A vegan diet has an abundant list of health benefits; however, it neglects a key micronutrient found in animal products: B-12. Without it, one may become at risk of anemia and nervous system damage - both of which have serious health implications. Therefore, as vegans and vegetarians, it is important to be aware of alternative B-12 sources.
What is Vitamin B-12?
Vitamin B-12 is an important water-soluble vitamin required for red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. It is naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy products. Vitamin B-12 is not naturally found in plant-based foods; however, a wide variety of plant-based foods are fortified with vitamin B-12.
How Much B-12 Do I Need?
According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended B-12 vitamin intake for adults is 2.4 micrograms (mcg). Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding should consume at least 2.8 mcg.
Signs you may be experiencing B-12 deficiency include:
- Constant fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Numbness and tingling sensations
- Poor balance and memory
If symptoms go untreated, permanent nerve damage or anemia may result. Furthermore, if you have a pre-existing condition, you may be at increased risk of B-12 deficiency because of your body's inability to fully absorb micronutrients.
What Are The Best B12 sources?
The best, most reliable way to get an adequate amount of B-12 is through supplementation. It is recommended that all vegans take 250 mcg per day of B-12 supplement to avoid the risk of deficiency. However, there are plant-based foods that are fortified with B-12 if one wishes to avoid supplementation.
5 mcg. per tablespoon
Nutritional yeast is such an easy way to get B-12. Its subtle cheesy and nutty flavor makes it perfect for sprinkling on just about every meal throughout the day.
✅ Fortified Products
Up to 20 mcg. per 100g. serving
The majority of breakfast cereals are fortified with B-12, some more than others. Therefore when buying cereals, be sure to read the nutritional content. Cereals can also contain a high amount of sugar, so just because a cereal may contain a high amount of B-12 does not necessarily mean it is the healthiest!
Dairy-free milk is an excellent way to get B-12 because of its diverse use. If B-12 contributes to about 20% or more of the daily value, it is considered an excellent source. Between 10-20% of the daily value is considered a good source. Some of our favorite sources are:
- Milkadamia products - made from macadamia nuts, a nutrient-packed superfood, its products contain 50% of B-12 daily value.
- Good Karma Flaxmilk - made from flax seeds, its product contains 25% of B-12 daily value, in addition to being an excellent source of protein and omega-3s.
- Silk products - Silk makes several dairy-free milk products, each with varying amounts of B-12.
When in doubt, read the labels because not all are fortified with B-12!
Up to 4 mcg. per 100g. serving
Tempeh is made from soybeans; however, it is the bacteria produced during the fermentation process that contains B-12, not the actual soybeans. It is not the most reliable source of B-12 and should therefore be paired with other sources.
Chlorella and spirulina are incredible nutrient-rich superfoods. The recommended intake of both is about 3-5 grams per day. They can be taken as a capsule or be added to smoothies, baked goods, and other dishes. Both contain a small amount of B-12 and should be paired with other sources to meet daily recommended intake.
Seaweed is a highly nutritious food. To get the most nutritional value out of seaweed, evidence suggests eating it raw because when it is cooked or dried, its levels of B-12 deteriorate.
✅ Cremini mushrooms
Not all mushrooms contain B-12; however, similar to how the bacteria produced in tempeh's fermentation process contains B-12, the bacteria on cremini mushrooms contain a small amount of B-12.
No source is effective enough to provide adequate levels of B-12 on its own. Pair together the different sources and consider taking a supplement. Consult with your doctor about whether a supplement may be your best option.
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Let us know how you include B-12 in your diet! If you want to share a recipe of your own, feel free to post it on our ➡️ Share A Recipe ⬅️ page!