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I really thought I had it all figured out.  I started down this vegan / vegetarian road with an armload of books, hours of internet research, and what I thought was a solid plan for health and weight loss.  Somewhere along the way, I became complacent and did what a lot of people do – I forgot about insurance.

A little analogy:  My husband spent a great deal of money purchasing a stereo/dvd system for his truck complete with speakers and amplifiers.  All told, it was around 4000.00 worth of equipment.  As I am sure many of you know, insurance companies don’t cover after market items on vehicles unless a rider is purchased for the policy.  I called and had the stereo added onto our policy – or so I thought.  I found out differently when, in the middle of the day, while parked in front of a movie theatre, the truck was broken into.  Anything and everything of value was taken including all that expensive stereo equipment, the speakers, the amplifier, my daughter’s Nintendo DS, along with the owner’s manual, service log, and vehicle receipts.  While the vehicle was being repaired, I learned that not only was there no record of the stereo being added to the policy, they were refusing to even put in a stock radio or replace the stock speakers.  We were totally screwed, all because I wasn’t more careful about the insurance.  Now my husband, who commutes 45 minutes one way to work everyday, has been left without the luxury of music.  The wiring was so badly damaged during the robbery that is it beyond any reasonable way to repair it.  This is very much like what I almost did to my own body.

For vegetarians, sometimes eating carefully and healthfully is not enough.  You need to purchase some insurance for yourself, which means driving your sanctimonious little self to the local health food store and buying some good vitamin supplements.  Oh ya, AND REMEMBER TO TAKE THEM!  Some vegans will tell you all day long that if you eat a wide variety of plant based foods, including leafy greens, legumes, and grains, that you will naturally get everything you need.  That may be true for some, but not for all.  Some people’s bodies don’t absorb and utilize plant based sources as well or as readily as others.  That’s why vegetarians, and especially vegans, need insurance.  Some months ago, I found myself with a sudden increase in migraines and not just the average my-head-is-going-to-fall-off migraines but complicated migraines that presented with stroke-like symptoms, the kind of numbness and loss of speech that can sometimes cause permanent damage to the brain (so said my neurologist).  I was also feeling especially exhausted, depressed, moody, and my body ached.  I couldn’t seem to get a decent night’s sleep no matter how tired I was.  After a good amount of prodding from my husband, I made an appointment with a doctor and started seeing a holistic chiropractor on a regular basis.  The chiropractor helped tremendously by starting me on magnesium supplements.  The headaches slowed down but did not go away. The need for magnesium was just the tip of the iceberg.

My husband accompanied me into the doctor’s office and tattled on me for everything he could possibly think of, including my mostly vegan diet(payback is a bitch, right?).  Blood tests were ordered and my mystery illness was suddenly solved:  extreme B12 deficiency and an underactive thyroid.  Within a week of receiving my first B12 injection, it was like the migraine switch was finally flipped to off.  Another week and my energy levels were up, my mood improved, and all those weird aches and pains disappeared.  In really examining my diet, I probably could have been including more vitamin B rich foods, but I definitely should have been taking a multivitamin, or at the very least, a B complex supplement everyday. I thought because I ate fortified cereal and drank fortified soy milk that I was getting what I needed but it doesn’t always work that way. Ironic that I preach supplements to my children, but so hypocritically ignored my own advice.

Since this discovery, I am resigned to the fact that I will most likely need vitamin B12 injections forever but I still try to amp up my diet as much as possible (yes, I am an over-compensator). One way that I have learned to incorporate more B12 is through the use of nutritional yeast.  Nutritional yeast has this wonderfully mild, cheesy flavor and can be added (or hidden) in all kinds of dishes, including mashed potatoes, pasta, casseroles, etc.  By far, I think the most popular way to use it is on popcorn (yet another way I was schooled by the bestie).  The following simple snack recipe is how we do it at our house but if you aren’t into lime and chili, change it up to suit your own tastes.

Nutritional Lime and Chili Popcorn

½ cup popping corn

1/3 cup Earth Balance Spread

Juice of one lime

2 teaspoons chili powder

¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes

Salt to taste

Pop popcorn with an air popper or use the conventional stove top method. Technically, you could use microwave popcorn, but why would you want to eat that crap? Melt Earth Balance in the microwave. Stir chili powder and lime juice into melted Earth Balance spread.  Pour spread mixture over popcorn and toss lightly.  Sprinkle generously with nutritional yeast.