03 August 2011

TDIV Q&A: I'm interested in becoming vegan but how do vegans get enough vitamin B12?

I'm interested in becoming vegan but how do vegans get enough vitamin B12?

The requirement for vitamin B12 is actually very low, but is very important. B12 is important because it is needed for cell division and blood formation. Neither plants nor animals make B12—bacteria are responsible for its production.

Animals get their vitamin B12 from eating foods that have been ‘contaminated’ with vitamin B12, which then makes the animal become a source of vitamin B12. Plant foods only contain B12 when they are contaminated by microorganisms, or have been fortified with B12.

There are ways to get vitamin B12 in a plant-based diet, such as nutritional yeast. Less than 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast or “nooch” supplies your recommended daily intake of B12. I personally cannot live without nutritional yeast—I put this nutty-cheesy flake on everything from popcorn to toast!

There are also vitamin B12 non-dairy milks, which is great since B12 is especially essential for pregnant and nursing women, as well as infants and children. Of course you can also take B12 supplements. Other B12 fortified vegan-friendly foods include some fake meats, like Tofurky and Gardein products; fortified cereals such as Nature’s Path Optimum Power.

So, although we don’t need a lot of B12, it’s still crucial, and deficiencies can lead to very serious health problems such as anemia and nerve damage. As long as you read those labels, and eat fortified plant-based foods (or toss some nutritional yeast in that recipe), you’ll be good to grow!

Kelly Beth | @veganbotanicals
Kelly Beth is a smiley vegan herbalist and wanderer, and currently resides in Boulder, Colorado with her fiancé and kitty (kitty face). She created twig & leaf botanicals, a vegan & organic herbal apothecary 3 years ago to bring healthy, plant-based alternatives to mainstream medicine and home care. Follow Kelly Beth on her blog and Facebook.

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