Vegans and Vitamin B12


Vitamin B12 is the nutrient many medical doctors claim to be most difficult for vegetarians to obtain. It is produced only by microorganisms and thus found more often in animal-based products.

Vitamin B12 is required for red blood cell formation and normal growth, it is important for fertility and during pregnancy, builds immunity and treats some degenerative diseases, and it is used therapeutically in many mental and nervous disorders. More recently it has been used to energize the body and counteract allergens.

Vegans and Vitamin B12 | Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

The earliest signs of B12 deficiency are weakness, listlessness, fatigue, diarrhea, depression, and indigestion. Other signs are paleness, numbness in the fingers and toes, heart palpitations, anorexia, shortness of breath, infertility, and mental imbalances including faltering memory, moodiness, apathy, paranoia, hallucinations, violent behavior, personality changes, and other derangements.

The tongue is an indicator of serious B12 deficiency. It becomes red, shiny and smooth, and is sometimes ulcerated. In the final stage before death, irreversible paralysis and brain damage occur.

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Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency do not always show—they can be masked by the B-complex vitamin folic acid. Folic acid and B12 have certain similar functions, and each requires the presence of the other in many of their activities.

Anyone, vegetarian or omnivore, with weak digestion can become deficient in vitamin B12. In addition to poor digestive absorption, there are other specific factors that deplete the body of vitamin B12:
1. Birth control pills and antibiotics
2. Intoxicants (alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, and all others)
3. Stress from any source, especially from injury, surgery, or trauma
4. Liver diseases and chronic illnesses.

Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12

Fermented Foods

These include miso, soy sauce, tempeh, pickles, amasake, nut and seed yogurts, and sourdough (naturally leavened) bread.


Tempeh, a currently popular cultured soy product with origins in Indonesia, has some of the highest B12 content of any food (up to 15 micrograms of the vitamin in a 100-gram serving).


Scientific tests have shown a number of algae to be excellent sources of B12. In fact, microalgae such as spirulina and chlorella are considered some of the highest food sources of vitamin B12.

Certain macroalgae—nori, wakame, and kombu seaweeds—are sometimes touted as having significant B12 content.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast has been used as a B12 source for vegetarians for more than thirty years. A problem with yeast is its very nature: microorganisms of this sort tend to induce unhealthy amounts of candida-type yeasts in the body, especially in individuals who are susceptible to Candida overgrowth. Find out more about it, here.

Protein and Vitamin B12 Sources

The B12 requirement is one to three micrograms per day for adults, if taken from natural sources, and it can triple if taken from supplements. Here is a table with the best vitamin B12 sources for vegans and their concentration.

Vegan foods with vitamin b12 – Table was taken from the book Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford

Vegans and Vitamin B12 | Protein and Vitamin B12 Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians

Other vegetarian recipes you may want to try:

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I’m Ruxandra Micu, a food blogger with extensive experience in online marketing and design. I’m passionate about cooking, nutrition, and helping businesses grow. I want to help people live a healthier life and to teach them the benefits of a clean, vegetarian diet. Need online marketing services and want me to help you grow your blog/business? Check out my portfolio > < and contact me!

10 Comments on “Vegans and Vitamin B12”

  1. The EASIEST and BEST thing you can do is to get ‘Metabolics B complex’ in liquid and take it daily in a glass of for example orange juice.

  2. I’m glad I found your article. I’ve recently transitioned into a vegan diet and b12 is the only thing I have yet to master so I’m thinking about supplementation and proper fortified foods.

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  5. I think that vegans and vitamin b12 are interrelated with each other. I think that vegans should always consider the importance of vitamin b12 in their diet. I know that there would be new ways on how vegans can obtain such vitamins.

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  7. Great post! I was diagnosed w/ B12 deficiency years ago which lead to my study of the importance of b12 ( for healthy functioning (not just physical but cognitive) as well as the importance of using PROPER b12 supplements. Lately, I’ve been trying a vegan diet and have been relying (mainly) on lentils and quinoa for my b12 (as well as protein).

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