How Do Vegans Get B12 In Their Diet
Generally, when transitioning to a plant-based diet, the first question is “How will I ensure I have enough protein in my diet?”
Vegans and vegetarians quickly realize that adequate protein intake is easy. However, fatty acids and certain vitamins can be more difficult to incorporate into a vegan diet. Some of these necessary nutrients occur primarily (or solely) in animal products. How do vegans get animal-based nutrients like b12 in their diet?
Keep reading to learn more about b12. Note that the information in this article is provided for informative purposes only. Before beginning any b12 supplements or medication, or if you think you may be b12 deficient, talk with your doctor. Every individual is different and vitamins should be treated with care and respect, as not all side effects for an individual’s body can be communicated in a single article.
What Is B12?
B12 is a nutrient produced by microorganisms associated with animals and fungi. It contributes to brain health, blood health, and DNA production; it also prevents anemia.
Below, we’ve gone into detail about some of b12’s benefits:
B12 helps to increase memory by fueling neuron health. In one study, subjects receiving doses of b12 showed less memory loss than those without b12 supplements. Once b12 deficiency has impaired memory, its effects can be irreversible (as seen here), so it’s important to ensure you’re receiving enough b12 on a regular basis.
Without b12, red blood cells become narrow and misshapen. It’s difficult for b12-deprived cells to move through blood vessels or transport nutrients to the body, and this results in nutritional problems and anemia.
For newborns, weight gain is crucial. Early weight gain helps the brain, muscle, bone, and heart development continue normally and in a healthy manner. A few factors can determine whether or not an infant sustains an appetite and keeps weight; one of these is b12 intake. B12 also helps infants’ mind and muscles develop properly.
B12 is especially a concern if the mother of an infant is vegan and breastfeeding. Adults do not show symptoms of b12 deficiency immediately, so the mother may be b12 deficient and unaware. If she is not passing b12 to her child, the child can end up with severe muscular dystrophy and other lifelong developmental problems.
In some instances, b12 deficiency has been associated with problematic fine motor skills or even delirium.
Unfortunately, the only way for humans to naturally consume b12 is through consuming animal products (mushrooms, fungi, and plant foods won’t contribute to b12 levels). To help increase vegans’ b12 consumption, many companies add b12 to plant milks, cereals, and other products.
Keep reading to learn the answer to “how do vegans get b12”:
How To Consume Enough B12
Monitoring b12 consumption is simple once you’re aware of daily requirements, nutritional guidelines, and vegan b12 sources.
Below, we’ve created a simple guide to follow when introducing b12 into your vegan meal plan:
The recommended intake or daily allowance of b12 varies based on age. Below are the recommended levels for various stages of life, based off the guidelines from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:
- 0-6 months: 0.4 mcg
- 7-12 months: 0.5 mcg
- 1-3 years: 0.9 mcg
- 4-8 years: 1.2 mcg
- 9-13 years: 1.8 mcg
- 14+ years: 2.4 mcg
- Pregnant women: 2.6 mcg
- Lactating women: 2.8 mcg
B12 deficiency isn’t limited to vegans, though. A cup of milk or a 3oz steak each only has about one-fifth of the daily recommended amount of b12 intake for adults. For this reason, even non-vegans and non-vegetarians frequently supplement their diet with b12.
There are a variety of food sources of b12 for vegans, thanks to modern fortification practices.
Some of these include:
- Fortified cereal: Certain cereals have added synthetic b12 to their ingredients. Kellogg’s All-Bran, Malt-o-Meal, and General Mills Corn Flakes all provide over 200% of the daily recommended requirement. This means you won’t need to eat cereal every day – just once in a while is enough to boost your b12 intake.
- Fortified soy, nut, or seed milk: Because nut, soy, and other non-dairy milk are common for a vegan diet, many of these kinds of milk are fortified with b12. Some soy milk brands provide up to half your daily b12 requirements.
- Fortified tofu: While not highly-publicized, tofu can be a significant source of b12. Tofu brands like Nasoyu add b12 to some of their meat substitutes. In Nasoyu’s fortified tofu, one serving of tofu provides nearly the same amount of b12 as one steak.
- Fortified nutritional yeast: One of the most popular forms of vegan protein, nutritional yeast, is frequently fortified with b12 for extra nutrients.
If you cannot or do not want to consume fortified foods, it’s important to take b12 supplements. Without supplements, you won’t be able to function properly; your nerves, neurons, blood, and muscles will slowly deteriorate.
Even if you consume fortified foods, b12 supplements are important. Low doses of b12 can supplement an already-healthy diet to ensure you receive the amount necessary for a healthy lifestyle.
The b12 used in supplements is synthetically-made, so it’s vegan. However, when you purchase a b12 supplement, check to see if gelatin or lactose is used in your supplement. These non-vegan ingredients are sometimes added to capsules for various purposes.
WebMD recommends a dose of 1-25 mcg per day. Harvard Health notes that there is no known side effect of overdosing with b12 for most healthy individuals, so err on the side of getting more b12 if you suspect you have a deficiency.
B12 is a crucial supplement for healthy functioning. How do vegans get b12? If you’re vegan, you won’t get b12 through plants – you have to consume fortified foods and supplements to fulfill your b12 needs. Talk with your doctor if you’re considering changing your b12 intake. They’ll have the best resources to get you started on a path to better health.