Raise Vegan August 2018 - Page 42

Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin B12 for Kids One of the first rules of joining the Vegan Parents’ Club is un- derstanding that adequate vitamin B12 intake is non-negotiable for the entire family. Fortunately, this essential nutrient can be found in a variety of fortified foods and dietary supplements. Let’s take a closer look at why B12 is a critical nutrient, especial- ly for vegan children, how much they need, and what you can do to ensure they get enough. What does it do? B12 helps make DNA, prevents megaloblastic anemia, and keeps nerves and blood cells healthy. New research has also shown its importance in maintaining normal childhood growth trends (1). Symptoms of B12 deficiency include fatigue, constipation, lack of appetite, weight loss, and nerve damage. In infants, deficien- cy can cause failure to thrive, cognitive impairment (2,3) and developmental delays. B12 deficiency has also been associated with behavioral problems in young males (4). Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD is a plant-based lifestyle strategist for families and founder of Chronic Planet. Join the Ask A Vegan Dietitian premium Facebook group to talk nutrition with Lauren and receive weekly meal templates! www.chronicplanet.net @chronicplanet 42 Raise Vegan AUGUST 2018 Where can I find it? B12 is made by anaerobic bacteria in the digestive tracts of humans and animals, but because it’s made in an area of our intestines where it can’t be absorbed, humans have to find exter- nal food sources. Whole plant foods are not dependable for this, so vegans must use fortified foods or supplements to prevent deficiency. Commonly fortified foods include cereals, soy milk, hemp milk, tofu, nutritional yeast, and some meat alternatives, but it’s important to check the label because brands can vary. Probiotics and fermented soy products, like tempeh, contain biologically inactive forms of B12, and thus are not reliable sources (5). Most children’s multivitamins contain B12, or you can purchase an individual B12 supplement.