like many things in the health world, how to obtain enough B12 is a heavily debated issue.
First let’s look at how to get B12 purely from the viewpoint that what we put into our bodies gives us the vitamins and nutrients we need to function.
B12 is found in animal products such as meat, eggs, fish and milk. This implies then that people who eat a vegan diet or a vegetarian diet without eggs or milk are particularly susceptible to a B12 deficiency.
B12 is produced by microorganisms in soil, so it is possible that you can get some B12 into your diet by not washing all the soil off your produce or eating the odd insect or two. However it is unlikely you would obtain all the B12 you need from a few grains of soil here or there. Plus who wants to eat soil and insects really?! I know it’s not my cup of tea but if you’re willing to eat some little critters and grainy soil, all the power to you!
The easier solution for a vegan or almost-vegan is to take a high quality B12 supplement.
But not all B12 supplements are created equal. The best option is to find a B complex that also contains other members of the B vitamin family, such as folic acid. This helps to ensure that supplementation of B12 does not create imbalances of other vitamins in your body and that they work synergistically to increase your B vitamin levels.
If you are experiencing low energy or are symptomatic while eating a vegan or almost-vegan diet, I definitely recommend you try taking a B12 supplement and see if this improves how you feel.
There is another very important point to consider and this sheds light on a possible reason for many of the vitamin and nutrient deficiencies people experience today no matter what their diet – meat lovin’ or plant based.
If you have a congested, impacted intestine, you are unlikely to absorb B12 from your food sources or supplements no matter how much you are consuming.
Your small intestine is where the majority of nutrient absorption happens during the digestion process so if you have a long history of eating poor quality foods, cooked animal products, refined salts and sugars (and let’s not forget the alcohol, pharmaceuticals, recreational drugs and cigarettes along the way) then it is very likely you have an impacted intestine. Oh, did I mention the environmental pollutants and stress too? Yes, they contribute too!
So what can you do about this?
The key is to eat a mostly alkaline, hydrating diet full of fresh vegetables and some fresh fruits and to regularly cleanse your colon through colonics or enemas. Both parts of this equation are necessary if you want to reduce the congestion in your intestines so that you can better absorb B12 and any other vitamins, nutrients and minerals necessary for great health.
If you do this consistently and also take a high quality B12 supplement, you should see a significant improvement in your B12 levels, and more importantly, how you feel (the best judge of anything!).
There are some experts in the nutrition and cleansing world, such as Dr Brian Clement, who firmly believe that the B12 produced in the digestive tract is re-absorbed into the bloodstream giving enough of this vitamin for the body to function well.
While this view is only supported by the few, it is worth considering that there are a number of very clean-celled people in the health world who do not supplement with B12 or eat any sources of B12, such as animal products. What all these people seem to have in common however, is a complete commitment to eating a very high quality, highly alkaline, hydrating, mostly raw fruit and vegetable diet and they consistently cleanse their colon as an ongoing lifestyle practice.
This should not lead you to think that if you have had a few colonics or eat a fairly clean diet most of the time that you should assume you can produce and/or absorb all the B12 you need to function optimally. This is very unlikely unless you have been cleansing for years.
Even with my total commitment to both of these aspects of (great) health and my last blood tests showing my B12 levels were ideal, I still choose to supplement with B12 as safe guard against deficiency.
Focus on supplementing while also cleaning out your body through a high quality diet and regular colon cleansing. This will give you the best chance at maintaining ideal B12 levels whether you are a vegan, almost vegan or even if you love a big slab of steak daily.
Usually, the foods you crave are not a necessity, and don’t serve a life-sustaining need. Cravings, unlike hunger signals, change over time, even over a time period as short as 10 minutes. They are usually triggered by emotions (stress, boredom, sadness, etc.), an attachment or fondness for a certain food, or just being around the food. Unlike hunger, where any food will satisfy you, only one specific food will satisfy a craving.
How to tell if you are truly hungry:
The desire to eat doesn’t go away, even if you wait.
The desire for food intensifies while you wait.
Even the thought of eating something not that pleasant (e.g., lima beans) still makes you want to eat.
How to tell if you are just having a craving:
You don’t feel any hunger “pains” or experience any physical hunger symptoms.
The thought of eating goes away when you are distracted by other things.
You feel “emotional” about eating a certain type of food (e.g., happy, comforted, guilty, etc.) .
You desire something very specific and not healthy, so not a particular nutrient but more a texture or consistence (e.g., sweet, crunchy, etc.).
Ways to control a craving:
All this can be enough to drive a girl straight to the fridge. But stop! The smart strategies below can help you learn to manage your cravings — and even lose weight in spite of them.
To Curb Cravings…
Avoid your triggers. Spend a day taking note of where you are and what you’re doing when you experience cravings; then try to change one trigger at a time. “Take a different route to work if it’s impossible to drive by the doughnut shop without stopping,” suggests Kathy McManus, RD, a FITNESS advisory board member and director of the department of nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Take control. Develop strategies for the triggers you can’t avoid. For example, if someone brings cupcakes to a meeting, resolve that you’ll split one with a colleague or take just a couple of bites. “Remember, you have the power to make healthy choices,” Gearhardt says.
Stick to a schedule. Aim to eat only at set meal and snack times — about every four hours — to help prevent mindless grazing.
Get some satisfaction. If you bring a salad for lunch every day, it’s no wonder you’re likely to ditch it for pizza. Include indulgences a few times a week, but keep portions reasonable. “Packing a few cookies to satisfy your need for something sweet is a better strategy than depriving yourself until you rebel and eat a huge sundae,” says Leslie Bonci, RD, a FITNESS advisory board member and director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.
Cut back on coffee. ”Too much caffeine can lead to a sugar craving, because you’ll need a pick-me-up a few hours later,” Koff says. Drink no more than two cups of java a day and pair them with protein, like almonds, to keep your energy level steady.
Give your meal a happy ending. Come up with an “enough” signal that lets you know when a meal is over. Nutrition and psychiatry pro fessor Roberts, for example, likes to finish dinner with a cup of decaf tea: “I enjoy it, and then I know eating is done for the day,” she says.
When a Craving Hits…
Wait 10 minutes. ”If you still want the food, take a little and then wait another 10 minutes,” McManus advises. Ask yourself if it’s really going to satisfy you or if you’d rather have, say, a homemade brownie later. “Make sure you’re going to get maximum enjoyment from it,” she says.
Eat something smarter. When junk food catches your eye, figure out a satisfying nutrient-rich option you can have instead. Nonfat Greek yogurt with some roasted peanuts and a drizzle of honey is a healthy alternative to a Drumstick cone from the ice cream truck.
Have some good with the bad. If you want chips but you’re watching your weight, portion out a handful of them with a healthy salsa and some vegetables, Roberts says. “You’ll end up eating fewer chips but still feel full.”
After You Overindulge…
Don’t beat yourself up. ”Too often we think, I’m a terrible person for eating that,” Bonci notes. “Or we say, Oh well, I already had the chips; I might as well eat the ice cream, too.” Associating food with guilt or negative emotions can cause a snowball effect. “Tell yourself, I enjoyed my treat, and now I’m done,” Bonci says.
Limit the damage. If you guzzled sugary drinks all day, prevent it from happening in the future by weaning yourself off the sweet stuff. Roberts suggests mixing 90 percent juice or soda with 10 percent water or seltzer for a few days. Then go to an 80:20 ratio and so on, until you hit 10 percent juice, 90 percent water. “Transition gradually and you’ll barely notice the change,” she says.
Stop the second meal effect. The day after a big splurge, eat a half cup of high-fiber cereal (eight to 10 grams a serving) with your usual breakfast, then again as an afternoon snack and after dinner. “This will help counter your increased hunger by putting a layer of slow-to-digest fiber in your stomach” Roberts says. It’s easier to resist cravings when you feel full.
BANANAS ARE GOOD FOR YOU! BUT OF COURSE, YOU KNEW THAT…
No seriously, you should try to have at least one banana a day!
- Although they do contain natural sugar, they contain NO FAT
- They contain around 16% of your vitamin C and 20% of your B6 recommended daily intake
- They’re really good for your heart, bones, nerves, blood and kidneys
- They are a good source of dietary fibre which can lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes
- One medium banana contains only 110 cals…that’s only 10-15 minutes of walking at a rapid pace!
- Add them to your cereal, fruit salad, muffins, yoghurt, smoothies
- Mash them up and freeze them for a creamy icy dessert
How to calculate your maximum heart rate to know how hard you’re working during your cardio
PS: the “fat burning zone” (about 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate) doesn’t mean you’re burning more fat. It just means the body burns a higher percentage of calories from fat when in this zone. However, at higher intensities (70-90% of your maximum heart rate), you burn a greater number of overall calories.
10 Reasons to Eat Breakfast
- Breakfast restores sugar levels after up to 12 hours of not eating.
- It is extremely difficult to get all of your necessary daily nutrients without breakfast.
- Adults who skip breakfast are less mentally and physically efficient for longer periods during the day.
- People who eat breakfast are more successful at losing weight and sticking to a diet.
- Athletes who skip breakfast train less effectively.
- Eating breakfast can raise metabolism by as much as 10 percent.
- People who eat breakfast regularly are more likely to rate their health as “excellent” or “good.”
- Missing breakfast increases your chance of heavy machinery and factory accidents.
- Eating breakfast has been shown to increase concentration.
- Eating a bigger meal in the morning and a smaller meal at night optimizes your daily energy levels.
Building a Balanced Breakfast
Breakfast should provide at least one quarter of the calories you need for the entire day. Most nutritionists agree that a good breakfast contains the following ingredients:
- At least one serving of fiber
- At least one fruit and/or vegetable
- Milk or another source of calcium
- Protein, i.e., from meat, cheese or eggs
If this sounds like a tall order, it’s not. A bowl of cereal with fruit, a cereal bar with a glass of milk or a pita pocket with ham and cheese all fill the bill, as do bigger, traditional breakfasts, like eggs, ham and juice or blueberry pancakes with bacon. And, yes, cold pizza (with a glass of milk) qualifies as a healthy breakfast alternative.
Never eat breakfast?
If your usual breakfast is a cup of coffee, start small by incorporating a glass of juice or milk into your morning routine for a week or so, and then gradually build up to a balanced meal. If you think you don’t have time in the morning, consider making breakfast the night before or buying ready-made alternatives, such as cereal bars and juice boxes.
- Turn on all the lights – Darkness promotes fatigue and laziness. Turn on every light in the room.
- Go outdoors. – Getting some fresh air outdoors is always a good way to rouse your senses.
- Pull down on your earlobes. – This may sound strange, but pulling down on your earlobes can help you stay awake and alert when you’re feeling drowsy.
- Rub the roof of your mouth with your tongue. – Rub your tongue against the top front area of your mouth cavity. It feels a little weird, but it does give you a quick nerve jolt that’s bound to make you a bit more alert.
- Call a close friend. – Sometimes a quick conversation with someone you care about is just what you need to boost your mood.
- Eat nutritious low carb snacks. – Low carb fruits such as raspberries, apples, oranges, and grapefruits are great energy boosters. Heaping scoops of spicy salsa on a few small crackers is another goodie. Stay away from meats, breads and dairy products.
- Listen to some fast beat music. – If it’s not too much of a distraction, listening to fast beat music can be a great way to keep your mind awake.
- Roll up and down on your toes. – This stimulates your circulatory system, which will deliver much-needed oxygen and fuel (glucose) throughout your body.
- Watch or read something that inspires you. – Sometimes all you need is a little pep talk. Watch a motivational video or read something that inspires you.
- Have a good laugh. – Watch a funny video clip or read your favorite comic strip. A good chuckle will stimulate your mind, giving you a renewed level on energy.
- Crank up the AC. – Warm, stuffy environments accelerate mental fatigue. If you need to stay awake and energized in a lecture hall or meeting room find an open seat under an AC vent.
- Apply pressure to the top of the back of your neck. – Use your fingertips to apply pressure and lightly massage the top part of the back of your neck for a few minutes.
- Tap the top of your head. – Lightly tap the top of your head with your fingertips. Do this continuously for a few minutes.
- Chew sugar-free peppermint gum. – It won’t rot your teeth and that minty taste will make you feel fresh. Strong peppermint flavors seem to work best for me.
- Take light exercise breaks every two hours. – Take a break and take a walk or do a couple jumping jacks to get your blood moving. Even the slightest bit of exercise can act as a healthy way to energize your mind and body.
- Write and plan. – The idea is to keep your mind busy. If you are attending a lecture or business meeting, write down everything that is said. If you are simply trying to stay awake or re-energize, create a detailed to-do list for the week or plan out your perfect weekend getaway.
- Get yourself some cold water. – Splash some on your face and the pulse area of your wrists. Also, drinking an ice-cold glass of water can help to wake you up and feel alive.
- Stay organized. – Avoid losing energy by keeping everything in its place.
- Take a few really deep, controlled breaths. – Deep breathing helps reduce stress, a source of fatigue, and increases the level of oxygen in the blood. Techniques can be as simple as inhaling for five seconds, holding your breath for four seconds and exhaling for four seconds. You can also try more elaborate techniques which require different positions
- Exercise regularly in the morning. – Ease into exercise, and then keep it up. You should aim to be active for at least 30 minutes each day. Those 30 minutes of exercise will make you feel energized for hours to come. I’ve found exercise most effective on my energy levels when I exercise in the morning. Exercise in the morning gets the endorphins flowing, which keeps you happy and productive most of the day.
- Eat at least three meals a day. – Give yourself lasting energy by eating on a regular schedule.
- Spend your energy wisely. – Recognized when your energetic moments are, and use this time productively. Often if you get the ball rolling, you won’t stop.
- Practice altruism. – By doing good work and good deeds for others you’ll help your energy with enhanced happiness, satisfaction and health.
- Avoid late night television or aimless web browsing. – Get a little more sleep instead. Nuff said.
- Stretch. – When you feel yourself getting fatigued, get up, reach towards the sky, bend down and touch your toes, twist your torso from side to side… stretch it out. Also, certain yoga exercises, including the warrior poses, have been known to reduce fatigue and increase energy levels.
- Take a 15 minute cat nap. – A short afternoon nap can be refreshing, and won’t interfere with regular sleep patterns if you do it early enough.
- Decrease sugar consumption. – Sugar will cause fluctuations in energy that can leave you feeling burnt out.
- Eat smaller meals more often. – By eating smaller, more frequent meals, you’ll avoid the groggy feeling that comes with digesting large meals.
- Eat whole grains and energy foods. – Whole grains have complex carbohydrates that take a while to break down, providing you with energy that lasts. Some of the best high energy foods include sunflower seeds, beans, fruit or fruit juices, eggs, yogurt, nuts and vegetables.
- Choose lean protein. – Foods with lean protein help you feel fuller for longer. They also prevent blood sugar spikes, giving you more steady energy. Lean protein foods include fish and other seafood, lean pork, or chicken breasts (white meat).
- Cut down on coffee and energy drinks. – Although coffee can give you a rush of energy, in the end it will cause fatigue. Coffee does not have to be eliminated, but you probably shouldn’t drink more than one cup a day.
- Consume the proper vitamins. – Make sure you get the proper amount of vitamins, especially vitamin C, vitamin D, selenium, riboflavin, niacin and the B-vitamins such as pantothenic acid, folic acid, thiamine and vitamin B12.
- Use aromatherapy and incense. – Aromatherapy uses essential oils from plants to stimulate the brain through the nerves in the nasal passages. Oils can be added to bathwater, massage oil, a steam bath or vaporizer for inhalation. Essential oils that can help you stay alert and reduce fatigue include bergamot, cinnamon, clove, cypress, eucalyptus, fir, ginger, lemon, lime, lemongrass, peppermint, pine, rosemary, basil and black pepper. Also try a citrus scent.
- Stay hydrated. – Drink plenty of water. Dehydration will reduce your blood volume, which can make you feel tired. Dehydration can reduce blood volume, which leads to feelings of fatigue. Drinking plenty of water will also increase your need to go to the restroom, a feeling that will also help you stay awake.
- Clear your stuffy nose. – If allergies have your sinuses blocked, you may be feeling more tired and cranky. Rinse your nasal passages with saline solution.
- Change your socks for refreshment. – It’s an odd trick, but it works. Bring a change of socks to work, and change your socks midway through the day. You’ll be amazed at how much fresher you’ll feel. This trick is especially handy on days with lots of walking.
- Wear brighter colors. – This trick is related to the mood you project to people, and the reciprocating mood they project towards you. If you wear dark, somber colors, you project a dark, somber attitude, and people will respond to you with a somber attitude. If you wear bright, happy colors, you’ll get that attitude projected towards you, which will boost your own mood and energy levels.
- Watch your attitude. – If you let the bad things that happen during your day get you down, you’re bound to start feeling worn out. Watch your attitude and make sure you’re not letting yourself be overly negative. A generally upbeat and optimistic outlook on life will keep your energy level up. Yes, the worst thing that can happen might actually happen, but giving it too much worry will only drain you. Look for the positive in every situation and you won’t be so tired.
- Examine your emotions. – Stress, depression and other negative emotions can take a heavy toll on your energy levels. Your exhaustion may have a lot to do with how you’re feeling mentally, so take the time to deal with your emotions or get help if you need it.
- Lose a little weight. – Carrying around extra weight takes a toll on your body and energy, so take off a few pounds gradually. The things you do to lose weight – exercise, drink water, avoid simple sugars – are actions that also have a positive effect on your energy level.
- Consider herbal supplements. – Many people swear by herbs that are purported to improve energy levels. If you’re looking for a natural way to stay awake, try supplements of ginseng, bee pollen, gutu kola, maitake and more.
- Find something to look forward to. – Having something to look forward to is a great motivator.
- Avoid energy vampires. – Energy vampires always have something to complain about, or a problem that needs to be fixed, and they’ll drain your energy by making you listen to them about their problems or by giving them attention.
- Have a discussion about or work on something that interests you. – Even if you can only do it for a few minutes here and there, get your mind firing on all cylinders by talking about or doing something you feel passionate about.
- Start work with a challenging task. – Get your brain in gear by giving it a challenging task first thing. You’ll be more alert and you’ll get the hard stuff out of the way so the rest of your day will be a breeze.
- Stop slouching. – Slumping down at your desk isn’t doing you any favors in the alertness category. Sitting up at your desk, in an ergonomically friendly way, can make you feel more alert and ready to work.
- Try something new. – Getting into a rut can make your day seem boring and tedious and drain your energy levels. Change things up, try new things and seek out new experiences to spice up your day a little and keep you alert and awake.
- Finish an incomplete task. – There’s nothing more draining than the lingering of an incomplete task. Get things done. Do you have a task that’s weighing heavily on your mind? Just do it, and get the monkey off your back.
- Dress up. – Feeling better about yourself has a magical way of giving you more energy. Put just a tad more effort into looking your best for work, and you’ll get compliments from coworkers that will make you feel better — and make you a perkier and more energetic.
- Get enough sleep at night. – This one should be obvious. The best way to feel energized is to be well rested. We need 7-8 hours of sleep to be fully rested. Consistently sleeping less than 6 hours a night builds up a sleep debt that is hard to recover from.