B12 nutritional yeast

What Vegan Foods Have Vitamin B12 & How Can Vegans Get B12?

 

Though deficiency for those starting out with adequate stores may take years to develop, the results of vitamin B12 deficiency can be devastating. Getting enough B12 is absolutely non negotiable for those centering their diets around plant-based foods.

 

How Can Vegans Get B12 Naturally?

Vitamin B12 is not made by plants or animals, but by microbes that blanket the earth. Our fellow great apes get all the B12 they need eating bugs, dirt, and feces, but I’d suggest supplementing instead! 

 

What Vegan Foods Have B12?

  • Fortified plant-based meats
  • Fortified plant-based milks
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Fortified energy drinks

Are there any green light foods that contain vitamin B12?

Nutritional yeast is a commonly B12-enriched food source and one of my favorites. 

How much nutritional yeast would you need to meet the recommended daily B12 dosage for an adult under the age of 65? It depends on the brand. For instance:

  • Bragg’s: 1 teaspoon three times a day
  • NOW: 2 teaspoons three times a day
  • Bob’s Red Mill: 1 tablespoon three times a day
  • KAL: 1 tablespoon three times a day
  • Red Star: 1 tablespoon three times a day (note that only certain varieties are fortified)
  • Trader Joe’s: 1½ tablespoons three times a day

Heads-up that Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritional yeast and Frontier Co-op’s are unfortified.

Check out our Nutty Parm and Veggie Mac & Cheese recipes, which spotlight nutritional yeast as a star ingredient, and my video The Healthiest Food Sources of Vitamin B12

 

How Much B12 Do We Need?

I recommend:

  • at least 2,000 mcg (µg) cyanocobalamin once each week, ideally as a chewable, sublingual, or liquid supplement taken on an empty stomach
  • or at least 50 mcg daily of supplemental cyanocobalamin 
  • or a serving of B12-fortified foods three times a day, each containing at least 190 percent of the Daily Value listed on the nutrition facts label

Those over 65 years of age should take at least 1,000 mcg (µg) cyanocobalamin every day.

And, here’s a tip: If you’re experiencing deficiency symptoms, the best test is a urine MMA—not serum B12 level).

Learn more on B12 recommendations in my videos The Optimal Vitamin B12 Dosage for Adults and The Optimal Vitamin B12 Dosage for Kids, Pregnancy, and Seniors

 

Can You Get Enough B12 From A Vegan Diet?

If you want to get your B12 from fortified foods rather than take supplements, you’d have to eat three separate servings of B12-fortified foods, ideally with each serving containing at least 190 percent of the Daily Value on the product’s nutrition facts label. 

 

Best B12 Supplement For Vegans

There are two types of B12 supplements:

  1. Cyanocobalamin
  2. Methylcobalamin

Which is better?

As discussed in my video The Best Type of Vitamin B12, I take cyanocobalamin as my B12 supplement for two reasons: its high stability and its track record of safety and efficacy. Be sure to check the labelling to determine whether it’s vegan-friendly.

Methylcobalamin is less stable than cyanocobalamin and is particularly susceptible to photodecomposition—that is, destruction from light exposure. One study found that even up to 2,000 micrograms a day of methylcobalamin wasn’t enough to correct vitamin B12 deficiency in one of three vegans tested.

There may be one caveat, though. Methylcobalamin may be better for those with impaired kidney function. It’s also been speculated that oral methylcobalamin or injected hydroxycobalamin may be preferable in smokers, but that hasn’t been confirmed. If you do have decreased kidney function and your doctor recommends methylcobalamin, you may need a much higher dose because it’s less stable, so be sure to ask them about what’s best given your condition.

 

Conclusion

A regular, reliable source of vitamin B12, whether from supplements or fortified foods, is critical for anyone eating a plant-based diet. 

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


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