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How Do I Get Vitamin B12 on a Vegan Diet

Sharon Palmer

Today, I’m answering your top questions on how you can get Vitamin B12 on a plant-based diet.

Question:  How do I get Vitamin B12 on a plant-based diet? Are there any plant-based sources? -Charles

Answer:

That’s a really great question—one that is posed to me frequently. First off, please read my detailed blog on how to get vitamin B12 on a plant-based diet here. It’s really important to make sure you get enough vitamin B12 in your plant-based diet, whether you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet. Vitamin B12 is important in the diet because it is necessary for protein metabolism, production of red blood cells, and maintenance of the central nervous system. Vitamin B12 is absent from plant foods, because it is almost found exclusively in animal products, such as organ meats, shellfish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy foods. A deficiency of this vitamin can occur in individuals living a vegan and vegetarian lifestyle because of limited or low consumption of animal products.

Vegans can get vitamin B12 intake from fortified cereals, fortified plant milks, nutritional yeast, and supplementation. B12 intake is limited in vegetarians because of limited animal product consumption. Depending on the type of vegetarian, vegetarians can get some vitamin B12 intake from eggs and/or milk, and B12 supplementation. However, a B12 deficiency can still occur in vegetarians.

Many plant-based eaters question whether they can receive B12 from plant foods. However, according to scientists, vitamin B12 is synthesized only by certain bacteria, and it is primarily concentrated in the bodies of predators located higher in the food chain. Vitamin B12 is well-known to be the sole vitamin that is absent from plant-derived food sources. Foods (meat, milk, eggs, fish, and shellfish) derived from animals are the major dietary sources of vitamin B12. Some edible algae (very specific ones) and tempeh (due to bacterial contamination) have B12. Some Cholerella has B12, but it would have to be clear which ones contain high levels. You can read more about this here.

There is not enough evidence to indicate that vegans can get enough B12 through soil and other plant sources. Jack Norris has a wonderful collection of information on these sources on his site here.

In addition, you can find valuable information on B12 from the Vegan Society here.

Check out my blog on the results of our survey on vitamin B12 attitudes and behavior among vegans here.

-Sharon

Check out the other nutrition questions I’m answering at The Plant-Powered Dietitian:

How to Prepare Dried Beans to Avoid Antinutrients?
How Can I Choose Sustainable Foods?
Is “Clean Eating” a Healthy Lifestyle?

About Ask Sharon:

As part of my program “Ask Sharon”, I am answering the top question of the month submitted through my   blog,   Facebook,    Twitter  or    Instagram   to answer here. You can even win a prize! Don’t forget to submit your burning nutrition question this month via my blog, or other social media. 

Image: Vitamin B12 supplement, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

Note: Sharon is not a spokesperson for any product mentioned in this blog post.

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