In this blog post, we delve into the different sources of Vegan B12. Also, we'll explore the challenges individuals following a plant-based lifestyle face. Better, we'll uncover the diverse options available to meet their daily recommended intake of B12. Navigating the world of vegan nutrition requires mindful consideration of essential nutrients. One nutrient that often poses a perplexing puzzle for vegans is Vitamin B12. With its primary presence in animal-derived foods, the search for reliable vegan sources becomes an ongoing quest. So, join us as we unearth the mysteries of this elusive nutrient and empower vegans with practical knowledge. Help them maintain a well-rounded, nourishing diet.
What Are the Warning Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency showcases various symptoms and issues. Common signs of B12 deficiency include:
- Fatigue, low energy levels, and weakness throughout the body.
- Digestive issues such as weight loss, indigestion, and loss of appetite.
- Anemia results from a reduction of red blood cell formation.
- Mood changes and disorders such as depression and irritability.
- Hands and feet numbness, resulting in difficulty walking, balance problems, and confusion.
- Impaired myelin synthesis and peripheral neuropathy. They are often characterized by tingling and bodily weakness.
- Unsteady gait and difficulty balancing due to low production of nerves.
- Optic nerve damage and eventual vision problems.
Why Vegans May Be at Risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Long-term vegans and vegetarians are at increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Because vegans exclude from animal product consumption, they have minimal dietary sources.
6 Best Vegan Vitamin B12 sources
So can a vegan or vegetarian get vitamin B12 without consuming animal-based products? The vegan B12 sources below provide the fortified form. And before you ask, it's equally beneficial.
1: Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional Yeast is the most popular vegan B12 Source alternative. There are two nutritional yeast varieties; brewers and pure nutritional yeast. The former is for brewing beer, while the latter is a form of inactive yeast. Nutritional yeast is from sugarcane and beet molasses. When heated, yeast cells become nutritional yeast with a nutty, cheese-like flavor. You can consume nutritional yeast as an add-on to various dishes like pasta, soups, popcorn, etc. You can buy nutritional yeast from retailers that stock it as granules, powder, or spices. Experts advise buying the fortified type as it contains synthetic vitamins and minerals. Experts advise buying the fortified type as it contains synthetic vitamins and minerals.
Nori is a seaweed often used in sushi rolls and a worthwhile alternative vegan B12 source. It comes in the form of a dry, brittle sheet that you can use to make sauces and crumble. Also, you can sprinkle over salad, popcorn, sandwiches, and other dishes. This vegan vitamin B12 source is sweet yet salty. You can trace the sweet-salty taste to the sea where farmers harvest Nori from. NIH reports that “Consumption of approximately 4 g of dried purple laver [nori] (Vitamin B12 content: 77.6 μg /100 g dry weight) supplies the RDA of 2.4 μg/day” Besides the vitamin B12 and minerals in Nori, it can also help you kill that salty and crunchy craving. Some of the extra minerals in Nori include magnesium supplements, protein, and iron. You can buy Nori in the grocery stores, sold in sheets as a simple snack.
3: Shitake Mushroom
Shiitake mushroom is a vegan-friendly vitamin B12 alternative. And although it only contains small portions, it can go a long way in boosting your B12 levels. Published Research shows dried shiitake mushrooms have about 5.61 mg of Vitamin B12. But, you should not rely on Shiitake mushrooms as the sole vegan B12 source. We recommend combining other alternative sources with the mushroom's small portions. When cooked, Shiitake mushrooms have an earthy, smoky flavor and a meaty texture. You can cook them with stir-fried broccoli, rice, and pasta dishes. Optionally, you can consume them as a snack.
4: Plant-Based Meats
Some fortified plant-based meat products are ideal alternative vegan B12 sources. Food processing companies fortify them to give them a more comprehensive nutritional profile. Plant-based meats resemble and mimic animal meats' taste, texture, and appearance. Manufacturers make these products using various ingredients, including soy, wheat, peas, and mushrooms. The popularity of these products as a cruelty-free alternative has been on the rise. Fortification of these products adds vitamins and minerals to boost nutritional value. But since not all products contain vitamin B12, you should always read the labels or consult a vegan dietitian. Ensure it's fortified with the exact product you need.
5: Fortified Breakfast Cereals with B12 Supplements
Fortified breakfast cereals are a convenient source of vitamin B12 for vegans. There are many breakfast cereals, particularly those with fortified or enriched labels. These cereals are from grains such as wheat, oats, and corn, but manufacturers add vitamin B12. Fortifying these cereals provides an easy way to incorporate B12 into your vegan lifestyle. Cereals are for vegans looking for different flavors while getting the value proposition. Again, you must read the labels and check the specific B12 content of the fortified cereal. The amount of vital nutrients and bioavailability of B12 in the content can vary. As a result, the absorption rate and efficiency in the body will vary.
6: Fortified Plant-Based Milk
Plant-based milk is a liquid that mimics normal milk, but unlike the latter, it's made from oats and nuts. It can be a great alternative source if supplemented with vitamin B12 nutrients. Natural plant-based milk lacks some crucial nutrients in cow’s milk. Manufacturers add vitamins and minerals to plant-based milk to bridge this nutrient gap. Optionally, you can buy natural milk and add a multivitamin supplement such as Pouri. Pouri Multi-Vitamin contains vitamins B12, K, and iron, among other nutrients. When choosing fortified plant-based milk like soy milk or almond milk, read the product labels. Check the specific nutrients the manufacturer adds. This will help you make informed choices based on your preferences
What is Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12, commonly called Cobalamin, is a vital water-soluble vitamin. But unlike the common norm of vitamins, though, B12 is not found in fruits and vegetables. It’s found naturally in foods of animal origin but can be artificially added to some as a supplement. Vitamin B12 owes its alias name (Cobalamin) to the fact that it has cobalt. The mineral exists in vitamin B12 in two active forms; Methylcobalamin and 5-deoxy adenosylcobalamin. There are other present forms, but they have to be biologically activated to the two previously mentioned forms to benefit the body. Like any other vitamin, B12 plays a role in various bodily functions (some of which we’ll cover later in the article) and is essential in maintaining good health.
What Does B12 Do? Its Role in the Body
The role Vitamin B12 plays in the body makes its deficiency fatal and can cause serious health consequences. Some of the crucial roles that B12 plays include:
Production of Healthy Red Blood Cells
Producing red blood cells is the primary role of vitamin B12 in the body. The vitamin achieves it through two key processes;** Folate Metabolism** and DNA synthesis. Folate metabolism is key in producing healthy red blood cells, and the body cannot initialize the process without vitamin B12. Folate is a natural form of vitamin B9 and helps form DNA and RNA. Vitamin B12 converts folate into its active form, initializing the DNA synthesis. Insufficient B12 impaired folate utilization resulting in low red blood cells (more on that later). During DNA synthesis, the body damages the old red blood cells and replaces them with new ones. This process takes place in the bone marrow through a process called erythropoiesis. Vitamin B12 roles are mainly in the division and maturation of precursor cells.
Maintaining Nerve Cells
Another crucial role of vitamin B12 is keeping neurons healthy. B12 achieves this through myelin sheath formation, nerve cell metabolism, and regeneration. Myelin is a protective cover that insulates nerve fibers for efficient impulse transmission. Vitamin B12 is directly involved in the formation and maintenance of the cover, which could be otherwise damaged or compromised. Another important metabolic process that B12 plays a role in is neuron metabolism. The process burns out fatty acids to synthesize neurotransmitters’ cell membranes. The metabolism also helps synthesize nucleotides, the basic building blocks of DNA and RNA. Other important roles that Vitamin B12 plays in the body are improving how the brain functions through improving neurons, converting carbohydrates into usable energy, and catabolism of proteins and fats in the body.
Where Does B12 Come From?
Vitamin B12 comes from bacteria and archaea in the gastrointestinal tract of animals. While animals absorb B12 via their diet, we consume it via animal-based products and synthesis and absorb it via the gut. Some animal-derived foods that primarily have B12 include meat, eggs, and dairy products. Vitamin B12 is not naturally available in plant-derived foods, making it even worse for B12 consumption for vegetarians and vegans. And even in rare circumstances, a plant has B12; it is in fortified form, which is not efficiently absorbed by the body.
How Much B12 Do We Need?
The much B12 we need varies with age, sex, and life stage. Generally, adults over 19 need 2.4 mcg, although the demand may increase with pregnancy and lactation in females. The National Institutes of Health, via the Office of Dietary Supplements, recommends intakes as indicated in the table below:
FAQs About Vegan Vitamin B12
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
It takes several weeks to recover from vitamin B12 deficiency or even start seeing any improvements in the symptoms. In some cases, depending on how adverse the effects are, it may take six to twelve months before you recover fully.
How Long Does It Take for Vitamin B12 to Work
It takes vitamin B12 several weeks to work or before any symptoms in the body start fading off. In some isolated cases with adverse symptoms, vitamin B12 may take a few months or longer.
How Fast Does Liquid Vitamin B12 Work?
Liquid B12 injections work quickly, mostly within 48 to 72 hours. Most people with mild vitamin B12 deficiency notice positive changes within two to four injections.
Obtaining sufficient vitamin B12 on a vegan diet is crucial to maintain optimal health and prevent deficiencies. And even though vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal-derived foods, several vegan B12 sources are available. The following foods are great vegan B12 sources, nutritional yeast, shiitake mushrooms, seaweed like nori, and other vitamins B12-fortified plant-based products can amount to crucial vitamins. However, the B12 content in the vegan B12 sources above may vary. In addition, the bioavailability of B12 analog may be significantly lower than from animal-based products. Therefore, as a vegan, you should consider combining various sources, from fortified foods to nutritional yeast. We recommend monitoring your B12 levels through blood tests to prevent deficiencies. To learn more about vitamins, read this article on how vitamin D3 and K2 work together.