“Make sure to get your B12!” - everyone
Despite being slightly annoying, there’s a good reason people say it.
Vitamin B12 does not occur naturally in plants.
It's important for vegans to track their intake of B12 to make sure they aren’t at risk for vitamin deficiencies.
Not sure how to do that?
Not to worry—
In this article, we’ll be covering EVERYTHING you need to know about B12 vitamins. Click to jump to a section:
- All About B12: What It Is and Why It’s Important
- B12 Supplements: Safe Vegan Options to Try
- Fortified Food: Daily Treats to Get Your B12
- 10 Recipes to Get Your Daily Dose of B12
Are you ready to learn more? Let’s go!
All About B12: What It Is and Why It’s Important
There are so many vitamins and minerals to keep track of, it’s hard to keep them all straight!
However, B12 is definitely one vitamin you want to keep your eye on.
What is a vitamin B12?
I’m happy you asked.
Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin, also known as cobalamin, that helps with several important functions for our body. Here are a few functions they help with:
- Creating DNA for your red blood cells
- Keeping your nerves healthy
- Maintaining neurological function
If you do not get enough B12 in your diet, you can develop a B12 deficiency. B12 deficiencies are associated with the following:
- Weight loss
- Megaloblastic anemia
- Nerve problems (for example, tingling in the hands or feet)
- Poor memory
- Damage to the nervous system
Don’t let this list scare you!
You’re more at risk for a vitamin B12 deficiency if you belong to the following groups:
- Older adults
- Those who have had any gastrointestinal disorders (examples include Crohn’s disease or celiac disease)
- Those who have had gastrointestinal surgery
- Those who are pregnant or lactating
- Vegans and vegetarians
If you fall into any of these groups, it’s worth speaking to a doctor or nutritionist to see if you are at risk for a B12 deficiency.
Why Are Vegans and Vegetarians at Risk for a B12 Vitamin Deficiency?
As mentioned previously, B12 does not occur naturally in plant-based foods.
Most people consume their daily doses of B12 through dairy and animal products. Animal products are a natural source of B12 because they absorb B12 made by their gut bacteria.
However, a study completed by the Framingham Offspring found that 39% of the population had low levels of B12 in their blood. Those who had low levels of B12 were not just those who were older or those who practiced a vegan/vegetarian diet, it included young people and those who consumed animal products.
Those who had the highest levels of B12 in their bloodstream were those that consumed fortified foods and who took B12 supplements!
So, to recap, consuming enough B12 is not just a vegan issue.
It is something EVERYONE should be aware of.
The majority of vegans and vegetarians are able to consume and absorb the recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 through fortified foods and supplements.
Now that you know the importance of B12, let’s talk about how much you should consume and where to get it!
B12 Supplements: Safe Vegan Options to Try
One option to consume your daily dose of vitamin B12 is to take a vegan supplement.
Notice that I say vegan supplement.
Not all B12 supplements are vegan-friendly, so make sure to check the label.
What is the RDI of vitamin B12?
RDI stands for recommended daily intake. The exact RDI of vitamin B12 will depend on a few factors:
- Existing medical conditions
However, the average adult needs around 2.4 mcg, (micrograms.) If you are pregnant, you should aim for about 2.6 micrograms a day. If you are breastfeeding, you should aim for about 2.8 micrograms.
Remember to always speak to your doctor or nutritionist to find a healthy range you should aim for.
When shopping around for B12 supplements, you’ll notice that they range from dosages of 500 mcg-1,000 mcg.
“This is way too much!” You might be thinking.
However, our rate of absorption for B12 is very low. If you take a 500 mcg supplement, you’ll probably only absorb around 10 mcg from this.
“Wait, wait….that’s still too high.”
Don’t worry, vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin.
That means that excess B12 will not build up in your system, what you don’t use will leave your body with no issues.
Testing Your B12 Blood Levels
Want to make sure you are consuming the right amount of B12?
You can always order a blood test!
There are also tests that are available online that you can get shipped to your home. These tests are:
There are quite a few home tests that you can take. One option is to use the service called “Let’s Get Checked” to test your B12 levels at home.
This service follows these steps:
- Ships the test directly to your home
- Provides written and video instructions for how to take your sample
- Instructions to ship the test back to the lab
- An app notification that tells you when your results are ready
- An option to speak with a medical professional to discuss your results
Easy as vegan pie!
This service is also completely confidential, so you don’t need to worry.
If you don’t have a primary care practitioner or don’t want to go through the hassle of making a doctor’s appointment, this is a safe alternative you can try to get more information about your health.
Vegan Supplements to Try
Now that we’ve talked about recommended daily doses and speaking with your doctor, it’s time to recommend some vegan supplements that you can trust!
This is a liquid supplement that you can add to your water. It has a nice lemony taste.
The brand boasts being bio-available, meaning it is lactose, soy, and gluten-free.
This B12 supplement from Global Healing center is a B12 blend that is available for purchase online. This is also a liquid supplement that can be added to water.
This B12 supplement comes in the form of a chewable tablet. It comes in lemon and cherry flavors!
This product comes in the form of vegan capsules. They boast a “raw” formula, meaning there are no binders in the product and it is suitable for those practicing a raw vegan diet.
This capsule also contains probiotics and is blended in a base of 23 fruits and vegetables.
This brand can be found online, or at your local drugstore. These vegan-friendly capsules are convenient because they come in packages of 200, meaning you’re set for more than half of the year.
If you are looking to consume your daily dose of vitamin B12 in a multivitamin instead of a single supplement, here are a few vegan-friendly multivitamins that you can try.
This multivitamin has you covered with B12, vitamin D, and omega-3. These are all vitamins that vegans need to be mindful of, making it a one-stop shop for multivitamins.
This dietary supplement is meant to be taken twice a day, and contains 7 vitamins. This multivitamin was created with vegans in mind and has the following:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D3
This multivitamin is made with vegan women in mind. It contains 9 vitamins:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin K2
- Vitamin E
All of these brands are vegan friendly! Confirm with your doctor the best multivitamin options for you.
Fortified Food: Daily Treats to Get Your B12
While supplements are a great option for getting your RDI of B12, you can also get this vitamin from fortified foods!
Here are some vegan-friendly fortified foods that contain vitamin B12:
- Plant milk
- Nutritional Yeast
Here a few vegan fortified cereals that you can find at your local grocery store to get vitamin B12:
- Kellogg's All-Bran Complete Wheat Flakes
- Rice Chex Cereal, Gluten Free
- Kashi Heart-to-Heart Instant Oatmeal
Plant-based milk used to be tough to track down, but now multiple brands are carried by most chain grocery stores. Here are a few brands that are fortified with vitamin B12:
- Silk Soy Milk
- Coconut Dream Coconut Milk
- EdenSoy Extra
- Tempt Hemp Milk
The most beloved method of getting your daily vitamin B12?
Adding nutritional yeast to your food!
If you haven’t heard of nutritional yeast, check out this comprehensive blog that tells you all about it.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that can be used for cooking. Here are some amazing things about nutritional yeast:
- It has a nutty, cheesy flavor
- It is a complete protein
- It contains B12 and other essential vitamins and minerals
Basically, nutritional yeast is a vegan’s best friend.
Nutritional yeast can be conveniently bought online or at your local grocery store. When purchasing nutritional yeast, make sure you are buying the fortified kind!
If you choose to go the fortified-food route to consume your daily recommended intake of vitamin B12, make sure that you are reading the labels of your food and tracking your serving sizes so that you get enough.
10 Recipes to Get Your Daily Dose of B12
Here are 10 B12-rich recipes that you can incorporate into your meals! These recipes contain creamy fortified coconut milk or nutritional yeast, so you know they are going to be delicious.
- Whip up this recipe for the best roasted broccoli by Bakerita to check two boxes: B12 and your cruciferous vegetable for the day.
- Another easy snack is to make these cheesy kale chips by Simply Quinoa. Yum!
- Add this vegan pesto sauce by Nora Cooks to pasta or just a slice of bread for a kick of nutrients.
- With fall just around the corner, perfect your vegan broccoli and potato soup by Simple Vegan for the cozy autumn days.
- Simply Quinoa knocks it out of the park again with this delicious (and simple!) herb-crusted baked tofu recipe.
- Who doesn’t love tacos? Add a drizzle of this nutritional-yeast infused avocado sauce by Any Reason Vegans to your next taco recipe.
- This healthy vegetable curry recipe by Any Reason Vegans is a vegan’s dream come true. It has B12, calcium, and anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric.
- Can dessert be healthy? Use fortified coconut milk for this vegan pumpkin pie recipe by Jessica in the Kitchen.
- This hearty vegan curry lentil soup by Midwest Foodie Blog is going to be your next go-to for meal prep.
- For a show-stopping dish, make this tofu tikka masala recipe by Choosing Chia.
Incorporating nutritional yeast and fortified plant-based milks are two easy ways to boost your daily B12 intake!
Now that your mouth is watering, get cooking.
Keeping it Healthy: Tracking Your B12 Intake
The most important thing you can do involving your health is to keep track of what you eat, and make a plan to get all of your vitamins and nutrients.
Make a conscious choice about where you are choosing to get your daily B12 vitamin. You can take a supplement, a multivitamin, eat fortified foods, or a combination.
Remember to speak with your doctor or nutritionist about what vitamins and nutrients you should be consuming in your daily diet. They will help you make a plan that works with your lifestyle!
Interested in more healthy tips for the vegan lifestyle? Be sure to check out our blog.