Fish provides a good source of protein and omega fatty acids. Even more important, fish offers a reliable source of B12, which the vegan diet conspicuously lacks. Some vegans claim that nutritional yeast and blue-green algae contain B12, but studies have shown that these ‘B12 analogues’ are not absorbed by the body. Taking vitamin B12 supplements is an option, but B12 is notoriously difficult for the body to absorb in supplement form.
So what’s a vegan to do?
Well, without B12 you could encounter some serious health problems, known as homocysteine disease or Vitamin B12 deficiency. These diseases can sneak up on you, as the symptoms tend to be nonspecific.
The human body needs B12 to make red blood cells, DNA, and carry out other bodily functions. The average adult is supposed to get 2.4 micrograms per day, but vegans may get none at all. Worse, the body cannot make B12 – it must come from an outside source. And the most common outside source? Meat.
So again: what’s a vegan to do?
The good news is that the body stores B12 for up to 7 years, so you really don’t need too much of it. Even better news is that most people suffering from B12 deficiency are NOT vegans; they are meat-eaters who have a genetic deficiency which makes it difficult for their body to absorb any B12 at all. In fact, I could not find one single instance of a vegan suffering from a disease related to B12 deficiency.
Still, I am not taking any chances.
Some (mostly) vegans eat eggs occasionally to get their B12, but chicken eggs are a TERRIBLE source of B12. If you must eat eggs, then quail eggs will do the trick.
But the highest source of B12 is actually fish. I try to eat fish once a month, but the reality is that I only get around to digging on animal flesh a couple of times per year. When I do eat fish, I always choose wild salmon. Most fish is so heavily polluted by mercury and PCB as to be completely toxic. Tunafish is probably the absolute worst.
Wild salmon, especially from Alaskan waters, is your best option for obtaining vitamin B12 with the least risk of mercury and PCB poisoning.
Being ‘survivorman,’ of course, I cook it with sticks on an open campfire…