In my Grade 5/6 science class, students are preparing to give presentations about a different vitamin or mineral to the rest of the class. One of my staff colleagues gives a sample presentation whenever he assigns something new and less familiar to the student. I decided to do the same. The students are free to use a variety of formats to present their information, but I chose to do a short story with a dialogue to teach about Vitamin B-12
Let me tell you a story about Vitamin B-12 and a school girl named Laura Carrot. Laura has been a vegetarian for two years. She does not eat any kind of meat—no pork, no beef, no chicken, no duck, no lamb, no venison, no sausage, no bacon, no fish, no salmon, no shrimp—nothing that was once part of an animal. But Laura Carrot has recently decided to go one step further. She is going to become a vegan. A vegan also does not eat any product that came from an animal. No eggs, no milk and no dairy products whatsoever, including cheese, yogurt or pudding.
Laura Carrot is missing two important food groups in her diet-meat and dairy-and that will have an impact on her health. She will miss out on protein, which helps your cells be built up and repaired. But, if Laura is careful, she can get pretty much all the protein she needs from beans, like kidney beans and chick peas as well as tofu, a soybean product.
Here comes the bigger problem. Vitamin B-12 is found ONLY in animal products. Laura Carrot will be missing out on this product. She’ll be OK for about one year because a person’s liver stores up about 12-month supply of Vitamin B-12, but eventually she will have what’s called a “deficiency”—her body will not have enough. What does Vitamin B-12 do? It works with the mineral Iron to help produce healthy blood cells. It is also important for the nervous system, so some people who do not have enough of this vitamin report unexpected tingling in their arms and legs because the nerves are not working properly. When your body does not have enough Vitamin B-12, you can get anemia, which makes you feel weak, lethargic and lacking in energy. Your body has to take in Vitamin B-12 regularly to keep in good health. Since your nerves and blood go everywhere in your body, everything is affected.
Laura Carrot has gone to see her doctor to find out how she can stay healthy as a vegan. Here is their conversation:
- Doctor: Hi Laura, I understand you’re planning to change your diet from vegetarian to vegan, and you’ve come for some advice.
- Laura: That’s right, doctor.
- Doctor: Laura, I have to say I’m quite concerned about your decision. What is the reason you want to cut eggs and dairy products from your diet?
- Laura: It just seems really mean how we take eggs and milk from animals. The chickens should be allowed to hatch their own eggs, and the cows should give the milk to their own babies. It’s like stealing!
- Doctor: Do you like the taste of eggs and milk products? Do you have any reactions to them?
- Laura: No, I like the taste and I don’t have any reactions or allergies to them.
- Doctor: As a Christian, I know that God gave us the animals for food. If it bothers you to eat meat, that is one thing. But eggs and milk have been eaten for good health since we’ve had records of human civilization. It is not the same as stealing. If all the eggs that chickens laid were allowed to hatch, we’d be overrun with chickens. Even if the cow’s milk was given to the calves, there would always be some left over. God designed things so that if we use them properly we will not run short.
- Laura: Is there something else you’re not telling me?
- Doctor: Laura, since you are just 12 years old, your body is still growing. The vitamins found in meat, eggs and dairy are hard to get anywhere else, especially Vitamin B-12. Since it is so important for the production of blood cells and a healthy brain and nerves, it is not optional. You would have to take a daily Vitamin supplement if you decided firmly to become a Vegan. These pills are not for swallowing, but you dissolve them on or under your tongue, just one per day.
- Laura: Thank you for explaining this to me. I never really understood the importance of animal products in our diet. Now that you gave a Christian point of view about using animal products, I see that my idea about stealing from animals was kind of silly. Being a vegan is a trendy thing on my soccer team, but I need to tell the girls on my team that it can really affect their bodies. I will talk it over with my parents too. You know, I think I might even try eating meat once in a while, but never shrimp!