All the nutrients you need – with perhaps one exception – can be found easily and plentifully in a vegan diet. That one exception is vitamin B12, and the reason it is so elusive is that it is made by bacteria in the guts of many herbivorous animals and it is also found to some extent in soil and plants.1 It is possible that when we ate plants that still contained a little soil we got our hit then, but in the modern world, we scrub our veggies clean to remove any harmful bacteria, so we now must get our B12 from fortified foods or a supplement.
The good news is that only small amounts are needed and so it is possible to get enough B12 by eating plenty of fortified yeast extract, plant milks and breakfast cereals, but it is not worth risking being deficient so the advice is to take a daily supplement.
Does this make the plant-based diet unhealthy? Not one bit!
75 percent of American adults already take dietary supplements, so this is not unusual or strange in any way!2 It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to our health. Besides, the proof of the plant-based pudding is in the eating. Vegans suffer less heart disease, obesity, type diabetes and some cancers than meat-eaters,3 and they tend to live longer.4 So, let’s not worry too much about getting our B12 from fortified oat milk or a daily supplement; let’s look at the big picture!
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3 Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ‘Position of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets’, 2016 [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27886704]