Vegan Vitamin B12 Supplements – Why Take Them?

So you’ve taken the plunge, or are considering going vegan, you’ve really bought into the plant-based life, you want as many things as possible to be wholesome, natural and from the ground, but straight away you start hearing that you may need to consider take a supplement.

Well fear not, because not all supplements are made equal. There are plenty of specific vegan vitamin B12 supplements out there that vary in quality, but with a bit of guidance and research, you could find high-quality, reliable sources. Whilst vitamin B12 consumption is most reliable via a dedicated supplement, there are other ways it can be consumed, which we will look at in more detail below.

So Why is Vitamin B12 important?

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that when consumed correctly, can prevent weakness and fatigue caused by anemia, breathing challenges, weakened muscles, diarrhea, nausea, irregular heart beats, problems with the digestive system and many other issues.

The consumption of vitamin B12, is vital in ensuring the health of the body’s nerve and blood cells, helping with the creation of our body’s genetic DNA. It’s fair to say that vitamin B12 has quite a crucial role to play in our body’s day to day function.

Where does vitamin B12 come from?

The main sources of vitamin B12 are through animals, milk and eggs. So how is this going to work on a vegan diet?

Whilst many vitamins and minerals can be found in a wide range of whole foods, fruit and vegetable, vitamin B12 is the one crucial vitamin that cannot be reliably produced from plant foods.

Before, animals were able to get their B12 from the bacteria formed in soil and water, which would be absorbed into their body, enabling omnivores to consume B12 in meat and dairy products. With modern farming techniques changing the quality of soil over time, it has now become difficult to gain B12 from soil, with farmed animals taking supplements as well.

It is often said that there are plants like spirulina, algae and seaweed, that can produce a form of vitamin B12, but studies have shown these to be unreliable forms of the nutrient, particularly as the human body doesn’t absorb enough vitamin B12 from these sources, potentially causing deficiencies in the long run.

Vitamin B12 for vegans cannot be reliably produced in the natural food chain anymore and has to typically be produced via methylcobalamin or cyanocobalamin – B12 supplements which ultimately is used in fortified foods, packaged supplements and a range of other dietary purposes.

How much is needed?

This varies in different regions. In the United Kingdom, a recommended daily intake of B12 is 1.5μg (micrograms). The United States recommend a substantially higher rate of U 2.4μg.

In the European Union, a recent daily target of 4μg every day has been set for the intake of B12.

It is advisable to seek a professional opinion from a doctor, dietitian or pharmacist, to seek the right levels of B12 needed for your system.

Fortified Foods

There are a range of vegan foods that are fortified with vitamin B12, such as plant milk, fortified nutritional yeast, vegan spreads like Marmite, breakfast cereals, some soya-based meat substitutes – it is important that the labels are checked to ensure that they are actually fortified.

Here is a list of some B12 fortified food that you can consider:

Supplements

Supplements vary considerably in quality, including those that declare themselves to be vegan-friendly. Whilst a supplement can provide more of a guarantee for reliable absorption of B12, it is important that the overall supplement’s formation, particularly if you’ve become plant-based for health reasons, is of good quality.

It is recommended to look beyond the multivitamins your local chemist offers, and to use a reputable brand that has a track record in health-based products. Click here for a good quality protein powder with vitamin B12.

Other vitamins and minerals to consider

In addition to vitamin B12, here is a list of other vitamins that need more attention on a vegan diet:

  • Omega-3s
  • Vitamin D
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Zinc

Some of these are achievable with a well-balanced, vegetable-rich diet, but a solid supplement is recommended to ensure that many of these vitamins are consumed reliably.

Summary

There is a difference in option from many vegans about whether supplements are actually required or not, with many aspiring for a truly wholesome plant-based experience, however there is enough scientific recommendations to tell us that vitamin B12 as a vegan needs particular focus.

There are plenty of vegan-friendly supplement options that can be consumed as a multivitamin, or via supplements rich in whole food blends, containing vitamin b12 among other vitamins and minerals.

Vegan vitamin b12 supplements are vital in supporting your immune function and giving you healthy energy levels, particularly If you’re an active person, who attends gym, exercises or simply leads a busy lifestyle.

Remember, vitamin B12 is just one vitamin of many that need specific attention on a vegan diet. Make sure you’re well supplemented to ensure that your decision to become plant-based is a success.

Good luck in your decision-making.

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2 thoughts on “Vegan Vitamin B12 Supplements – Why Take Them?

  1. This was very helpful. I have rheumatoid arthritis and B12 is a vitamin that is very important for my wellbeing as it does assist in keeping my symptoms at bay. I didn’t know I could get B12 in almond milk. This is something I am already having each day I also recently purchased almond yogurt and hopefully that will contain B12 as well. I ma wondering how much Almond milk one would have to drink to get the same amount of b12 that you find in the vitamin supplements?

    1. Hi Alexandra, good to hear you found this useful. With Almond milk, as long as you check the packaging that it’s fortified, then it should have vitamin B12. Many dairy-free milk brands tend to fortify with vitamins D, calcium and B12 (so it’s competitive against dairy milk). The amount you would have to drink depends on how much it contains vs the recommended daily amount (RDA). I still do use a good quality plant-based multivitamin, with B12 and other vitamins within it to ensure that I’m guaranteed my RDA.

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