Vegetarian diet and vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 is one of the most important water-soluble vitamins and is necessary for the formation of red blood cells, brain cells, and nerve cells. It plays a crucial role in growth, function and division of cells in the body.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is very common and increasing problem nowadays in India. Symptoms and complications of vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Tingling in fingertips
  • Sore mouth
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Anemia
  • Neurological problems

Our body cannot produce this exceptional vitamin, but it is highly available in non-vegetarian food. A vegetarian diet is usually deficient in Vitamin B12. And therefore, deficiency of vitamin B12 is commonly seen in vegetarians especially among older adults, women and poor.

Here are few tips for vegetarians to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency and related problems:

  • Some vegetarian food items like cheese, milk, and yogurt naturally provide significant levels of vitamin B12. Daily intake of fat-reduced milk and dairy products can provide vitamin B12 in reasonable amounts. Be sure to consume unpasteurized milk as pasteurized milk destroys vitamin B12.
  • As vitamin B12 deficiency can make you anemic, it is important to add iron-rich foods to your diet. Good sources of iron include dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits (apricots, raisins), beans and peas.
  • Consuming fortified foods and supplements is another excellent and reliable way to receive daily required vitamin B12 intake. Fortified soy milk, fortified breakfast cereals fortified nutritional yeast are the reliable sources of B12.
  • Ensure to check the labels and ingredients carefully to confirm you are receiving the active form and enough vitamin B12, suggests Dr. Neeraj Miglani, Apollo Family Physician, Apollo clinic HSR Layout, Bengaluru. Daily recommendation of vitamin B12 intake in adults is 1.0microgram per day.
  • People find using vitamin B12 supplements convenient and economical. If you are relying on supplements, it is recommended to take in small dosages more often as the body cannot absorb large portions of vitamin B12 at one time.
  • Pregnant and nursing vegetarian women must consume a reliable source of vitamin B12 to avoid the impact of vitamin B12 deficiency in their babies.

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