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Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12, or Cobalamin, is an essential vitamin necessary for the maintenance of the nervous system and for preventing anemia. A slight deficiency of vitamin B-12 can lead to anemia, fatigue, mania, and depression, while a long term deficiency can potentially cause permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system.

Vitamin B12 is synthesized by micro-organisms and can be found in some natural vegan foods like tempeh, seaweed, mushrooms, beer, wine, and yeast extract spread. Unfortunately, the amount of vitamin B12 in these foods can vary greatly, and even when they do contain vitamin B12, it is likely they do not contain enough to be a good source of vitamin B12 over the long term.

Due to bio-accumulation and biomagnification meats and animal foods typically provide more vitamin B12, however, this same bio-accumulation effect is what makes meat accumulate metals and other toxins. Avoiding these toxins in meat is one of the health benefits of veganism.

Without reliable natural vegan sources of vitamin B12, and without animal food products, fortified vegan foods are the only reliable and consistent source of vitamin B12 for vegans. Healthy vegan foods fortified with vitamin B12 include commercial cereals, fruit and vegetable juices, dairy substitutes, fortified tofu, and vitamin waters. Since all these foods have vitamin B12 added to them, their levels can vary greatly. Check product labels before buying.

In addition to the fortified foods above, supplements can also be a cheap, healthy, and effective option to get enough vitamin B12. Below is a list of vegan foods highest in vitamin B12, for more, see also the article of vegetarian foods highest in vitamin B12, and cereals high in vitamin B12.

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Top 5 Vegan Foods High in Vitamin B12

Cereal Flakes#1. Fortified Cereals (All Bran)
3/4 cup (29g)200 calories (61g)100g
6.1μg (102% DV)12.8μg (214% DV)21μg (350% DV)
The amount of vitamin B12 added to cereals can vary greatly, so be sure to check product labels. Here also is a list of cereals high in vitamin B12.
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
A glass of orange juice#2. Fortified Fruit and Vegetables Juices
1 cup (8oz) (240g)200 calories (282g)100g
6μg (100% DV)7μg (117% DV)2.5μg (42% DV)
Fruit juices can be high in sugar, so try to choose varieties with more fiber, or pulp, as well as added B12. Fortified fruit and vegetable juices are a better alternative to energy drinks or sodas.
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
A glass of milk#3. Milk Substitutes (Fortified Soymilk)
1 cup (8oz) (243g)200 calories (606g)100g
3μg (50% DV)7.5μg (124% DV)1.2μg (21% DV)
Other milk substitutes high in Vitamin B12 (%DV per 8oz glass): Fortified Almond Milk (50% DV), Foritified Coconut Milk Drink (50% DV), Fortified Rice Mik (25% DV). The amount of vitamin B12 can vary greatly, check product labels.
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
A block of tofu#4. Fortified Tofu
1/5 package (91g)200 calories (465g)100g
2.2μg (37% DV)11.3μg (188% DV)2.4μg (40% DV)
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
A glass of water#5. Vitamin Water
1 cup (8oz) (240g)200 calories (4000g)100g
0.6μg (10% DV)10μg (167% DV)0.3μg (4% DV)
Click to see complete nutrition facts.

Less Reliable Natural Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12

A block of tempeh#1. Tempeh
1 cup (166g)200 calories (104g)100g
0.1μg (2% DV)0.1μg (1% DV)0.1μg (1% DV)
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
Nori seaweed around sushi#2. Seaweed
1/4 cup (5g)200 calories (77g)100g
0.1μg (2% DV)1.7μg (29% DV)2.3μg (38% DV)
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
Mushrooms#3. Crimini Mushrooms
1 cup sliced (72g)200 calories (909g)100g
0.1μg (1% DV)0.9μg (15% DV)0.1μg (2% DV)
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
A glass of beer#4. Beer
1 can (16oz) (356g)200 calories (465g)100g
0.1μg (1% DV)0.1μg (2% DV)0μg (0% DV)
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
A jar of yeast extract spread#5. Yeast Extract Spread
1 tsp (6g)200 calories (108g)100g
0μg (0% DV)0.5μg (9% DV)0.5μg (8% DV)
Click to see complete nutrition facts.
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How much Vitamin B12 is in Brewers Yeast?

Brewers Yeast is a rich source of nutrients, typically used for making beer, but can also be used to make bread and other consumables.

There are conflicting reports on how much vitamin B12 brewers yeast provides. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that it provides no B-12. However, the nutrition facts from Now Foods lists a whopping 4 micrograms (67% DV) of vitamin B12 in two tablespoons (30g) of brewers yeast. This is way more B12 than what you can get from Marmite or other yeast extracts.

As stated in the introduction, natural vegan sources of vitamin B12 are inconsistent, so check product labels when possible.

How much vitamin B12 is in Nori (Dried Seaweed)?

Nori is the thin dried seaweed wrap typically used to make sushi rolls. According to this article published in the journal Nutrients, dried nori seaweed contains up to 51.7μg of vitamin b12 in 100 grams. A sheet of nori typically weights 1.25 grams so a single sheet would provide about 0.5μg of vitamin B12 or 8% DV.

While this sounds great, it is unlikely that nori can be relied upon to be a consistent B12 source, so while it will make a good addition to a balanced vegan diet, it should not be solely relied upon. Further, nori seaweed is very high in iodine, and should be avoided by people with thyroid issues.

How much Vitamin B12 do you need?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin B12 ranges from 0.4 to 2.8μg per day. This is quite a bit lower than the daily value (%DV) of 6μg. The daily value (%DV) is higher since excess vitamin B12 is well tolerated by the body, and so that certain groups with a risk of deficiency get plenty of vitamin B12 in their diet. Further, the daily value is also often higher than the RDA to account for absorption factors that can occur in a diverse diet.

AgeMaleFemalePregnancyLactation
0-6 months0.4 μg0.4 μg
7-12 months0.5 μg0.5 μg
1-3 years0.9 μg0.9 μg
4-8 years1.2 μg1.2 μg
9-13 years1.8 μg1.8 μg
14+ years2.4 μg2.4 μg2.6 μg2.8 μg
Source: Office of Dietary Supplements.

For the values above the amounts for children less than 12 months old is actually the adequate intake (AI) not RDA.

Health Benefits of Vitamin B12

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