Vitamin B-12

B-12 is a crucial ingredient for vegans. We explain why and offer supplement recommendations.
Vitamin B12 Whole Foods

While vitamin B-12 isn’t readily available in unprocessed plant-based foods, your needs can easily be met by taking sublingual vitamins or regularly eating B-12 fortified foods.

Vitamin B-12 is the only nutrient that is not supplied by a whole foods vegan diet. It is essential for nervous system health, so every vegan needs to take this nutrient seriously. People with low B-12 levels often have elevated blood levels of homocysteine, which is associated with increased risk of heart and circulatory problems.

The easiest and most reliable way to meet your B-12 needs is to take a vegan B-12 supplement. We recommend taking a vegan sublingual tablet, containing at least 500 micrograms cyanocobalamin, every other day. Either cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin is probably fine. You’ll find lots of recommendations on the web claiming that methyl is superior, but the preponderance of research right now leans slightly in favor of cyanocobalamin being the better choice. As with everything else in nutrition science, this understanding is subject to change.

Foods commonly fortified with B-12 include non-dairy milks, cereals, meat substitutes and some brands of nutritional yeast. Note that B-12 fortified foods are supplemented with the very same B-12 that gets put into tablets, so obtaining your B-12 through food is in no way more “natural” than getting it through tablets. Additionally, it may be difficult to meet your B-12 through supplemented foods, since comparatively few products are fortified, and B-12 fortification of foods is often at low levels.

For most vegans, it’s therefore much easier and more reliable to simply buy a bottle of vegan B-12 tablets. Sublingual B-12 supplements are easy to find online or at any natural foods store.

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