September 30, 2010
The importance of B12

Have you recently cut out animal products to better your health? Great! Yes, a plant-based diet is best in reducing heart disease, diabetes, and obesity but going meat-free can cause confusion on B12 recommendations.

B12 comes from microorganisms and is found in animal products, b12 supplements, and fortified foods. Low intake can cause anemia, damage to the nervous system, and increased homocysteine levels. High homocysteine levels increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other diseases. Vegans and near-vegans who do not supplement with vitamin B12 have consistently shown elevated homocysteine levels.

I bring this point up because although I whole-heartidly believe that a plant-based diet is superior for optimal health, the need for B12 cannot be ignored. Some argue that people only need a very small amount of B12 and that it is stored in the body for years. This is true only in individuals who consume a large amount of B12 over a number of years. For most new vegetarian and vegans, they have been reducing their intake of animal foods for a while and may not have adequate stores to begin with. Also, even lowered levels of B12 can increase homocysteine. The easiest way to ensure your getting enough B12 is to consume fortified foods or take a supplement.

Daily recommended amounts are  2.4 micrograms for adults.

Do not rely on any seaweed, brewer’s yeast, tempeh, or vitamin supplement that uses plants as a source of B12. Brewers and nutritional yeast only contain B12 if it is added, like the yeast from Red Star or Twinlab (Added B12 comes from the bacteria Propionibacterium shermanii and Pseudomonas denitrificans.) However, B12 is very light sensitive, so I would never recommend your only source of B12 to be from yeast. The tempeh sold in America and Europe has not been shown to contain any b12.  Also, there are claims that unwashed foods like root vegetables will have enough B12 from the soil, but as studies have shown the amount of b12 in soil varies greatly.

In conclusion, fortified foods like non-dairy milk, meat substitutes, breakfast cereals and supplements are the best sources. I highly recommend taking a B12 supplement daily, I rely on the Pangea VeganLife B12 Chewable Supplement.

In Health,

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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