How Do I Get Enough Vitamin B12 on a Vegan Diet?

How Do I Get Enough Vitamin B12 on a Vegan Diet?

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) suggests that anyone following a vegan diet take a B complex supplement.

The main nutrient vegans should plan for is vitamin B12. It is essential for healthy nerves and healthy blood. It is made by neither animals nor plants; it is made by bacteria. Presumably, before the advent of modern hygiene, the bacteria in the soil and on plants provided traces of B12. However, those sources are certainly not reliable nowadays. Deficiencies are rare, but they manifest as nerve symptoms that may be irreversible. So be sure to get your B12 from a daily multiple vitamin, a B12 supplement, or fortified foods (e.g., fortified cereals, soymilk, etc.)

Overall, vegan diets provide better nutrition than any other kind of diet—with plenty of protein, calcium, and iron, and an abundance of vitamins and minerals—without the problems posed by animal fat and cholesterol. But it’s essential to include a source of vitamin B12. And it couldn’t be easier to do.”

PCRM points out that these days, even plant and fermented foods, such as spirulina, sea vegetables, tempeh, and miso, do not provide an active and reliable source, so vitamin B12 must be obtained elsewhere in the diet.  PCRM recommends nutritional yeast, such as Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula, as a reliable source of vitamin B12.  They encourage us to be sure to check the Nutrition Facts Label or the ingredient list to ensure that the nutritional yeast includes the active form of vitamin B12, called cobalamin or cyanocobalamin.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may include fatigue, weakness, tingling in the arms and legs, digestive disturbances, and a sore tongue, and may lead to anemia and more serious disorders of the blood and nervous system.


Thanks to PCRM for sharing this information with the Yummy Plants community! For more information about vegan health topics, visit Dr. Neal Barnard’s blog.