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Vegan Sources of B12: How Vegans get B12

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

So you’re enjoying all the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. That’s great! But there may be something important missing from your diet. In fact, many vegans find that they have difficulty consuming sufficient amounts of certain vitamins that they need. Vitamin B12 is especially tricky because it’s primarily found in animal products. To fully enjoy veganism, you need to include plenty of vitamin B12 in your diet. How do you make that happen, though?

Why is Vitamin B12 Important?

First of all, let’s focus on why you simply can’t neglect vitamin B12 and expect to be healthy. Basically, its job is to help your nervous system and blood cells develop properly. A deficiency in B12 may cause you to experience anemia, loss of appetite, constipation, fatigue, or rapid weight loss. You could start experiencing any or all of these symptoms if you’re not making a deliberate effort to incorporate vitamin B12 into your nutrition plan.

If you live in the U.S., experts recommend that your body should absorb at least 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day for adults 14 years of age and over. However, you can still consume a higher amount of B12 than the recommended intake. Your digestive system will safely get rid of any vitamin B12 you don’t need, so you don’t need to stress about getting exact measurements.

What Can Be Learned About Vitamin B12 from History?

Traditionally, our ancestors got vitamin B12 from animals. Their diet was rich with it, as they feed on roots, dirt, insects, and/or worms that contain it. Consequently, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products are filled with it as well. Since humans have kept animals as domesticated livestock since around 11,000 B.C.E., it’s always been easy for them to obtain the vitamin B12 they needed.

In recent years, more experiments have been done to determine its importance and find other sources for it. Formal scientific studies on vitamin B12 deficiency demonstrate that those who don’t regularly consume enough of it start exhibiting signs of its lack after anywhere from one to five years. Although some vegans report to have suffered no ill effects from eschewing vitamin B12 and have even gone as far as to suggest that its importance has been exaggerated or fabricated, these claims have little to no merit.

Other vegans have been actively trying to resolve the issue of the gaping absence of vitamin B12 in their diets. As a result, we now have 60 years worth of evidence that this essential vitamin can be consumed in the medically recommended amounts while remaining true to the compassionate tenets of veganism.

How Do Vegans Get B12?

Of course, the next question is what vegans have figured out with regard to eating enough vitamin B12. Unfortunately, most fruits and vegetables don’t contain any and therefore aren’t a great source, so vegans have to be flexible and creative.

Many foods can be fortified with vitamin B12, including cereals, nutritional yeast, and milk derived from almonds, soy, rice, or coconuts. Since classic breakfast cereals like corn flakes, oats, and Grape Nuts often contain plenty of this vitamin, you may be able to get the amount you need every morning just by pouring a bowl with plant-based milk. Additionally, nutritional yeast is easy to seamlessly incorporate into any number of meals and snacks, since you can just sprinkle it on anything without drastically changing the flavor. For example, try adding it to your popcorn, mashed potatoes, salads, pasta, and whatever else comes to mind. Some meat alternatives contain vitamin B12, too. For example, you’re in luck if you like veggie burgers and meatless hot dogs, as they can be great sources of vitamin B12. 

If you’re into Asian food, consider making a habit out of eating shiitake mushrooms, nori, and tempeh, too. Respectively, they are fungus, a type of purple algae or seaweed, and a soy-based product somewhat similar to tofu, so they may not be to everyone’s taste. However, if you like them, they may be the best natural sources of vitamin B12 you’ll find. Golden chanterelle and black trumpet mushrooms are excellent choices, too. 

In any case, read the labels of all the products that interest you before buying them. There’s never a guarantee that they’ll contain vitamin B12, so you’ll need to check. However, most plant sources of B12 actually contain what is called Inactive B12. Unfortunately, Inactive B12 provides less absorbability than its more valuable partner, Active B12.

Active B12 is the form of B12 your body can digest, absorb and utilize right away, and it’s found abundantly in animal-source based foods and supplements. Inactive B12 may be found in plant-based foods, such as seaweed, spirulina and nutritional yeast. But if you are looking to get the highly absorbable type of B12 from a food source rather than a synthetic supplement, chlorella is one of the only known plant foods that contains Active B12. But what is the easiest way to add chlorella to your diet? We recommend taking the highest-quality, most absorbable chlorella on the market.

What About Vegetarians?

Since their diets are less strict, vegetarians have more options available to them when considering their intake of vitamin B12. In addition to the sources listed above, they can usually find plenty of it in dairy products, like yogurt, cheese, and cow’s milk. Of course, the supplements here at Sun Chlorella are helpful for them, too.

The Takeaway

It’s not enough to be compassionate to animals and the environment if you’re not compassionate to yourself as well. Don’t get so focused on being vegan that you neglect your health. Vitamin B12 is essential for everyone, including you, so find a way that you would enjoy incorporating it into your daily diet. Experiment with different B12-fortified foods until you figure out which ones you like most, then add the supplements that we’d be happy to provide you. That way, you’ll show equal respect and care to both yourself and the earth.

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