Most people think that there's something in the "food groups" of meat and dairy that cannot be found in plant foods. Often they're not sure what it is, but they're pretty sure you'll whither away without it. And it's probably protein. Well, I'll get to protein later. For now, I want to talk about B12. And I'll urge you to do your own homework - that's how I got my information. I just read a lot from many different sources because I want to be as informed about my diet as possible.
I always tell people that there's nothing in meat and dairy that you can't find in plants, because everything starts in plants anyways. Where do you think fish get those Omega 3's or cows get their calcium? That's right, from the plants they eat.
B12 is the one exception. But the thing is, it's not the fault of veganism, it doesn't show that veganism is inherently flawed, and meat-eaters aren't necessarily safe. I'll tell you why.
B12 is a bacteria, and it grows on things. You can find it on meat because meat is dead, and bacteria like to grow on dead things. But it's unreliable -- you can't count on your meat having B12 growing on it, and studies have been conducted testing meat and finding no B12 whatsoever.
We used to get B12 from dirt, but nowadays our dirt is nutrient-depleted and our vegetables are so well-washed, so we just don't have any reliable dietary sources of B12 anymore. But there are some places you can get B12 fortified foods -- you can often find it in foods like veggie burgers, and of course that vegan superfood, nutritional yeast. I had never heard of nooch before going vegan but now I looove it! It tastes great in mashed potatoes, in vegan mac 'n cheese, on popcorn, on salads, or what have you. And it's a great source of both protein and B vitamins, including B12 (be sure your nooch is Vegetarian Support formula, it'll be fortified).
But an easy way to make sure you're getting your B12, for vegans and omnis alike, is to just take a supplement. I do not like taking pills, but sometimes it's just worth it.
Personally, I don't always do a perfect job - sometimes I take a multivitamin with B12, and I try to include nutritional yeast in my diet. I got some blood tests during my sickness and guess what? My B12 levels are great!
Here's a picture of me on my 21st birthday with super nutritional yeast-y vegan mac 'n cheese.