Vitamin B12 in a Plant-Based Diet
After the protein question, well-meaning friends and family are likely to deliver a lecture on vitamin B12 once they learn you are plant-based. You’re probably wondering what B12 is, why you need it, and most importantly, where to find it. Luckily we have the answers to those questions.
What IS Vitamin B12?
B12 is part of the vitamin B complex. While most forms of vitamin B are found abundantly in plant-based foods, B12 contains cobalt and is exclusively synthesized by bacteria. Adults don’t need much—only 2.4 MICROgrams per day, and a small amount can be stored by your body. The digestion of B12 requires the presence of intrinsic factors (proteins) within your gut. Unfortunately, these intrinsic factors diminish with age, so even if you’re eating enough, you may still be deficient.
Why do I need Vitamin B12?
B12 is necessary for the synthesis of red blood cells, nervous system function, and growth and development in children. Since B12 is so crucial to the creation and maintenance of red blood cells, a deficiency causes pernicious anemia, with symptoms of fatigue, poor memory and depression. Chronically low levels of B12 leads to nerve damage, and can result in irreversible neurological damage. The first signs of B12 deficiency are often unexplained tingling in your feet and hands
Sources of Vitamin B12
Luckily, you don’t need to eat vast quantities to avoid deficiency. Although it is most commonly found in meat, eggs and dairy products, there are plant-based sources as well. Nutritional yeast, and fortified non-dairy milks and cereals contain B12—just be sure to check the label. Just 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast has 130% your daily value (2.4 mcg), and can easily be sprinkled on salads, rice bowls and stir-fries. Every serving of Vega One contains 50% of your daily value of B12, and when blended in a smoothie with non-dairy milks boosts your intake even further. One serving of Vega Maca contains 70% of your daily value of B12, and even comes in a delicious chocolate bar.
Making sure you get enough vitamin B12 shouldn’t be scary. By being aware of the foods and supplements you are eating, you can easily meet your daily needs. A little label reading goes a long way!
What’s your favorite way to use nutritional yeast or Vega One?
- Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S.(2008) Krause’s Food and Nutrition Therapy. Saunders Elsevier, 12th ed