Pulses can make an important contribution to the supply of nutrients in a vegetarian or vegan diet. However, with a corresponding change in diet, the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency also increases.
It is true that legumes do provide various important B vitamins that must be taken in regularly, as they are water-soluble and cannot be stored in the body. But vitamin B12 (cobolamine) is not included and a plant-based diet with a high proportion of legumes can easily lead to a deficiency here.
No vitamin B12 from legumes
Animal foods such as fish, meat, eggs and dairy products are particularly well suited for vitamin B12 supply. The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) explains that vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods in relevant quantities to ensure adequate supply.
Vitamin B12 is also found in plant foods, such as sauerkraut, seaweed and shiitake mushrooms. However, the consumption of these plant-based foods cannot contribute to an adequate supply.
Nutritional deficit through consumption of legumes?
A recent study on legumes and nutritional deficiencies examined the health impact of people eating a vegetarian, legume-based meal instead of their normal lunch over a period of eight weeks.
It was shown that the changed diet did not increase the prevalence of nutritional deficiencies in the tested macro- and micronutrients – with the exception of vitamin B12. The change in diet resulted in changes that, according to the researchers, were associated with a reduction in dietary sources of this vitamin.
Therefore, when changing your diet to a plant-based diet based on legumes, it is important to ensure that sufficient vitamin B 12 is ingested. Dietary supplements with vitamin B12 can help here.
Also read: Vitamin B12 deficiency: who is at risk and what to watch out for?
Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency
If there is a lack of vitamin B12 in the body, this can manifest itself through symptoms such as increased irritability, fatigue, cognitive impairment, feelings of weakness and neuropathic pain.
Other consequences of severe deficiency include shortness of breath and dizziness, nerve damage, loss of feeling in hands and feet, muscle weakness, impaired reflexes, difficulty walking, confusion and even dementia, explains Dr. Larry E. Johnson of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in an article for MSD Manuals.
Legumes offer many health benefits
In principle, an increased consumption of legumes can also have many advantages, with the B vitamins they contain also playing a role. The body needs them for a variety of processes.
B vitamins support the energy production of the cells and the formation of so-called neurotransmitters, which is particularly important for the brain and nervous system, explains Dr. Irina Todorov from the Cleveland Clinic (USA) in a press release.
Many legumes are also characterized by a high fiber and protein content and they also provide various secondary plant substances that can also have positive health effects.
Adequate vitamin B12 supply cannot be achieved with legumes or other plant-based foods, which is why experts recommend vitamin B12 dietary supplements for a purely vegan diet to protect against the possible consequences of a deficiency. (as)