Why is Vitamin B12 important and are all vegans and vegetarians deficient in this essential vitamin? Find out the scoop of this B vitamin and get the list of vegan sources of Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is one of those nutrients that isn’t really on your radar unless you’re a vegan or vegetarian. It’s in meat and eggs, so most people get plenty of it, but what about those who choose to abstain from all animal products? Are they destined for deficiency or can they get it from other sources?
What is Vitamin B12 and what does it do?
Did you know that Vitamin B12 is one of eight B vitamins? Yup, there are eight!
B12 is necessary for the proper formation of red blood cells, nerves and DNA. For athletes, B12 provides energy. A lack of B12 in the diet can lead to a variety of problems, including anemia, tingling in the hand and feet, fatigue, memory loss, and hallucinations or paranoia—all of which are not great for anyone serious about their sport!
Can vegetarians and vegans get enough Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is most abundant in animal products such as eggs, meat, diary, poultry and fish. Interestingly, Vitamin B12 is made by microorganisms in the animal’s intestines or diet, but humans are not able tot make their own Vitamin B12.
According to Jack Norris, a Registered Dietitian and vegan expert and coauthor of Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet, it is a myth that you can get enough Vitamin B12 from plants. Plants aren’t able to make Vitamin B12, which is why they lack this essential nutrient.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a B12 recommendations for vegetarians and vegans, such as:
- All vegetarians and vegans should be screened for a Vitamin B12 deficiency, through a simple blood test
- All vegans should take a 250 mcg Vitamin B12 supplement daily
- Vegetarians should consider taking 250 mcg B12 supplement a few times per week
That said, many plant-based foods are fortified with Vitamin B12. In other words, the nutrient is added into the food during the processing stage. And it never hurts to get more of this nutrient in your diet. Let’s take a closer look at plant-based foods with Vitamin B12.
Vegan Foods with Vitamin B12
*I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.In other words, if you purchase a product from any of these links, I will receive a small commission*
1. Nutritional Yeast– Bob’s Red Mill Large Flake Yeast, 8 Ounce
This deactivated yeast product is often used in vegan foods to give a cheesy or umami flavor. Many people add it to popcorn, scrambles, kale chips, sauces, baked potatoes or roasted vegetables. Don’t knock it til you try it!
Just ¼ cup of nutritional yeast contains 17 micrograms of B12, which is about 700% of the daily recommendation of 2.4 micrograms! Don’t be alarmed if your pee turns bright yellow after eating it–it’s just the water-soluble vitamin coming out in the urine.
2. Fortified Plant Milks– SOY DREAM Enriched Original Organic Soymilk, 64 Fluid Ounce (Pack of 8)
To make up for the lack of vitamin B12 inherently present in dairy milk, many varieties of plant milks, like almond milk, soy milk and coconut milk, are fortified with B12.
These dairy alternatives can be used in place of regular milk in recipes or consumed as a delicious beverage option! Although the amount of B12 varies between kinds and brands, a cup of non-dairy milk may have up to 3 micrograms. However, it’s important to always check the label to ensure that it’s fortified with Vitamin B12.
3. Fortified Breakfast Cereal– Kashi Heart to Heart Honey Toasted Oat Cereal, 1.4-Ounce Cups (Pack of 12)
Most cereals now add a wide assortment of vitamins and minerals to their cereals, including B12. Again, the amount of B12 will vary between cereals, but many have at least the daily recommendation, and others have even more than that!
4. Meat Substitutes — Beyond Meat Beef Free Beastly Sliders, 8 Ounce — 7 per case.
Since meat is one of the natural sources of B12, many faux-meat products have added B12 into their products to substitute the real thing. And more and more faux meat products, like replacements for burgers, sausage, chicken fingers, ribs, are hitting the market regularly.
Check either the ingredients list or nutrition facts panel to make sure that the product you are purchasing has been fortified with B12. And eat these foods sparingly, since they are rather processed and not always as healthy as you may think.
Otherwise known as seaweed, nori is a good source of B12. One small snack pack of crunchy roasted seaweed will provide your daily dose of Vitamin B12, but the jury is still out on whether or not the body easily absorbs this version of the vitamin.
Still, nori is a healthy snack option, and there’s no harm in including it in your daily eats.