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Do Vegans Need A B12 Supplement?

Today I am going to end one of the most burning controversies among the vegan community: do vegans need to supplement with vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 – the missing puzzle piece in a vegan diet?

If you’re reading this post, it’s probably because you’ve heard conflicting information on the issue. Some say you can get all the B12 you need from your diet, others that your body makes its own B12, and still others say that not only vegans, but many meat-eaters as well, will become deficient in this vital nutrient if they don’t supplement.

Who’s right?

Why you need vitamin B12

Well, first of all, let’s establish the fact that if you get deficient in vitamin B12, you’re in deep dog doo. In fact, nutrition experts say that by the time you develop some symptoms, you may not be able to recover some of the damage the deficiency caused. Why?

For one thing, vitamin B12 is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system. When a body is deficient in this nutrient, the coating around the nerves known as the myelin sheath does not form properly.

For another, the vitamin is needed for red blood cell development. Without it, and I quote from the book “The World’s Healthiest Foods,” “synthesis of DNA becomes defective, and so does the information needed for red blood cell formation. The cells become oversized and poorly shaped, and begin to function ineffectively, a condition called pernicious anemia.”

Bad red blood cell formation leads to problems in getting oxygen delivered around the body.

So it is critical that you get on the right side of the B12 supplement controversy. No sitting on the fence allowed. In order to correctly answer the question, “Do vegans need to supplement with vitamin B12?”, you need a little more information.

“Guru” does not equal “educated”

The first thing you should know is that none of the so-called gurus who are claiming that you can get all the B12 you need from either your diet or your body have any serious education in nutrition or physiology.

The perfect illustration of a guru.

That said, let’s examine some of the claims these gurus make. First claim: Many vegetables contain B12. False. Certain vegetables – and that includes sea vegetables such as spirulina – contain a substance that is related to B12, but in actual fact is inactive. In other words, it doesn’t do squat for your health. And even if this b12 analog was active, vegetables do not contain nearly enough of it to meet the human body’s requirements for the vitamin.

Second claim: as long as you eat unwashed vegetables, you will get enough B12 by accidentally eating small amounts of insects and dirt. Again, false. Yes, unwashed vegetables often contain tiny insects, as well as their feces, and dirt. And yes, these things contain B12.

But again, the amount is negligible and won’t meet your needs. And that’s saying something, because the actual amount of B12 you need on a daily basis is small. (Are you starting to realize the answer about whether vegans need to take a B12 supplement?)

Third claim: your body produces its own B12, so you don’t even have to worry about it. If you have ever taken nutritional advice from anyone who has ever said this, do not listen to them anymore. About anything.

Yes, your body produces its own B12 – in your colon. However, your body absorbs B12 through the small intestine. And there is no magical travel of the vitamin back up into the small intestine. Once the bacteria in your colon produce the vitamin, you poop it out. So unless you are willing to eat  our own feces (as some species of the rodent family do), you cannot get B12 from your own body.

If you are on a vegan diet, you need to supplement with B12. And not in three years. Many people do not have this mythical three-year supply of B12, including many meat-eaters. You need to start supplementing YESTERDAY. What can happen if you don’t?

My shocking experience

For an entire year, I consumed nothing but raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Believing the raw vegan gurus that I could all the nutrients I needed from my diet, I didn’t take any supplements.

Six months into the gig, I started developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Six. Months.

Which symptoms? Mainly, I began to lose everyday vocabulary. For example, I would want to say the word “chair”, but the word that would pop into my head for the thing that you sit on would be “apple.” I wasn’t so far gone that I actually said “apple.” I knew it was the wrong word. But it took me ten to twenty seconds to think of the right word.

It. Was. Scary.

Really scary, because my dad had had Alzheimer’s.

I should have stopped right there and started doing some research, getting online and typing in search terms like “nutrient deficiencies that affect memory”.

But, I didn’t. The gurus were gurus for a reason, right? They knew what they were talking about! So I trudged on with the diet for another six months, and when the struggle to think of basic, everyday words only got worse, I added meat back into my diet and my mind started working again.

I didn’t need to eat meat. I needed vitamin B12 in my body.

More vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms

Struggling with memory is only one possible symptom of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Other symptoms include depression, nervousness, red or sore tongue, tingling or numbness in feet, heart palpitations, dandruff, decreased blood clotting, pale skin, fatigue, weak pulse, and, for women, menstrual irregularities.

Ignorance is not always bliss

A big concern for people considering the question, “Do vegans need to take a B12 supplement?” ask this additional question: “But don’t B12 supplements come from animals?”

No. Microorganisms produce the vitamin. Supplements are created in test tubes or petri dishes. They are vegan, and very low-cost. Every single vegan medical doctor and any vegan researcher worth his or her salt tells vegans to supplement with B12, so stop making excuses. This is your health we’re talking about. If you’re not already taking a B12 supplement, go buy one and start taking it today.

Because now, if anyone asks you, “Do vegans need to supplement with vitamin B12?”, you now know the answer.

 

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How is my spring garden growing? What did I harvest from the garden this past week? A better question would be, what did I harvest from the orchard? Because most of our bounty came from there.

From one crop.

Goumis. Or, more formally, goumi berries.

We have four bushes, two of the Goumi Seedling variety, and two of the (I think) Scarlet Crimson variety (the video below has the proper names). It takes me about half an hour to pick a quart of berries, and so far, we’ve picked several gallons of them. I’m pretty sure I’ve got more than double in the freezer than what we had last year.

Besides the goumis, something else from the orchard is exciting me: mulberries! Last year, they got some fungus that mulberries are prone to get, causing most of the berries to fall off before they even got ripe.

This year, while there are signs of the fungus, it’s not as bad (because I sprayed the trees with copper a couple of times last year?), and the black mulberry has many more berries on it, and most of the berries are ripening before they fall off.

Yippee! Definitely will continue spraying the tree a couple of times a year here on out.

From the garden, I harvested several asparagus stalks several times over the past week, several handfuls of sugar snap peas, some goji berries (okay, so not from the garden; we have three bushes growing in pots in front of our house), some leaves from a volunteer kale plant, and some broccoli leaves.

These veggies were part of our salad one night. The sugar snap peas we always eat raw. Kale, asparagus, and broccoli leaves (right) I steam.

Did you know that broccoli leaves are more nutritious than the florets and stalks? They’re tasty, too, though the larger, older leaves have a stronger flavor.

In the video, I forgot to mention that I also harvested the last of the existing crop of indoor lettuce. My camera battery was charging at the time I was getting the salad ready, so I didn’t get a photo of it.

This past week, I made a pleasant discovery with my spring garden: a salad made of steamed asparagus bits, cut-up raw sugar snap peas, and grated carrot (along with raw, sprouted legumes such as lentils or mung beans) is delicious, especially when dressed with some balsamic vinegar and salt.

More sugar snap peas than I’ve ever harvested at once in 8 years of gardening!

Here’s the video to show what I harvested, when (except, like I said, the lettuce):

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Why I Am A Christian Vegan

I’m a Christian vegan. I mean, I am a follower of Yeshua (Jesus) who also believes that animals shouldn’t be harmed except in self-defense, and shouldn’t be used in any way unless absolutely necessary.

Most non-vegan Christians would raise an eyebrow at this. After all, didn’t God give people permission to eat meat after the Great Flood? What about all the animal sacrifices? What about the apostle Peter’s vision about eating unclean animals?

Most of all, aren’t vegans believers in New Age spirituality? Don’t all vegans believe that animals are on the same level as humans as far as importance? And this idea goes against the teaching of both the Old and New Testaments.

I’m not here to argue that all Christians should be vegans, or that it’s a sin to eat meat. I simply want to explain my reasons for coming to the point of choosing a vegan lifestyle.

The main reason I’m a Christian vegan

In Genesis, God clearly ordained a 100% plant-based diet for all animals. Even the animals that we know to be carnivores or omnivores were, in the beginning were herbivores or frugivores.

So in the beginning, no animal – human or otherwise – killed for food.

In the book of Isaiah, the sixth verse of chapter eleven refers to how life will be on Earth once Yeshua returns. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” [NIV]

So when Earth returns to its state of perfection, animals won’t kill other animals.

After mulling this over a few years ago, I realized that in my heavenly Father’s ideal world, sentient beings wouldn’t kill other sentient beings. Not for food, not for clothing, not for any other reason. (In the ideal world, there’d be no reason for self-defense because we’d all behave ourselves!)

My diet up until that point hadn’t include much in the way of animal products for most of my adult life. The most animal product I ever consumed in a day was a kefir-based smoothie (kefir is a kind of cultured milk) with a couple of egg yolks for breakfast, then three ounces of meat at supper. That phase only lasted for three or four years. Before and after that phase, breakfast, like lunch, was strictly plant-based.

Thus, by the time I’d had the revelation about the ideal human diet being vegan, my breakfasts and lunches were already entirely plant-based, so it wasn’t difficult for me to give up animal products altogether.

Are non-human animals inferior to people?

In the first chapter of Genesis, God commands the first humans to take dominion over the earth and to rule over the fish, birds, and land animals. In the Gospels, Yeshua implied that humans are much more important in our Creator’s sight than other kinds of animals (Luke 12:24).

Therefore, the belief that non-human animals species are inferior to humans is, indeed, Biblical. It’s a truth.

But does that mean that God gave humans permission to do whatever they felt like with other animal species? The passage from Luke cited above reveals that God cares deeply for the non-human animals.

The post-Flood argument

The first argument any Christian vegan is going to run into is the verse where God supposedly gave people permission to eat meat after the Flood. In pretty much every Bible translation that I know of, Genesis 9:3 more than implies that God is giving people permission to eat everything that lives and moves on the Earth.

What if I told you that this verse has been mistranslated from the original Hebrew? According to this article at the website all-creatures.org (which is all about the whys and hows of Christian veganism), the original Hebrew text has God giving Noah and his family permission to use reptiles for food.

Reptiles. That’s a far cry from pulled pork and cheeseburgers!

Moreover, the meaning of the verse is not that people should kill the animals, but to eat their eggs.

The author of the article claims that because the Flood had destroyed Earth, it would be a while before there would be enough regrowth of the plant world to feed Noah’s family, so in the meantime, they could go ahead and eat the eggs of reptiles.

Here are two other articles from the website that address the post-Flood meat-eating issue: https://www.all-creatures.org/cva/th-20160211-bible.htm, and https://www.all-creatures.org/living/doesgodwant.html

But God commanded animal sacrifice!…Or, did He?

Say the author of that All Creatures article is correct about the mistranslation from the original Hebrew text, and that God, in fact, never gave all non-human animals as food for humans. Then, what’s to be done with the animal sacrifices God commanded of Moses?

Because this is another huge argument that Christians have against veganism.

All I can do is give you a counter-argument, and another Scripture reference that seems to contradict the idea that God commanded animal sacrifice.

Before I get into that, I want to drop in the fact that many Jewish scholars, and some New Testament scholars, have strong reason to believe that eating a mostly plant-based diet – or at least, not killing animals for food – was common both among the B.C. Jews and the early Christians.

Many of the early Christians, of course, came out of Judaism. And since many Jews of the day apparently believed it was unethical to kill for food, many of the earliest followers of Yeshua believed the same. Historical documents exist which show that many of Yeshua’s disciples consumed a plant-based diet by choice.

Now, onto the  counter-argument I mentioned a moment ago. It comes from a website run by Jewish vegans, who believe that God did not command animal sacrifice, but rather allowed it. Why? Having lived for hundreds of years within a pagan culture that promoted and practiced regular animal sacrifice, the Israelites were going to have a hard time removing the practice from their worship ceremonies. These vegan Jewish scholars believe that God commanded a limit to the number of animals to be killed in worship, rather than commanding animal sacrifice per se.

Yes, I know: Yeshua is the Lamb of God, and the animal sacrifice was a foreshadowing of His sacrifice for us. But wouldn’t the sacrifice of lambs on the night where the angel of death “passed over” the Israelite dwellings while killing the firstborn of all the Egyptians be a strong enough sign of the ultimate sacrifice to come, when Yeshua gave up His life on the cross? Why would the death of many hundreds of thousands of other animals over hundreds of years be necessary?

That brings me to a compelling Scripture which most Christians ignore – or are ignorant of – when it comes to the Christian vegan question. I’m talking about Hosea 6:6, “I desired mercy, not sacrifice…”

Then there is this verse, Isaiah 66:3: “But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb is like one who breaks a dog’s neck.”

But Jesus ate fish!

And good for Him and all the others around Him who had no access to B12 supplements! If a person is living in a time or place where the vital vitamin can’t be had except through some animal consumption, I wish them no ill for taking advantage of our ability to outsmart animals.

I only hope it’s done with gratitude, reverence and respect for the life that they’re taking in order that they might survive and be healthy.

Should all Christians, then, become vegan?

If you truly understand the heart of the Father, you know that He is not about “shoulds.” Why did Yeshua come, if not to bring us out from under the Law?

The heart of the Father is to show grace and mercy. Does He not know the past that has formed the person you are now? Does He not know that each person has their own set of heart-issues that must be dealt with, and the best order and ways in which those issues should be addressed?

Of course He does! He knows that every single person is on their own unique journey – because He put them there!

So should all Christians be vegan? I believe that in God’s ideal world, yes. However, God knows we don’t live in an ideal world. He knows that we are all in different places on our journeys.

So if the Father has not dealt with you about becoming a Christian vegan, then, no, you shouldn’t be one. But that doesn’t mean, if the issue intrigues you, you can’t research it and use your own common sense and logic to come to your own conclusions.

And then there’s the fact that I might be completely wrong about the issue. I doubt it, but I haven’t lived for half a century without learning more every year about how little I know.

Now you know why I’m a Christian vegan. While I would urge you to consider the ideas I’ve set forth above, I’m not going to be mad at you for eating meat.

You’re welcome. 😉

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The following video shows what I harvested from our garden and orchard this past week. It’s not as much as it would have been, had the sun decided to shine last fall. In that case, I probably would have had some dark, leafy greens to harvest.

Alas, the weather conspired against my ambitions to be self-sufficient in greens this past fall and winter. My greens garden was a sad failure.

However, as you can see in the video we’ve had plenty of asparagus and goumi berries lately. The strawberries are a sad story that I talked about in this video last year. Next spring, I’ll have new plants in new (mouse-proofed!) places.

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Tall peas growing on chicken wire trellis.

Learning how to grow peas in the South of the United States has been a process for me. I’ve tried sticking to the rule of thumb – planting the seeds so many weeks before the average last frost date – to no avail. Why?

Spring in the South is nearly non-existent.

If we have a mild winter, summer will begin early in April, bringing temperatures that cool-loving peas don’t like. If we have a cold to normal winter, we’ll get a few pleasant days in March and April, but much of March will be chilly and April will heat up disproportionately quickly.

In other words, Southern weather doesn’t cooperate well for growing the cool-weather crop of peas, which can take a light frost, but despise temperatures above eighty degrees.

If you plant them out too early, a hard frost could kill the vines. If you plant them out on time, the vines won’t produce well and, because the heat stresses them, might attract aphids.

This year, however, I finally discovered the trick to growing peas in the South. I can’t guarantee that it will provide you with weeks of production. But, you’ll get better quality peas for longer.

Read to learn the trick of how to grow peas in the South…successfully? Here you go:

Start them indoors, in pots.

Yup.

What’s that? You say that in every vegetable gardening book you’ve ever read – all 132 of them – every author wrote that you should always direct-sow peas into the garden and never start them indoors? Me, too! How about we form a club? We’ll call it the, “The Big Fat Pea Lie” club.

Because the truth is, you can start peas in pots indoors. But you can use any old plant-starting pot. You need to get some long pots. One viewer of my YouTube channel suggested using eggnog cartons, and then when she goes to plant the peas she can simply cut the bottom off the cartons and stick them in the ground.

But because peas grow tall, their roots grow deep. So find pots that are at least six inches tall.

Fill the pots with a nice potting mix, and sow the seeds in them six to eight weeks before the average last frost date. After they germinate, count four weeks. At the end of the fourth week, you should be at a couple weeks before the last average frost date (or a bit more). Plant them in the ground.

Now, be smart and watch the weather forecast. If a freak late Canadian cold front is going to move in and bring lows around twenty degrees (F), wait until it passes before planting out the pea seedlings.

Growing peas in the South works best this way, because they now have a chance to come to maturity before daytime temperatures rise above eighty degrees. Thus, you will have a lot more pods to pick.

Happy growing. To make your gardening efforts easier, grab a copy of my book, How To Grow Vegetables Without Losing Your Mind.

 

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