Only a few vegan foods, such as nutritional yeast and cholera, are high in vitamin B12. So, vegans should take vitamin B12 supplements to meet the daily recommended intake of 2.4 mcg.
What are the health benefits of vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is required for red blood cell formation and good neurological function.
Moreover, vitamin B12 plays an important role in the synthesis of DNA, hormones, and proteins.
How much vitamin B12 do we need a day?
Most people need 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 a day. Pregnant women need 2.6 mcg and lactating women need 2.8 mcg of vitamin B12 per day.
Most noteworthy, vitamin B12 is low in toxicity. We can consume a much higher dosage than the recommended. According to studies, even a daily dosage of 1,000 mcg is unlikely to cause any health risks.
Vegans, vegetarians, and people who follow a plant-based diet should be pretty careful about getting adequate doses of all B-vitamins. Besides vitamin B12, vegans should follow a well-balanced diet, in order, to get high doses of important B-vitamins, such as thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), and pyridoxine (B6).
How much vitamin B12 should you take per week?
We only need 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per day. Nowadays, you can find vitamin B12 supplements containing 500 mcg, 1000 mcg, or even 5000 mcg. You can take vitamin B12 supplements daily or weekly. If you prefer taking vitamin B12 daily, better consume supplements with the lowest dosage.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. The body can easily excrete the extra vitamin B12.
The best time to take vitamin B12 supplements is at breakfast.
On the other hand, if you prefer taking supplements weekly, a tablet of 5000 mcg, once a week is enough.
Above all, you should consult your physician. Especially, if you’re taking medication, as it might affect vitamin B12 levels.
Foods rich in vitamin B12
But, animal products contain saturated fats, cholesterol, hormones and antibiotics. You shouldn’t depend on them for your daily vitamin B12 intake.
Actually, vitamin B12 isn’t produced, neither from animals, nor plants. Only bacteria can synthesize it. Animals that eat grass, eat these bacteria as well. Moreover, animal products may contain vitamin B12, as they are given vitamin B12 supplements.
Vegan foods rich in vitamin B12
In the past, people used to drink water from wells and streams. This water was rich in vitamin B12. Nowadays, we follow sanitizing methods, killing bad bacteria, as well as the bacteria which synthesize the vitamin B12.
But, vegans and vegetarians have a higher risk of being deficient in vitamin B12, as most common plant-based foods don’t contain any vitamin B12.
First, vegans could get a relative high dose from nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast grown in molasses. You can find it as powder or as flakes. Nutritional yeast tastes cheesy and creamy. It’s part of many vegan recipes.
A tbsp of nutritional yeast contains approximately 4 mcg of vitamin B12, or 160% DV (Daily Value). Actually, nutritional yeast is rich in protein and other B-complex vitamins.
Furthermore, there are nutritional yeasts fortified with vitamin B12. Fortified nutritional yeast has up to 7 mcg of vitamin B12 per tbsp, or 290% DV.
According to a study, vegans can significantly benefit from consuming nutritional yeast. It can help vegans rise their vitamin B12 levels in only a few months.
You can buy nutritional yeast on Amazon.
Furthermore, chlorella is also a good vegan dietary source of vitamin B12.
But, the vitamin B12 content may significantly differ among different chlorella brands. Chlorella contains between 0 and 300 mcg of vitamin B12 per 100g of dry weight. Due to the different production methods.
Actually, chlorella is pretty safe for consumption. Other types of algae may contain huge amounts of iodine, making them dangerous for health.
Other types of edible algae may be rich in vitamin B12 as well. For instance, dried green laver seaweed (63 mcg per 100g) and purple laver seaweed (32 mcg per 100g) are both good vegan dietary sources of vitamin B12. Dried purple laver is also known as nori.
Nori is a key ingredient in many sushi recipes. Although rice is a poor source of B12, consumption of sushi with nori could prevent vitamin B12 deficiency!
Another vegan food rich in vitamin B12 is tempeh. Although soybeans don’t contain any vitamin B12, tempeh is a good source, due to the bacteria involved in the fermentation process.
The vitamin B12 content of tempeh may vary greatly as well. Tempeh may contain 0.7-8 mcg of vitamin B12 per 100g. The amount of vitamin B12 highly depends on the production methods.
Other fermented soybean products don’t contain any significant amounts of Vitamin B12.
Other vegan foods that contain traces of vitamin B12
All the other vegan foods contain only traces of vitamin B12. Vegans and vegetarians can’t depend on them for the daily vitamin B12 intake.
Common vegan foods that have traces of vitamin B12 are broccoli, asparagus, various types of tea leaves (0.1–1.2 mcg per 100 gr), porcini mushrooms, parasol mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, black morels, black trumpet, and golden chanterelle.
Should vegans consume fortified foods to get vitamin B12?
Nowadays, vitamin B12 is added in many foods. Fortified foods are good for you, as the synthetic vitamin B12 is highly bioavailable. More than 50% is absorbed.