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Vitamin B12 Foods For Vegans

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What is Vitamin B12, and why is it the buzz nutrient in the vegan community?

Can Vegans get enough from food alone without plummeting their B12 status?

Keep reading to learn more in this article written by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist!

Disclaimer: Always consult your doctor if you have any health concerns or want to take a supplement. This article is not providing personal medical advice. See our Disclaimers for more details.

A Bit About Vitamin B12

Whether you are a low fat vegan or semi vegetarian, this vitamin may be the most talked about nutrient in the plant based diet space!

Why has it gotten so much press?

Because in our modern food supply, B12 is found in animal products and select foods fortified with vitamin B12.

That means, vegans would have to make meticulous eating decisions to ensure they get enough via vitamin B12 fortified foods, and/or take vegan vitamin B12 supplements.

How Much Does The Body Need?

The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for non pregnant/non lactating adults aged 19 years and older is 2.4 micrograms (mcg) per day.

But don’t stop right there, because just taking one 2.4 micrograms each day might not cut it.

Why?

Absorption of vitamin B12 is very complex and would result in a much longer article!

If you are interested in learning more about the complexities of vitamin B12, check out veganhealth.org.

What’s more?

Certain factors interfere with vitamin B12 absorption, including (not a comprehensive list):

  • Older age
  • Those who have gastrointestinal or malabsorption disorders
  • Individuals who had gastrointestinal surgery
  • Reduced production of intrinsic factor (a protein produced from the stomach that helps absorb vitamin B12)

Can You Consume Too Much?

We are currently not aware of an UL (upper limit) set for vitamin B12 by the Food and Nutrition Board.

However, this doesn’t mean that there are zero consequences for taking lots of vitamin B12, nor does it mean that an UL will not be set in the future. We need more research in this area.

For now, talk to your doctor about a appropriate dose of vitamin B12 for your situation. Check out Veganhealth.org’s recommendations as a talking point with your doctor!

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms

A vitamin B12 deficiency can have serious consequences.

Symptoms may include (not a comprehensive list):

In other words, a lack of vitamin B12 is not something we don’t’ want to entertain.

But perhaps now you may be wondering: is deficiency a common problem for vegans? Lets talk about that next.

Are Vegans More Likely to Be Deficient?

Some studies have shown that certain groups of vegans may have a higher prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency as compared to vegetarians, those who adhered to a vegetarian diet since birth (vs later in life) and omnivores.

So yes, vegans may be at a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency as compared to other dietary patterns.

Some possible reasons why may include (not a comprehensive list):

  • Animal products contain vitamin B12 (vegans do not consume animal products).
  • Vegans may not supplement with vitamin B12 or may not supplement with enough vitamin B12.
  • Foods fortified with vitamin B12 may or may not be consistently consumed or consumed in sufficient amounts/timing by vegans.

As you probably noticed, it is so important that vegans (as well as a number of other individuals) get a reliable source of vitamin B12.

Probably the easiest and most consistent way to do that is to take a supplement. Talk to your doctor about the appropriate type and dosage for your situation. He or she may want to check your B12 levels and other labs to assess your B12 intake, and decide on an appropriate dose.

But perhaps you are still wondering…

How to Get Vitamin B12 Naturally?

It’s generally accepted in the medical community that the only way to get vitamin B12 naturally in the US modern food supply would be via animal products like dairy, meat, fish, and eggs.

That leaves vegans with a dilemma, as this cuts down on food based options of this important nutrient.

But as we discussed, there are vegan supplements and B12 fortified foods.

What are sources of vitamin B12 fortified foods? Lets talk about that next!

Vitamin B12 Foods For Vegans

Graphic showing some food sources of vitamin b12.

In Summary:

  1. Nutritional Yeast Fortified with Vitamin B12
  2. Plant Based Milk Fortified with Vitamin B12
  3. Vegan Cheese Fortified with Vitamin B12
  4. Vegan Yogurts Fortified with Vitamin B12
  5. Vegan Cereals Fortified with Vitamin B12
  6. Vegan Protein/Meal Replacement Bars Fortified with Vitamin B12
  7. Impossible and Beyond Burgers
  8. Marmite

Disclaimer: This section is not telling you specifically what foods you should eat. Talk to your doctor before adding any supplements or making any dietary changes.
Vitamin B12 values listed below may or may not be accurate depending on current nutrient values on the product. Always check the nutrition facts label.

1. Nutritional Yeast Fortified With Vitamin B12

We are not talking about bakers yeast – the kind you use for bread making here!

Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast (aka: unsuitable for rising dough) often from the strain called Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Nutritional yeast has been described as imparting a “cheesy flavor”, and popular uses for it include:

  • As a topping for popcorn
  • As an ingredient in vegan nut based “cheese” (such as cashew cheese)
  • For tofu dishes (ie: tofu scramble, ingredient added to breading for tofu, etc.).

The most important catch is that nutritional yeast may or may not be fortified with vitamin B12. However, most brands we have seen commonly sold in the US are fortified with the vitamin. Always check the label to be sure!

Depending on where you live, you may have trouble finding nutritional yeast that has been fortified with vitamin B12.

2. Plant Based Milk Fortified with Vitamin B12

Plant based “milks” are gaining in popularity. Common ones you may find in the US include:

  • Almond milk
  • Soy milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Oat milk
  • Pea milk
  • Coconut milk

Depending on the ingredients, some plant based milks may be described as creamy, nutty, or even grainy! Nonetheless, there are so many varieties that many can find one they enjoy.

When it comes to finding a vegan “milk” with B12, make sure you read the ingredients!

Some are fortified, some are not, and we found many in the US that were fortified with other nutrients, but not vitamin B12.

Learn more about Plant based milks in our in depth article here.

Its also important to be aware that you shouldn’t assume you will get all the nutrients that dairy milk provides by merely drinking plant based milk as a substitute. Check out our article: Dairy-Free For Beginners to learn more!

3. Vegan Cheese Fortified with Vitamin B12

Granted, you may be hard pressed to find a vitamin B12 fortified vegan cheese in the US…

Still, there are a few brands that have them, such as certain types of Violife and Daiya products (double check the label to be sure).

Interestingly, many brands do not fortify their vegan “cheeses” with calcium, at least to the extent that we have seen in many popular plant based “milks” in the US!

So, just like the we’ve seen in our previous section, don’t assume your vegan “cheese” provides the same nutrients as dairy cheese, like calcium and vitamin A.

4. Vegan Yogurts Fortified with Vitamin B12

Finding a plant based yogurt with vitamin B12 in the US may be even harder than the cheese example!

While they do exist, again, its important to remember that these products may not contain the same nutrients that dairy yogurt typically contains, such as calcium and iodine.

5. Vegan Cereals Fortified with Vitamin B12

B12 fortified vegan cereals are few and far between per our quick review of cereals in the US, however, they do exist!

Let us know if you found any in the comments below so we can all learn!

6. Vegan Protein/Meal Replacement Bars Fortified with Vitamin B12

Like the cereals, finding vegan brands in the US fortified with vitamin B12 in the protein/meal replacement bars area was a bit challenging!

Again, if you find any share in the comments below!

7. Impossible And Beyond Burgers

  • Vitamin B12 Content in Impossible Burgers has 130% Daily Value per 4 ounces (113 grams).
  • Vitamin B12 Content in Beyond Burgers has 2.4 mcg per 1 patty (113 grams).

Both of these burgers have become very popular, possibly due to their similar taste to beef burgers.

The first time I had an Impossible burger, I wondered if I had actually ordered beef instead!

But even though these burgers may taste like beef and even have vitamin B12 fortification, they do not necessarily contain all the nutrients beef has.

You can learn more about common nutrients in meat and how to get them without it in our article: Can Humans Survive Without Meat?

Lastly, its possible that there are other plant based “burger” brands that contain vitamin B12, but we had a hard time finding them, at least in the US. A quick check of the label should give you a good idea!

8. Marmite

Vitamin B12 Content Example:

What is marmite? A yeast based extract spread (typically put on various types of bread), that has been described as having a umami flavor.

AussieMite and Vegemite 40% Less Salt may contain some vitamin B12 fortification as well, but as always check the labels!

Vegan B12 Myths

Vitamin B12 Vegetables and Fruits Are a Thing

VeganHealth.org has a pretty extensive review regarding vitamin B12 in plant foods. One plant food, may have may not have some vitamin B12 activity in the human body, and a few others are questionable.

However (and a big however!), we need more research to universally say these foods can be a reliable source of vitamin B12. So even as a vegan b12 deficiency symptoms may manifest, or you could develop deficiency/subclinical deficiency if you do not get your B12 in more reliable ways.

Check out the VeganHealth.org article Vitamin B12 in Plant Foods to learn more.

You Can’t Develop a B12 Deficiency If You Take A Multivitamin

Myth! Some supplements may not have enough or the right type of vitamin B12 for your unique situation.

And some of us need more vitamin B12 than is listed on a multivitamin because of factors/conditions that interfere with or increase the need for vitamin B12 (some examples listed near the beginning of this article).

It’s important to talk to your doctor about about an appropriate amount of vitamin B12 for your life stage, health conditions, etc.

In Conclusion

There are several foods that contain vitamin B12. In the vegan diet, vegan foods fortified with this important nutrient can be a food source.

Relying on B12 fortified foods alone may not be the best strategy for several reasons, including the risk of being inconsistent or not eating enough for your unique needs. Therefore, a supplement may be the most reliable.

Talk to your doctor about an appropriate vitamin B12 supplement regimen for you!

Did this post help clarify your questions about vitamin B12 foods for vegans? Leave us a comment below!

And if you would like to learn more about keeping things 100% plant based, check out our post Vegan For Beginners, and Vegan Grocery List.

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