Q: I am thinking of becoming vegetarian, but am concerned with getting enough B-12. Is a vegetarian diet going to be enough for me to get all the vitamins that I need?
A: Yes, but!!!
First of all vegetarianism needs to be defined. A vegetarian eats animal products such as dairy and eggs, but not meats. A vegan eats only vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, and does not even eat honey, bee pollen or any derivative of animal products. This choice can be based on ethical, religious, health, environmental or economic concerns.
I have seen many ‘vegetarians’ or even ‘vegans’ that do not look healthy and I have seen many that do. One reason why some do not do well on such diets is that although they might not eat animal foods, they still continue to eat junk foods! Health Food Store bought potato chips, candy bars, loads of carbohydrates in the form of pastas, breads and the like are all common staple vegetarian foods. And while they me be a little healthier, they are still junk foods in my opinion.
Another reason can be that many switch over to a vegetarian diet not only for humanitarian reasons but to improve their health from a health challenge. We need to realize that it can take many months or even years to regain great health depending on the health condition we are trying to improve.
The average person in good health need not be concerned about getting B-12 or other nutrients from a vegetarian diet, provided they do not regularly consume nutrient depleting foods such as white breads, refined sugars, processed dairy foods, coffee, regular salt, fried foods and so on.
Also one must have good absorption and assimilation with a good functioning digestive tract. The large colon will produce its own B-12 provided one eats a diet primarily consisting of plenty of fresh ripe fruits and vegetables and raw nuts and seeds. Eating too much of the nutrient depleting foods and gluten grains such as wheat, barely, oats and rye, and eating poor quality fruits and vegetables which inhibit and damage the digestive tract, will hinder one’s ability to absorb the necessary nutrients for optimum health.
B-12 is present in many natural foods such as dark leafy greens, food grade algaes (although controversial about the B-12 absorption levels because they are thought to be B12 analogues), sea-vegetables such as nori, dulse, arame and many others.
Taking a good quality intestinal probiotic such as acidophilous and bifidus can also boost absorption of B-12. B-12 deficiency is no more common among raw vegans than any other segment of the population. B-12 mainly comes from bacteria, that live on soil, and minimally from any plant or animal. So we can get adequate B-12 by eating organic ripe fruits and vegetables. Statistically there are no known Vegan cultures that live to be centenarians (100 or more). All long-lived healthy cultures eat animal products rarely, and those are naturally fed wild animals.
Final Point: My opinion is that one can live a long life free of animal products, but it could take years to get your absorption to where it needs to be before all neccessary nutrition can be obtained from vegan diet. I know a few vegans that do it but they are very, very healthy and some took years to get to that level. A little organic animal food occasionally is not a problem health wise! Animal products cause health problems when we overeat them, eat them non-organic, and make them unhealthy by poor cooking practices.
So eat healthy and be Forever Healthy!