We all have heard about vitamins. But what exactly are they? Vitamins are organic chemical compounds that can't be synthesized by our bodies. Since they must be obtained through our diet, they are considered essential. Vitamins (and minerals) are called micronutrients, because they are required in much smaller amounts than carbohydrates, fats, and proteins (macronutrients).
The best way to get all your vitamins (and minerals) is to eat a predominately whole food, plant-based diet that provides a combination of energy and nutrients that's adequate, balanced, moderate, and varied. We've all heard the term "eat the rainbow." A lot of these vibrant colors/pigment we see in fruits and vegetables are these vitamins and phytochemicals that help fight oxidative damage, balance the body, and aid in optimal health. But if you are a strict #vegan, there is one vitamin that you might be missing out on (at least in the amounts required by good health): B12
Vitamin B12 is critical in the normal functioning of the central nervous system, DNA synthesis, and fat & protein metabolism. It is found in herbivorous animals where they indirectly obtain B12 from bacteria. Strict plant-based eaters miss out on this beneficial bacteria and greatly increase their risk for B12 deficiency. B12 deficiency can be asymptomatic, but also lead to anemia, poor memory, fatigue, and the build up of homocysteine (a protein) in the blood. Elevated homocysteine levels in the blood causes inflammation and over time, can enhance the progression of atherosclerosis (plaque build up). So lower vitamin B12 and higher homocysteine levels may "attenuate" the benefits of a vegan diet on cardiovascular health and become a possible risk factor for coronary heart disease.
So how can you enjoy the benefits of a plant based diet and not be vitamin B12 deficient? Eat 90% plant-based or supplement with the ACTIVATED form of vitamin B12, METHYLcobalamin. If you try to get your B12 from fortified foods or cheap supplement companies, you are most likely getting cyanocobalamin, an inexpensive semi-synthetic form of the vitamin.