Vegan Wonder

Unlock the Power of Vitamin B12: Essential Insights for Vegans

You’ve probably heard that a vegan diet can be deficient in certain nutrients. And you’ve probably heard that those nutrients are important for your health. But do you know what those nutrients are, and what you can do about it?

What Is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that plays important roles in your body. It’s involved in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body. It’s also important for the health of your neurological system, including your brain, and for producing energy.

What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Vitamin B12?

Without enough vitamin B12, you can develop a type of anemia, which can cause fatigue and shortness of breath. You may also experience neurological symptoms, such as numbness or tingling in your arms and legs.

Long-term vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to more serious health problems, including irreversible neurological damage. For this reason, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B12, especially if you’re a vegan.

Why Vegans Are More Likely to Be Deficient in Vitamin B12

Plant foods do not naturally contain vitamin B12. This vitamin occurs naturally in animal foods, like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and milk. Therefore, vegans are more likely to be deficient in vitamin B12 unless they take steps to get enough of it.

How Much Vitamin B12 Do You Need?

The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms per day. Pregnant women need 4.6 micrograms and breastfeeding women need 4.8 micrograms per day.

How to Get Enough Vitamin B12 as a Vegan

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B12 on a vegan diet.

Eat Fortified Foods

Many plant-based foods are now fortified with vitamin B12. This includes:

  • Cereals
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Soy milk
  • Almond milk
  • Orange juice

Check the labels of these foods to see how much vitamin B12 they contain. You may need to consume several servings of fortified foods per day to meet your recommended daily intake.

How Much Vitamin B12 Do You Need from Fortified Foods?

If you rely on fortified foods as your main source of vitamin B12, you’ll need to consume more than the recommended daily amount to account for variation in fortification levels. For example, if you consume a cereal that is fortified with 10 micrograms of vitamin B12 per serving, you would need to eat about three servings per day to meet your recommended intake of 2.4 micrograms.

It’s important to note that not all fortified foods contain the same amount of vitamin B12. You may need to consume several servings of different fortified foods to meet your daily needs.

Consider Taking a Vitamin B12 Supplement

If you’re not able to get enough vitamin B12 from fortified foods, you may want to consider taking a supplement. Look for a vegan vitamin B12 supplement that is in the form of cyanocobalamin, as this is the most bioavailable form for vegans.

The optimal dosage of vitamin B12 from supplements is still a matter of debate. Some experts recommend taking a high dose once per week, while others recommend taking a lower dose daily. More research is needed to determine the best approach.

One study found that taking a high dose of vitamin B12 once per week was just as effective as taking a lower dose daily. Therefore, taking a 5000 microgram (5 mg) supplement once per week is a simple and effective strategy for ensuring you’re getting enough vitamin B12.

If you choose to take a vitamin B12 supplement, it’s best to take it with a meal that contains some fat, as this can help with absorption. Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the presence of intrinsic factor, which is a substance produced by your stomach. However, if you have a condition called atrophic gastritis, which can cause a decrease in stomach acid production, you may not be able to absorb vitamin B12 from supplements even if you take it with food.

Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian for personalized recommendations on vitamin B12 supplementation.

How to Know If You’re Getting Enough Vitamin B12

There are few symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency that are specific to this nutrient, and they may not appear until the deficiency is advanced. Therefore, it’s important to get your vitamin B12 levels checked regularly.

Your healthcare provider can order a serum vitamin B12 test, which measures the amount of vitamin B12 in your blood. A level of 148 picomoles per liter (pmol/L) or higher is considered sufficient. If your level is lower than this, you may be deficient.

It’s important to note that some people, including older adults, may have low vitamin B12 levels without experiencing symptoms of deficiency. Therefore, it’s recommended that vegans have their vitamin B12 levels checked at least once per year.

If you are taking a vitamin B12 supplement, you may want to ask your healthcare provider to check your vitamin B12 levels after several months of supplementation to make sure the supplement is working. If your vitamin B12 level is still low, you may need to increase your dosage or consider changing to a different form of vitamin B12.

It’s also worth noting that some medications, including proton pump inhibitors and metformin, can decrease vitamin B12 absorption. If you are taking one of these medications, you may need to take a higher dose of vitamin B12 to ensure adequate absorption.

Ask your healthcare provider for personalized recommendations on vitamin B12 testing and supplementation.

How to Incorporate Vitamin B12 Into Your Diet

In addition to fortified foods and supplements, there are other ways to get vitamin B12 into your diet as a vegan.

  • Eat fortified plant-based milk and yogurt. Many plant-based milk brands offer fortified yogurts, which can be a good source of vitamin B12. Look for brands that offer unsweetened, plain yogurt, as sweetened and flavored yogurts can be high in added sugar.
  • Use nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a vegan staple that is often fortified with vitamin B12. One tablespoon of nutritional yeast can contain anywhere from 20 to 160 micrograms of vitamin B12, depending on the brand. You can use nutritional yeast to add flavor to popcorn, pasta, soups, and more.
  • Eat meat alternatives that are fortified with vitamin B12. Some brands of meat alternatives, such as plant-based sausages and burgers, are fortified with vitamin B12. Look for brands that list vitamin B12 as an ingredient.
  • Eat eggs or dairy products if you’re open to consuming them occasionally. One large egg contains about 4.8 micrograms of vitamin B12, and one cup of milk contains about 1.2 micrograms.

If you have trouble getting enough vitamin B12 from food and supplements, you may want to consider speaking with a registered dietitian for personalized recommendations.


Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient for your health, and vegans are at risk of deficiency due to the lack of natural sources of this vitamin in plant-based foods. However, by consuming fortified foods and supplements, eating vitamin B12-fortified meat alternatives, and speaking with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian for personalized recommendations, vegans can ensure they’re getting enough of this vital nutrient.

It’s important to note that vitamin B12 deficiency can cause irreversible neurological damage, so it’s important to take steps to prevent deficiency. Regular testing is also important to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin B12, regardless of your diet.

By taking these steps, vegans can enjoy the many health benefits of a plant-based diet while also meeting their nutrient needs.