For vegans: the best sources of vitamin B12

Published At: 24 March 2020 , 09:46 AM

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient necessary for the normal functioning of our body. However, this substance our bodies cannot produce on their own. Therefore, you need to get sources of vitamin B12 from food or nutritional supplements.

Vegans, vegetarians, pregnant or lactating women, and other people who, for some reason, might face sources of vitamin B12 deficiency need to carefully monitor their diet to make sure that they get enough of this substance from their foods. And for this, it is essential to know which vegetables contain sources of vitamin B12 and what other foods are rich in this substance. But first, let's figure out why we need it so much.

What is vitamin B12, and why is it needed?

B12 is an exceptional vitamin that the body needs to function correctly. This substance is necessary to maintain the health of nerves and maintain the production of DNA and red blood cells, as well as for the normal functioning of the brain.

The daily norm of vitamin B12 is about 2.4 mcg, but this dose may be slightly higher for pregnant or lactating women.

Unfortunately, our bodies do not produce this vitamin, so we must obtain from food. When ingested with food, vitamin B12 absorbed into the stomach with a protein called an intrinsic factor. This substance binds to a molecule of sources of vitamin B12 and promotes its absorption in the blood and cells. Our body stores an excess of vitamin B12 in the liver, so if you consume more than the daily intake, the body will retain its supply for future use.

If you don't get enough of this vitamin from food or if your body doesn't produce enough internal factors, you may develop a source of vitamin B12 deficiency. Specific symptoms may appear.

Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency:

  • fatigue;
  • weakness;
  • loss of appetite;
  • frequent constipation;
  • causeless weight loss;
  • numbness and tingling in the limbs;
  • balance problems;
  • difficulty thinking;
  • memory problems
  • pain in the oral cavity.

If you are deficient in vitamin B12, your body cannot produce healthy red blood cells. Unhealthy cells die off before they can create enough new ones. Without control, this cycle leads to a condition called megaloblastic anemia. It can occur if you do not eat enough foods containing sources of vitamin B12, or if the body cannot absorb this vitamin. Once this happens, replenishing vitamin B12 through nutrition alone will be difficult to cure the condition. Vitamin B12 injections may be needed. Your doctor may order tests to determine the level of B12 in your body. So you can understand whether treatment is necessary or adjust the diet.

What foods contain vitamin B12?

Lousy news awaits vegans: Vitamin B12 not found in vegetables. Like in fruits. 

Another bad news for vegans: in the absence of vitamin B12 in the diet, adult deficiency symptoms usually develop within five or more years. However, some people have problems within a year. A minimal number of people do not notice signs of clinical deficiency of vitamin B12 for twenty years or more.

According to numerous studies, B12 is the only vitamin that cannot be obtained with lots of fruits and vegetables, since it is not there. Many herbivorous mammals, including cattle and sheep, absorb B12 produced by bacteria in their digestive system. Therefore, there are no problems with vitamin B12 not only among meat-eaters but also among vegetarians who consume dairy products. 

Nevertheless, for many years there was a theory of "conspiracy": many vegans called vitamin B12 deficiency a carefully thought-out hoax because they did not agree with the fact that their favorite vegetables and fruits did not contain this vitamin. They claimed that this substance could obtain from superfoods, including spirulina, nori, tempeh, and barley grass. They considered these products to be a suitable source of non-animal B12. This theory has not stood the test of time.

Over 60 years of research, scientists have proved that the only way to get high-quality vitamin B12 from products of non-animal origin is to use fortified foods with B12 and supplements B12. Only in this way, our body will absorb the vitamin. Therefore only such products can maintain optimal health. 

Vitamin B12 mainly found in animal products, especially in meat and dairy products, as well as in seafood and fish. Fortunately for those on a vegan diet, fortified foods can also be a good source of this vitamin. All vegans must consume vitamin B12 from fortified foods or supplements. It will benefit health. 

Vitamin B12-rich animal products:

  • liver and kidneys;
  • mollusks;
  • beef;
  • veal;
  • a hen;
  • turkey;
  • lamb;
  • pork;
  • cod;
  • tuna;
  • herring;
  • trout;
  • salmon;
  • sardines;
  • crabs;
  • eggs
  • yogurt, and all dairy products.

Meat, fish, and poultry are the best sources of vitamin B12. They are also good sources of protein and other B vitamins that help maintain a healthy brain and nervous system functions.

Non-animal foods rich in vitamin B12:

  • breakfast cereal fortified with vitamin B12;
  • fortified nutritional yeast;
  • any vegetable milk reinforced with vitamin B12;
  • rice
  • fortified vegan spreads. 

Important: Vitamin B12 not found in fruits, but this is no reason to leave the fruit outside its plate. Most fruits contain high levels of folic acid, another group B vitamin that the body may lack for both vegans and meat-eaters. Nuts are also rich in fiber. A high fiber diet can lower your risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Therefore, doctors recommend eating fruits every day. Ideally, you need to use all groups of products so as not to suffer from a deficiency of a particular vitamin.