Vitamin B12 is crucial to the healthy functioning of the human body, as deficiencies can contribute to anemia, nervous system damage, cardiac disease, stroke and complications in pregnant women, notes The Vegetarian Society. Insufficient B12 levels have caused permanent damage in adults, and deficiencies of B12 in breastfeeding women can harm their breastfed infants. B12 is exclusively produced by microorganisms and is not found in plants, so it is vital that vegetarians make sure they are consuming enough B12.
Ovo-lacto vegetarians, those who allow eggs and milk products in their diet, should find it relatively easy to get enough B12. The recommended daily allowance of B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms. This is equivalent to the amount of B12 found in 2 cups of plain yogurt, four eggs, 3 ounces of Swiss cheese or 4 cups of milk. According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended daily allowance for pregnant women is a bit higher, at 2.6 micrograms; for lactating women, it's 2.8 micrograms.
Vegans, vegetarians who abstain from all animal products including eggs and dairy, must be especially vigilant in ensuring they receive enough B12. A number of B12 fortified foods, such as cereals and breads, are available.
Some brands of nutritional yeast are fortified with vitamin B12. You can purchase nutritional yeast in bulk form at health food stores, but make sure it has been stored properly, as exposure to light can decrease the potency, according to Vegan Outreach. Nutritional yeast can be sprinkled on popcorn or salads and is an ingredient in many vegan recipes.
Vegan meat substitutes, such as veggie burgers, tofu dogs and textured vegetable protein often are fortified with enough B12 to supply your daily requirement. Tofu itself often is fortified with essential vitamins and is a good source of protein, calcium and Vitamin D.
Soy milk and soy margarines are often fortified with enough B12 to satisfy the dietary needs of vegans. Check the label when selecting soy products to ensure that adequate amounts of B12 have been added.
- veggie stand image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.