The first question most new vegans have is “where do I get vitamin B12?”
It’s a good one to have, because vitamin B12 deficiency leads to cognitive impairment, and can even lead to brain shrinkage over time. A lack of vitamin B12 is also linked to fatigue.
While that sounds scary, it’s incredibly easy to get enough B12 on any diet, a vegan one included.
It’s also hard to be deficient in B12 because your stores last for years, and we need very little each day. Most new vegans will run on their existing stores for at least their first year.
But after that, you will need to find a source of vitamin B12.
The Best Vitamin B12 Sources for Vegans
Unfortunately, you’re not going to find much B12 in plants.
That’s because vitamin B12 is only made by bacteria.
The specific bacteria that makes it is usually found by the roots of plants. Go back a few hundred years, and people didn’t wash their produce as well, so there was usually some dirt, bacteria, and vitamin B12 in their diet naturally.
But now, we wash our produce really well, which has many benefits, but eliminates virtually all of the B12.
So we have to options to get vitamin B12 in our diet:
- Supplementation – Vitamin B12 can be manufactured in a lab.
- Fortification – Which is essentially supplementation still. Certain types of vegan foods are often fortified by adding vitamin B12.
Let’s look at the 2 options a bit closer…
Option #1 – Vitamin B12 Supplements
It’s a good idea for all vegans to have and use a vitamin B12 supplement.
Just be careful when you’re buying one, because many B12 supplements are derived from animal products.
You want to look for one that specifically says “suitable for vegans” on the label, or has “vegan” in the product name.
Amazon has several options, and they don’t cost any more than the non-vegan options.
Here’s a post about the best vegan vitamin B12 supplements.
Option #2 – Vegan foods fortified with B12
There is a small number of foods that are usually fortified with B12, but you’ll have to check the label every time.
Here’s a summary of my vegan vitamin B12 foods list.
1. Nutritional yeast (“Nooch”)
Almost every nutritional yeast brand I’ve seen has B12 added to it.
If you haven’t tried nutritional yeast yet, it’s a topping in flake form that can be added to a lot of meals instead of parmesan. Think salads, pasta, and even soups.
The taste and smell is a bit strange at first, but it grows on you.
Many cereals are vegan friendly, and are fortified with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, including B12.
3. Vegan yogurt
You’ll typically find non-dairy yogurt beside the regular yogurt of most grocery stores.
Not quite the same taste, but a decent alternative, and often comes fortified with B12.
4. Non-Dairy Milk
It varies widely between brands and flavors, but you can often find a few non-dairy milks that have B12 added to them.
5. Seaweed snacks
Some seaweed snacks have B12, but you’ll have to check the packages.
Vitamin B12 is important, but you don’t need to panic over getting enough. People need very little per day, and it’s added to many vegan foods.
It’s still a good idea to take a vegan vitamin B12 supplement to be on the safe side though.