3 simple steps to lose weight as fast as possible. Read now

Vitamin B12

What every vegan should know about vitamin B12.

We'll explain why the body relies on vitamin B12, where B12 actually comes from, and why you should pay particular attention if you're on a vegan diet so that your body doesn't get a B12 deficiency.

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
What every vegan should know about vitamin B12.
Last updated on September 9, 2021, and last reviewed by an expert on October 29, 2018.
In this article

What every Vegan should know about Vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient - not just for vegans. Without adequate intake, serious long-term health problems can occur.

What every vegan should know about vitamin B12.

Of all the nutrients that vegans need to be aware of, Vitamin B12 is on top of the list. In particular, it contributes to the formation of red blood cells, supports your body in DNA replication, and ensures a healthy nervous system.

If you lack B12, you are putting your body at high risk, which can have dreadful consequences.

What is your main goal?

Powered by DietGenie

Do I get enough Vitamin B-12 in a plant-based diet?

Unfortunately, no. For a vegan diet, it is recommended to take regular vitamin B12 supplements.

Plants contain only a small amount of vitamin B12 because it is exclusively derived from microorganisms, e.g., Bacteria from which soil is formed. These bacteria are produced in the forestomach by ruminants. Therefore, cows do not need any additional supply from the outside.

Nevertheless, their food is mostly fortified with vitamin B12 to increase their own production. Omnivores thus indirectly also take supplements.

Which foods contain vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is found mainly in animal products (meat, fish, milk & dairy products, eggs).

Vegetable foods contain only insufficient vitamin B12. Small amounts are found in fermented products. But these are not enough to meet your vitamin B12 needs.

Where do you get B12 as a vegan?

Unfortunately, as a vegan, you don’t get Vitamin B12 from any natural source. Not even as an omnivore. Omnivores also indirectly consume dietary supplements because the food animals get, is fortified with vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 tablets for adults and children

Although vitamin B12 is already in some soy drinks and tofu, we recommend from our own experience to additionally take vitamin B12 tablets. The body can only absorb vitamin B12 in small amounts. It would be best to take the preparation several times throughout the day.

Can vitamin B12 help you lose weight?
Suggested read: Can vitamin B12 help you lose weight?

For example, if you have a 20 μg (micrograms) dietary supplement, you should take it at least twice a day to meet your daily requirement. Another option would be to take a huge amount of vitamin (500 - 2000 μg) once a day.

At first glance, this may seem startling. You don’t need to worry about it, though. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), even at very high doses of 1000 to 5000 μg (micrograms), there are no negative health effects.

How much B12 do I actually need during the day?

The German Nutrition Society recommends a daily intake of 3.0 μg (micrograms) per day for teenagers and adults.

What happens if you have a vitamin B12 deficiency?

Typical deficiency symptoms include:

Often these symptoms gradually appear over several months to a year before they are due to a B12 deficiency. If you suspect a problem, see your doctor, as each of these symptoms may be caused by issues other than B12 deficiency.

Infants typically show a faster onset of symptoms than adults. B12 deficiency can lead to energy and appetite loss. If not responded immediately, it can lead to coma or even death.

Again, there is no utterly consistent pattern of symptoms. Infants are more sensitive to permanent damage than adults. Some recover entirely, others show delayed development.

Suggested read: 9 signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

Where does vitamin B-12 come from?

Vitamin B-12 is not produced by plants or animals, only by microorganisms. Microorganisms that produce vitamin B-12 also live on plants.

Why is it not possible for vegans to get vitamin B-12 via plants?

As we usually wash fruits and vegetables before we eat it, we also rinse the microorganisms off the plant. But that does not mean that you can take vitamin B-12 from plants if you don’t wash them anymore.

The reason for this is our sick ground. Within a square foot of land, there are living billions of microorganisms that are important for plants. In sick soil, the nutrients cannot be kept, and the microorganisms “starve”. As a result, fewer and fewer bacteria that produce vitamin B-12 are on our plants.

Where do the animals get vitamin B-12 from?

Pigs, chickens, and livestock in factory farming no longer can take up vitamin B-12 via plants because they do not have a spout in the meadow. Therefore, their feeds are supplemented with vitamin B-12. If you eat eggs, chicken, turkey, or pork, you also get your vitamin B-12 via dietary supplements.

Ruminants, such as cows, produce vitamin B-12 themselves. Specifically, microorganisms that live in the rumen of ruminants produce vitamin B-12. The cow is thus not dependent on vitamin B-12 in their feed.

What is vitamin b12 good for?

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. It’s also responsible for making DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak.

What foods are high in b12?

Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products.

Vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods. Still, fortified breakfast cereals are a readily available source of vitamin B12 with high bioavailability for vegetarians. Some nutritional yeast products also contain vitamin B12. Fortified foods vary in formulation, so it is essential to read the Nutrition Facts labels on food products to determine the types and amounts of added nutrients they contain.

Suggested read: 7 important supplements you need on a vegan diet

Share this article: Facebook Pinterest WhatsApp Twitter / X Email

More articles you might like

People who are reading “What every vegan should know about vitamin B12.” also love these articles:


Browse all articles