Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 (commonly called folate) is an essential vitamin to ensure red blood cells are produced at the right size to ensure correct functioning. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body using haemoglobin. If a red blood cell cannot function to its full potential, it may have an abnormally low amount of haemoglobin. A deficiency of vitamin B12 may result in extreme tiredness, a lack of energy, pins and needles, sore and red tongue, mouth ulcers, muscle weakness, disturbed vision, psychological problems and problems with memory, understanding and judgement. Therefore, it is evident that having a B12 deficiency can have numerous consequences, which means it is essential to find sources of B12. It is uncommon for B12 to be deficient in a meat-eaters diet, however, it is more common in vegans if they do not seek out the correct foods. Here are some great foods to ensure you get enough.

How much B12 should we be eating?

The recommended intakes vary between countries, however, in the US it is recommended to be around 2.4 micrograms a day. The less frequently you obtain B12, the more you need to take. B12 is best absorbed in small amounts, only about 50% is absorbed from each dose, therefore, the less frequently you input the greater you need to make up for it. There is no harm in exceeding recommended amounts.

Most vegans do consume enough B12 if they are having a balanced diet in order to avoid anaemia and nervous system damage, however, this may not be enough to prevent other potential risks. However, vegan or not, we should all be seeking to increase the amount of vitamin B12 we consume.

Sources of B12

Fruit, vegetables and grains are typically very low in this nutrient. Dairy and meat products, on the other hand, may have significantly higher amounts.

For vegans, the best route is to find fortified foods.

  • Almond milk (fortified) – 1 cup provides 3 micrograms (mcg) of B12
  • Coconut milk (fortified) – 1 cup provides 3 mcg of B12
  • Soy milk (fortified) – 1 cup provides 1.2 mcg of B12
  • Nutritional yeast – 1 tablespoon provides 2 mcg of B12
  • Cereal (fortified) – 1 cup provides 5 mcg of B12
  • Meat alternatives (fortified) – anything between 1 to 3.8 mcg of B12
  • Tempeh – 100 grams provides 12 mcg of B12
  • Soy burger – 1 patty provides 1.8 micrograms of B12
  • (The mcg values may vary slightly dependent on brand).

For some, it may be necessary to include a supplement – this should be discussed with a medical professional. Vegan diets can have a high amount of folate which can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency. It has been suggested that vegans should supplement to more than the daily amounts since poor absorption comes from supplementation.

It is important to remember that it is not guaranteed that vegans will have a B12 deficiency, especially if a balanced diet is consumed and fortified foods are included. If you have any concerns regarding B12 levels then you can discuss it with a medical professional, who may recommend supplements. You won’t be at harm for having too much B12. The most essential thing is to have a balanced and healthy diet.

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