A Vegan’s Guide to Vitamin B12

Vegan food with B12

Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients that your body needs to boost the immune system, maintain energy levels, and help with other essential functions. We need to meet the daily requirements for all our nutrients to ensure optimal health.

One of the most essential vitamins to consume is B12. For those who are just starting to go vegan, it something we should consider and make conscious choices to incorporate into our diet to ensure we stay healthy. Generally, it is found in animal products, however, there are plant-based sources as well.

There are some great plant-based foods that are high in B12 that you can include in your diet to ensure that you get enough.

What is Vitamin B12 and why is it important?

Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is a  water-soluble vitamin. However, unlike the other vitamins, the body stores it in the liver for some time. Any excess leaves the body through urine. 

But as an “essential nutrient”, your body does not synthesize it. Instead, you get it from your food or from taking vitamin b12 supplements. 

Here are the primary functions of vitamin b12 and what b12 foods do in the body:

  • It is an essential component in the synthesis of DNA.
  • It helps restore and maintain energy levels in the body.
  • It is vital to the formation of red blood cells, helping prevent anemia. 
  • Along with other selenium foods, it helps decrease the risk of disability among older women. 
  • It plays a significant role in maintaining bone strength, along with calcium and vitamin D. In women, it may reduce the odds of developing osteoporosis
  • It supports nerve health.
  • It helps synthesize serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that alleviates mood. Research even suggests a link between vitamin B12 deficiency and depression
  • Like iodine-rich foods, it helps decrease one’s odds of developing hypothyroidism, wherein the thyroid glands produce lesser amounts of hormones for metabolism.

Can a vegan get adequate vitamin B12?

Of course! Aside from animal products (animal meat, fish, eggs, dairy) that many people believe to be the only source of vitamin B12, there are actually a number of plant-based foods high in B12 that you can include in your diet.

It’s also healthy to think about nutrition in a comprehensive way, instead of singling out each nutrient and eating to satisfy it alone. It’s commonly reassured by the leading plant-based professionals that eating a wide variety of plant-based foods ensures that we get all the nutrients that we need.

So, make sure your diet is colorful and eat plenty of vitamin k foods as well, like dark green leafy vegetables, herbs, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and asparagus. Iodine-rich foods are important too and include many different kinds of seaweed, iodized salt, and lima beans. Brazil nuts, brown rice, baked beans, mushrooms, spinach, lentils, and bananas are some great selenium foods.

When we start thinking about health and nutrition, we can make conscious choices about including all these wonderful types of plant foods in our diet, whether we are eating out at a vegan restaurant, or cooking a meal at home.

Top vegan sources of Vitamin B12

Sources of B12 for vegans

  1. Nutritional Yeast - This comes from a yeast species called Saccharomyces cerevisiae that is found in plant-based products, such as sugar beets. When fortified, it can contain vitamin B complex (a combination of B vitamins) that can satisfy up to 180% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI).
  1. Non-Dairy Milk - Non-dairy milk is made from plants, such as oats, nuts, and seeds. It can also be fortified. As one of the vitamin B12 foods for vegans, it can contain up to 50% of the RDI for such a vitamin. It can also contain similar nutrients too animal-based milk, like calcium, iron, and vitamin D. 
  1. Soy Products - Aside from oats, soy products can also contain B12 when fortified. You actually may already consume it via soy milk or eat it through vegan meat or tofu!

There are vitamin B12 supplements that we can take if we want to ensure we’re getting all that we need, and many medical professionals actually suggest this. Because vitamin b12 is so vital to our health, it’s better to take a supplement to make sure we have enough of it - whether you are vegan or not. Aside from consuming fortified foods, we should all take a vitamin B12 supplement.

Carnists and vegans alike can experience vitamin B12 deficiency if our levels are too low. There is research to suggest that animal foods also need supplementation these days, as b12 is decreasingly found in our soil, and hence, our food.

Whether you consume b12 in food or take a supplement, it’s just a matter of meeting the dietary requirement. Fortunately, this isn’t a difficult task for most of us!

B12 from Water Lentils: Water lentils are a great source of b12 for vegans. Real Source foods has a variety of all-natural vegan supplements for sale on their website below.