Only a few vegan foods are actually good sources of vitamin B12. The richest plant-based foods in vitamin B12 are:
- nutritional yeast
Broccoli, asparagus, and certain mushrooms contain only traces of vitamin B12.
What does vitamin B12 do to the body?
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.
Additionally, high levels of vitamin B12 may prevent premature hair loss and elevated homocysteine levels! High homocysteine values may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke!
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 side effects.
You can take vitamin B12 supplements daily or weekly. The best time to take vitamin B12 supplements is at breakfast.
Vegans, vegetarians, and people who follow a plant-based diet should be very 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).
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 that 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.
Nutritional Yeast: a vegan food with some vitamin B12
First, vegans could get a relatively high dose of vitamin B12 from nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast grown in molasses. You can find it as powder or as flakes. As 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% of the Daily Value.
Always check the nutrition facts label, though. Each nutritional yeast has a different vitamin B12 content. Nutritional yeast is also 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% of the DV.
According to a study, vegans can significantly benefit from consuming nutritional yeast. It can help vegans raise their vitamin B12 levels in only a few months.
You can buy nutritional yeast on Amazon.
Chlorella & other algae are good vegan sources of vitamin B12
Chlorella is another good vegan food with vitamin B12.
But, the vitamin B12 content may significantly differ among different chlorella brands, due to the different production methods. Chlorella contains between 0 and 300 mcg of vitamin B12 per 100g of dry weight.
Actually, chlorella is pretty safe for consumption. Other types of algae may contain huge amounts of iodine, which can be 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 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!
Tempeh has vitamin B12
Another vegan food rich in vitamin B12 is tempeh. Although soybeans don’t contain any vitamin B12, tempeh is a good vegan source of vitamin B12. The bacteria involved in the fermentation process synthesize vitamin B12 as well.
The vitamin B12 content of tempeh may significantly vary, though. Tempeh may contain 0.7-8 mcg of vitamin B12 per 100g. The amount of vitamin B12 highly depends on the production method.
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 to meet their daily needs.
Common vegan foods that have traces of vitamin B12 are:
- various types of tea leaves (0.1–1.2 mcg per 100g)
- porcini mushrooms
- parasol mushrooms
- oyster mushrooms
- black morels
- black trumpet
- golden chanterelle
Vegans should eat fortified foods with 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.