Vegans and Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a necessary vitamin which the body cannot manufacture on its own and is not generally readily available in a diet that does not include animal products.

There are several alternative sources of vitamin B12 for vegans. They include limited plants that contain B12, foods that are fortified (have B12 added to them), and supplements.

Plants which naturally contain vitamin B12. Plants that contain vitamin B12 include:

  1. Tempe a form of fermented soybeans,
  2. Algae including dried green laver (Enteromorpha sp.) and purple laver (Porphyra sp.), and
  3. Wild mushrooms including the fruiting bodies of black trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides) and golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius).

Products fortified or grown in a way to contain vitamin B12. Fortified products and products grown in a way to contain vitamin B12 include:

  1. Beans and vegetables that were grown in specialized fertilizer, and
  2. Various cereals which have B12 added to them.

Supplements to increase vitamin B12 consumption. Often it is necessary to get to the full amount of vitamin B12 needed by taking some form of supplement. Supplements are readily available in drug stores and pharmacies and easy to take. The amount of B12 that supplements contain varies in amount. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin so any amount exceeding what the body needs will be discarded. The supplements can come in amounts exceeding the recommended daily dose of 2.4 micrograms, for example in amounts at or exceeding 1000 micrograms. These amounts are still considered safe. Carefully read the label of any supplement for details on the amount contained.

It is interesting that most non-vegans get vitamin B12 from fish, meat, poultry, eggs and other dairy products. It is theorized that years ago prior to the advent of food hygiene, the human diet absorbed vitamin B12 directly from the soil. Recent improvements in health, safety and food production have limited the amount of dirt that any human consumes through eating fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and other things grown in the soil. Eating dirt to get vitamin B12 is obviously unsanitary, would endangers you health and should be avoided.

The body stores vitamin B12 and in the range of 1000 to 2000 times as much as you need in a day. So if one begins eating a diet which does not include adequate doses of vitamin B12, the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can take months to even years to appear. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been called the great masquerader because symptoms can take so many forms and symptoms are so varied. They can include pale skin, heart palpitations, loss of appetite, weight loss, infertility, numbness, and tingling. Symptoms can also include depression, confusion, dementia and poor memory. There are other effects of the B12 deficiency as well. Therefore it is critical to consume B12 as part of a healthy diet.

This post is not medical advice. Anyone eating a vegan diet should consult their medical doctor or other health professional to ensure that their minimum nutritional requirements are being met. Moreover, if one believes they are suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency they should contact their doctor as soon as possible as there are forms of this deficiency that require comprehensive medical intervention.

We started making Vocoa products because we are personally vegan and believe vegans should be able to enjoy tasty treats too! We wanted to share what we learned about vitamin B12 on our own vegan journey with you as you or a loved one may find it useful.