B12 and me – the vegetarian nightmare

So I recently found out (according to many resources) that I really, really need to get my regular doses of vitamin B12. Some time ago I decided to follow this macrobiotic route, but at the same time I didn´t want to give up being a vegetarian. That combination actually meant that I decided to become (after a couple of years of thinking about veganism) a full-time vegan (as we know, in macrobiotics, eggs and dairy products are not commonly used). I was already eating maybe 90% vegan for several months (if not years) by the time I discovered that B12 deficiency can be very dangerous and even life-threatening. Irreversible neural damage, risk of stroke and other heart diseases, fatigue, memory loss, anemia, depression, aching limbs…all those are just a few symptoms. I never realized it could be so fatal. I also lived under the impression that you can get your B12 from fermented foods (as some older macrobiotic literature suggests) and later I learnt that seaweed was thought to be a source of the vitamin. There were many theories about how you can get your B12 without any animal product use. Anyhow, that is (as far as we know) not true, and these plant foods offer only what is called a B12 analogue, something merely similar to the actual vitamin.

Since that moment of truth my head started spinning with a lot of inner dilemmas – should I take only B12 supplements and in that way stay 100% vegan (and most of all, vegetarian) which on the other hand is not really a macrobiotic approach (in macrobiotics the use of synthetic supplements is generally discouraged as you should be able to get all your nutrients from your diet), or should I start using dairy products/eggs (which are pretty low in B12, not at all macrobiotic and making me feel unwell, but they are at least vegetarian) OR should I just start eating some meat (I never thought that would cross my mind after 7 years of vegetarianism, but here it is…btw, in macrobiotics the meat consumed on a regular basis is basically only fish and seafood). In my current (and long-term) state of mind there is no way I would eat mammals, animals close to humans on the evolutionary scale, but there is also no need for that – fish and seafood have the highest amounts of vitamin B12.

Well, well, this storm is STILL spinning in my mind. My conclusion for now is: using high-quality (and actually vegan) B12 supplements (2000 mcg a day for two weeks, later 2000 mcg once a week) to get my levels back to normal (without supplements getting the levels back would take very long and would require large amounts of animal protein :-p), and gradually relying on B12 obtained through a macrobiotic diet of occasional fish and seafood consumption, using supplements when I can´t find a good quality source of these foods/when I feel I need to eat less yang food etc. It´s not ideal and my vegetarian heart is still not happy, but on the other hand, if my body needs something (and trust me, I searched for a lot of information on this topic), I need to give it that something. While fish and seafood are meat (to me, anyway), they are still the furthest from mammals I can possibly go. Especially seafood is really primitive organisms which I have less trouble eating.

So far I experimented with: canned dolphin-safe tuna (my first bite of meat after 7 years, that was really surreal and unpleasant), fried mussels from the local fish stand (really tasty actually), sushi rolls with raw salmon and crabsticks (surprisingly, the salmon was flavourless, and the surimi crabsticks – that just brought up childhood memories :-D) AND – believe it or not – Hollandse nieuwe, which is a typical Dutch meal, raw pickled herring! That, okay, was a bit to challenge myself and see if I like this Dutch “delicacy” or not…answer is…nope. Very very strong fishy smell (which I dislike in general) and slimy structure 😦 But – I ate it. As you can see in the picture, I ate the herring with steamed curly cabbage and daikon (to balance the acid-forming yang fish). Interesting experiment, but I think I will stick to mussels (or clams – that is my other plan still), maybe some other seafood, and a rare fish every now and then…


Filed under Macrotalk, Recipes, Seafood

3 responses to “B12 and me – the vegetarian nightmare

  1. mum

    Nemůžu věřit tomu co tady čtu :-p. Tak konečně ses dostala aspoň k těm rybám a mořským potvorám! Tak jsem byla po několika letech vyslyšena :-). No a před pár lety to říkal i Havelka, jestli pamatuješ, že ti chybí znatelně ta nutná vitamínová složka potřebná též na trávení, to bylo určitě to B12. Akorát že ten doporučoval vepřový, chi.

  2. hey friend 🙂
    what is the brand of vitamin B12 supplements you are taking? I have been having this very same conversation with myself…

    • It´s the 1000 mcg from Solgar. I used it for some time, now just every once in a while…I started eating fish regularly so I figured it´s better than taking artificial supplements…but at the same time I´m still having this vegetarian battle inside, so we´ll see what life brings 😀

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