B12 Supplement

I’ve started taking a vitamin B12 supplement. My doctor recommended it because I’m a vegetarian.

Evidently, your body gets the vitamin, which helps make red blood cells and supports nervous system function (according to the Nature Made label), from animal products. So if you don’t eat those, you’re at risk, says WebMD, of growing weak and pale and depressed and prone to heart palpitations.

And since that sounds like such an easy stereotype of a vegetarian, I’ve started taking a B12 supplement to avoid becoming a cliché.

Granted, the WebMD page also says that vegans are more likely to not get enough of the vitamin than we wishy-washy vegetarians who still eat eggs and dairy. And, to be clear, my doctor didn’t determine from a blood test or anything that I have a B12 deficiency (yet).

But I figure you can never be too careful, especially given that I’m pretty weak and pale to begin with.

My previous efforts to take vitamins, herbs, and minerals in pill form have ended in my throwing out 75%-full bottles of Centrum, echinacea, flaxseed, and other nutrients several months after the products’ expiration dates.

I’d like to reap the alleged benefits of dietary supplements, but my follow-through is half-hearted, possibly because I can’t shake the nagging suspicion that all these non–FDA-approved capsules, gummies, tinctures, and potions are snake oil. And consuming snake oil doesn’t sound very vegetarian at all.

When I was a child, my mother would give my sisters and me one chewable Flintstones vitamin apiece to go along with our bowls of Lucky Charms in the morning. The tablets were colorful and shaped liked characters from the cartoon—excluding, for some reason, Betty Rubble, even though the Flintstones’ pet, Dino, and Fred’s car were featured, which says something pretty damning about the patriarchy in Bedrock. (Betty finally joined the other chewable characters in the mid-1990s.) 

I’m not sure whether those vitamins were actually healthy, either. They kind of tasted like SweeTarts.

My older sister and I liked to suck on a Flintstone, letting the tablet dissolve on our tongues. But my mother banned that activity. I believe she told us the nutrients were better absorbed from chewing than sucking.

I’d like to see the double-blind study.

Notwithstanding this B12 thing, I have never had much trouble following a vegetarian lifestyle since adopting it several years ago.

In fact, the only time I can recall wavering occurred just a few minutes after I launched my life of meatlessness. I was at a New Year’s Eve party, and had been talking all night long about how my resolution for the new year was to go vegetarian. Then midnight struck and like a quarter of an hour later I was spearing a Swedish meatball with a toothpick—someone had brought a Crock-Pot full of Swedish meatballs because this was taking place in Chicago and that’s how Midwesterners party—when another guest stopped me with, “Aren’t you supposed to be a vegetarian now?”

Thus reminded of my moral obligations, I resisted temptation and did not put the meat in my mouth (there’s a first time for everything—hey-o!). But I felt it did not bode well for the project that mere minutes after swearing off animal flesh forever, I was opening wide for some slimy little clump of ground beef faster than you could say “meat is murder.”

But I didn’t need to worry. That close call turned out to be an anomaly, and in the years since I have found it remarkably easy to stick to the path of righteousness and anemia. I have the pallor to prove it.

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