We know that a plant-based diet provides plenty of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and an abundance of other nutrients, but what about vitamin B12? If you’re not taking a supplement or consuming fortified foods regularly, you’re probably suffering from a B12 deficiency. Don’t worry, you can get enough vitamin B12 on a plant-based diet, and Cynthia Sass—registered dietitian and Switch4Good supporter—is here to guide the way. Read on to learn what this essential nutrient is, how it affects our bodies, and how to avoid a vitamin B12 deficiency. It’s simple!
What is vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. It enables our body to perform necessary activities and also helps to prevent anemia.
How much vitamin B12 do I need?
A very small amount of vitamin B12 is all the body needs to function optimally. While there is no written standard, Sass asserts that most experts recommend 250 mcg (micrograms) for teens and adults each day to avoid a B12 deficiency.
What foods contain vitamin B12?
Animal foods–specifically meat, beef liver, and clams—contain adequate amounts of vitamin B12. While not naturally found in plant foods, many plant-based products are fortified with vitamin B12 including nutritional yeast, some breakfast cereals, and some plant milks. For those who do not consume these products regularly, a supplement is needed to obtain proper levels of this nutrient.
What are the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency?
It may take some time to notice the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency, which is why many do not realize they are deficient until their stores are severely depleted. Symptoms may include numbness or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet; balance problems; difficulty focusing or memory loss; depression; weakness and fatigue; anemia; loss of appetite; weight loss; and soreness of the mouth or tongue.
Does dairy contain vitamin B12?
While dairy products can provide vitamin B12, we don’t believe it is an optimal source due to other concerns about dairy regarding athletic performance and health.
How do I avoid vitamin B12 deficiency?
Avoiding vitamin B12 deficiency is simple. A daily supplement is the surest way to meet one’s quota. One may also take a supplement in addition to enjoying foods such as nutritional yeast and other fortified foods like Eden Soy Extra soy milk, Oatly oat milk, Mikadamia macadamia milk, and nutritional yeast, among others.
What vitamin B12 supplements are recommended?
There are dozens of vitamin B12 supplements on the market. Some come in capsules and others take the form of sprays. Many multi-vitamins also contain vitamin B12, so if you take a daily multivitamin supplement, check to be sure B12 is included. According to Sass, most experts recommend a supplement that includes 250 mcg of vitamin B12. Garden of Life myKind Organics Vitamin B12 Spray is widely accessible and may be one to try out first, though there are several quality supplements on the market.
Photo credit: Garden of Life