“You’re going to die! You can’t get vitamin B12 as a vegan!”
True, vitamin B12 is important.
It’s needed to make red blood cells, and supports your brain and nerve function (among other roles).
And it’s true that on typical western vegan diets, you won’t get much (if any) vitamin B12 (although some foods are fortified with B12).
The issue is blown way out of proportion.
Your body’s vitamin B stores can last for multiple years, because you don’t need much per day. So if you’re a brand new vegan and ate a typical diet before, you don’t need to panic.
That being said, you will want to get a supplement at some point, and it never hurts to get it early.
You may be able to get enough B12 through fortification (non-dairy milks, cereals, nutritional yeast, etc), but unless you eat a lot of them, a supplement is more of a guarantee.
So which supplement should you get?
There are a few things that make finding a vitamin B12 supplement confusing:
- There are both vegan and non-vegan B12 supplements.
- There are 4 main different forms of B12.
- Some supplements have doses of 1000%+ of your daily value – Why?
I’m going to clear up any confusion around these questions, and then give you a few recommendation of the best brands.
What to Look for in a Vitamin B12 Supplement for a Vegan
These things may seem overwhelming, and let’s be real, you probably don’t care.
You just want a supplement that is vegan and works.
So I’ll answer these questions, but as briefly and simply as possible so we can get to the actual products.
Why Are There Non-Vegan Vitamin B12 Supplements? (And how do you spot them?)
But animals eat and store B12, mainly in the dirt of plants (we just clean our plants well).
Some supplement manufacturers make their own B12 in labs (vegan), others extract it from animals (non-vegan).
Most vegan B12 supplements will clearly state that they are vegetarian or vegan (vegetarian is equivalent in this situation).
Which Type of Vitamin B12 Supplement is Best for Vegans?
B12 can actually take multiple forms (in terms of chemical structure), some are easier to absorb than others.
Here are the main 4:
- Cyanocobalamin – A synthetic form, made in a lab. But is harder for the body to absorb and takes more energy to convert it to a more usable form.
- Methylcobalamin – A synthetic form, made in a lab. It’s the most easily usable form of B12. It’s what most vegan supplements are made from.
- Hydroxocobalamin – The most “natural” form of B12, found in animal products. The body later converts this to methylcobalamin. It’s used to treat cyanide poisoning and B12 deficiency in medical settings.
- Adenosylcobalamin – The least stable form of B12, rarely used in supplements.
The type is usually clearly labeled in multiple places on the product label:
Does it matter which type a supplement uses? It doesn’t make a huge difference either way, but we’re looking for the first 2 types (mainly methylcobalamin).
What Dosage is Ideal for Vegan Vitamin B12 Supplements?
Some supplements have a few micrograms (mcg) of B12, while others have thousands of micrograms. They often cost a similar amount.
What’s the deal?
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg. That’s really not much.
It’s easy to put a lot more than the RDA in a supplement without much extra cost.
Since it’s a water-soluble vitamin, your body just doesn’t absorb any excess in a supplement. In fact, your body only absorbs about 13 mcg from a 1,000 mcg B12 supplement.
Currently, there’s no upper intake level set for B12, and studies have shown that daily oral supplements of up to 2 mg (2,000 mcg) are safe and effective in treating B12 deficiency
There is weak evidence that having to much could increase risk of heart attack and stroke. So maybe avoid mega high doses, but for the most part you don’t have to worry about overdoing it.
One final thing to consider is that high doses of vitamin B12 trigger acne in some people. If you’re worried about that, stick to a supplement on the lower end of the range.
Why Do B12 Supplements Have Other Minerals or Vitamins Added to Them?
There’s no specific reason as far as I can tell, it’s just for convenience in case you also wanted to take iron or vitamin D supplements, which vegans often do (but aren’t mandatory like B12 is).
The 4 Best Vitamin B12 Supplements for Vegans
So from everything above, we’re looking for a B12 supplement that is:
- Clearly labeled vegan (or vegetarian).
- At least 2,000 mcg (2 mg) per serving (more if you want to take less often).
- Methylcobalamin is ideal, it’s the easiest form to absorb (but others are okay).
- You should take vitamin B12 supplements without food, ideally first thing in the morning.
Recall that the RDA is 2 mcg, I’ll use mcg exclusively from here on to make it easier.
All of these supplements are good, and they’re not in any particular order.
I made a simple summary table here, but I’ve gone into a bit more detail for each one below.
|Supplement||B12 per serving||Cost per serving||Type of B12||Type|
|Garden of Life||1,000 mcg||$$$$||Methylcobalamin||Standard capsules|
|EZ Melts B12||2,500 mcg||$$||Methylcobalamin||Dissolving flavored tablets|
|Zhou Methyl B12 Supplement||5,000 mcg||$$||Methylcobalamin||Flavored micro lozenges|
|Deva Vegan Vitamin B-12||1,000 mcg||$||Methylcobalamin||Flavored lozenges|
Note about cost: Prices change on a regular basis, so these dollar signs just represent that typical cost per serving of each supplement. More dollar signs mean that a product is more expensive than another.
B12 in serving: 1,000 mcg
Cost per serving: $$$$
Garden of Life is a very reputable brand who makes a wide variety of vegan supplements.
However, it’s the most expensive of any of these options by far.
The reason it’s more expensive is that this supplement also contains probiotics and digestive enzymes. These are definitely optional, but if you typically take these supplements anyways, it can be convenient.
These are standard sizes pills, which are fine for most people. If you have a hard time swallowing pills, choose a different option.
There’s 1,000 mcg per pill, and having once a day is more than enough to ensure that you have healthy B12 levels.
B12 in serving: 2,500 mcg
Cost per serving: $$
This B12 supplement has 2,500 mcg per serving, so you only need to have it every day or two.
Instead of a pill, these are dissolvable, cherry flavored tablets that “melts” quickly in your mouth.
It’s sweetened with a sugar alcohol – mannitol.
Note that the cost is relatively cheap per serving, and if you’re not having it every day, it’s even cheaper than the other “daily” options on this list.
B12 in serving: 5,000 mcg
Cost per serving: $$
This is the most convenient and cheapest vegan vitamin B12 supplement on this list.
Note that it has 5,000 mcg per serving, so having this once or twice a week will keep your levels topped up.
Another advantage is that these capsules are micro-lozenges, which are about half the size of a normal lozenge. It will dissolve quickly in your mouth.
It’s sweetened with a sugar alcohol as well, xylitol in this case.
B12 in serving: 1000 mcg
Cost per serving: $
Deva is another well-known brand that makes a wide range of vegan supplements. It’s also the cheapest one on this list per serving.
This is a daily B12 supplement, you should have 1 per day according to the label, which seems about right.
These are also lozenges that dissolve in your mouth (normal sized), and sweetened with xylitol.
One More Option for Costco Members
It’s not clearly stated on the bottle whether or not Kirkland’s B12 is vegan.
I contacted customer support and found out that Kirkland’s vitamin B12 supplements are indeed vegan. It’s probably the cheapest option for vegans that shop at Costco.
Which B12 Supplement is Best For You?
The whole B12 issue is made out to be more complicated than it really is.
Any of the supplements on this page will be great for a vegan. You can also find vegan B12 supplements in many local drugstores (and now you should know what to look for).
Pick one based on how often you’re willing to take a supplement, and what type of capsule (pill or lozenge) you prefer.
So while vitamin B12 supplements are important for vegans, it’s hard to go wrong.
If you have any questions, leave them below and I’ll try to answer.
Standard disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, and this isn’t medical advice. If you suspect you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, go see a doctor and get professional advice.